Like humans, certain types of animals are prone to anxiety. German Shepherds, Jack Russell Terriers, Border Collies, and Chihuahuas are all susceptible to extreme anxiety, which could result in manic, destructive behavior. Anxiety in animals is the anticipation of future dangers, and it can manifest in a variety of ways—through barking, urination, crying, and property destruction. Most doggy anxiety develops at the onset of social maturity, which can be anywhere from 12 to 36 months of age. If your animal develops anxiety, there are certain steps you, as a parent, can take to alleviate some of the stress. While there are a variety of medications available for severe cases, helping an anxious dog can be as simple as sticking to a routine. That said, here are a few tips for handling your anxious pup.
Institute a routine. As with humans, animals often thrive in routine. If a dog knows that certain points in the day come with certain actions, he is less likely to feel anxious. Try to walk your dog at the same time every morning, provide meals at the same or similar times, and go to sleep on the same schedule. If something about the routine changes—perhaps you start a new job and need to wake up earlier—do your best to ease the animal into the schedule shift. If this is impossible (we understand—people are busy!), expect a minor and temporary stint of bad behavior.
Create a doggy safe space. Find a bed your dog loves, then surround it with his favorite toys, food, and water. Put this space in a low-lit and quiet part of your house. For some dogs, this will work best if the bed is within a crate or kennel. Try a few options to see what works best for you and your pet.
Add positive pressure. May dogs respond well to physical pressure. In fact, there are several anxiety vest on the market—primarily designed to help dogs through thunderstorms—that squeeze the animal to create a sense of security. We don’t recommend hugging your dog tightly during an anxiety attack, as this could lead to defensive behavior. Instead, try purchasing one of these vests, or wrap your dog in a large, comfortable blanket.
Create bonding time. Ultimately, your dog will not be able to relax if he doesn’t trust you. Spend time playing at the park, going on walks, and snuggling on the couch. Interacting with your pet in a variety of situations is essential to building and maintaining a trusting relationship.