Noticing a pattern where your pet exhibits very nervous/scared behavior, even to the point of shaking, when separated from you? One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left home alone. They might urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig or try to escape. There are many reasons your dog may be suffering from these symptoms; anything from separation anxiety, a bad experience, deprived social contact, or even illness. It’s best to identify these symptoms early on in the dog’s life, so you can ensure that they develop properly without it becoming a permanent neurosis.
How to Diagnose Anxiety:
Your veterinarian will first want to rule out other conditions that might be causing the behavior, such as brain or thyroid disease. The behavior could also be originating from a response to a toxic substance, such as lead. Blood tests will rule out or confirm such a possibility.
If your veterinarian diagnoses a simple fear, anxiety, or phobia, a prescribed medication may be all that is needed. But your doctor will most likely make recommendations based on your individual dog, the fear trigger, and types of behavioral techniques that can be used to alleviate your dog’s fears and anxieties.
While a more serious condition may lead to prescribed medication by your vet, behavior modification can be up to you. You will need to teach your dog to relax in a variety of environmental settings. Encourage calmness, but do not reinforce the fear reaction. Remember that not all dogs are calmer when crated; some dogs panic when caged and will injure themselves if forced to be confined. Absolutely avoid punishment for behavior related to fear, phobia, or anxiety. For example, teach your dog to sit and stay, and when your dog performs appropriately you can reward it appropriately. Then, when your dog is in a situation where it might show the undesirable response, have it sit and stay.
The best way to prevent early-onset anxiety in dogs is to make sure you are exposing them to lots of outward social stimuli while they are young puppies. Puppies and dogs that do not receive a good amount of social interaction by the time they are 14 weeks of age could become habitually fearful.
REMEMBER: While there are things you can do, many anxiety disorders are predetermined by the breed of the animal, and are virtually out of your control. As long as you are aware of the needs an anxious dog may have, and abide with caution, you and your pet will be able to live happily and harmoniously!