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How to Deal With Anxiety in Dog



 Submitted by Michael Adams on December 2, 2009


Treating Anxiety in Dogs:

Canine anxiety is quite a common problem, and is in fact the cause of a number of behavioral problems that are faced by dog owners. A lot of destructive behavior, aggression, excessive barking, and so on can be traced to aggression. Often, owners try to solve such problems the wrong way, and in many cases end up inadvertently worsening the dog’s anxiety, and consequently the unwanted behavior too.


In fact, many techniques that were used in the past, particularly to deal with aggression, are techniques that only serve to make the dog more anxious. Unfortunately, such outdated techniques are still used by some trainers and even by a few reputed dog handlers.

It is important to understand the cause of any unwanted behavior in a dog.


If the cause seems to be anxiety, it is then important to understand the cause of the anxiety. Sometimes, it is because a dog has been abused, possibly for years. Such dogs fear proximity to humans, and simply living in a human household can lead to high levels of stress. Such dogs must be gradually acclimatized to humans, so that they can slowly learn that humans can be good to them. At other times, a dog may not have been properly socialized as a pup, and is therefore fearful of new people, dogs, sounds, and situations. A dog that has not learnt to spend time alone will also suffer from separation anxiety. In other cases, natural fears may inadvertently be encouraged by owners. This often happens with noise anxiety, when owners try to comfort their dogs. To a dog, this may be interpreted as a reward for this behavior or as a display of fear from the owner too, thus reinforcing the fear and anxiety.

The manner in which canine anxiety should be handled varies from case to case, but progress should always be slow. Forcing a dog to “confront its fear” rarely works, and in most cases will only worsen the fear, possibly even getting you bitten. The dog must be very gradually brought to become comfortable with the source of its fear, whether this is being left alone, a scary sound, or the presence of humans. Each small step that the dog takes should be rewarded in a way that the dog can understand. The process can often take months or years, and in many cases it can never be completed. Often, it is advisable to take the help of a professional, such as a dog trainer or a canine behavioral expert.

 
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