How to Care for a Dog With Anxiety

Feb 15, 2021     |      Sophie's Circle

dogs with anxiety peering from under a bedDid you recently adopt a dog with high levels of anxiety? Whether from abuse and neglect or a personality trait, some dogs display an excessive amount of stress which can lead to isolation and fear. Here are 7 steps you can take that can make a world of difference!

1 ) Remain Calm and Confident
The best way to approach a scared dog is to move very calm and directed manner while using a normal, or lower for women and children with high voices, speaking tone. Try to avoid sudden jolts or excited squeals and giggles. Your dog may not act like he notices you, but he is accutely aware of your body language and tone of voice. Coaxing him to calm down will take a calm demeanor from you first.

2) Create a Soothing Home Life
We are all guilty of rushing around to tick off our daily "To do" lists. But, high-anxiety dogs need to feel safe and at ease while at home. Think of a spa and how it calms you from the moment you enter. Then, consider your spa treatment. You can try to rush through your massage, but the results will be a disappointment. The same goes for your dog's home space. Try creating a welcoming environment where loud noises and fast paces are not allowed until he learns to trust this new environement

3) Give Him Some Space
Just as you have a place to go to get away from the stressors of the world, your dog requires a safe space to call his own. A crate when used correctly can be a wonderful place where dogs willingly go when they want to seek some comfort or just peace and quiet. Remember not to leave toys in the crate or play with him while he is in his space. This is his time to just relax.

4) Get Walking
When it's time for your morning or late afternoon walk, call him or use treats to see if he will come to you as opposed to reaching into his crate or pulling him towards you. If he walks on leash well, you can begin working out a lot of his anxiety through daily exercise which also serves as bonding time. For dogs who struggle with a leash, try using a clicker or treat training technique with loads of positive reinforcement and a training chest harness. It will take time, but the payoff is so worth it!

5) Use Positive Reinforcement
Speaking of training, your dog will work much harder for food rewards, clicks, and praise than he will for punishment avoidance. Plus, positive reinforcement is way more fun! This can be done while around the home, on walks, or out in public. Anytime your dog responds in a positive way to a stressor or command, reward him immediately with a training treat, click, and/or praise.

6) The Distract Technique
Food rewards are helpful for another handy way of dealing with anxiety in dogs. If you know of a training treat he loves, carry it with you wherever you go so you can give it to him when his triggers like other animals or strangers are near. Stay confident and, as always, only reward him if he is calm. However, by proactively turning his his attention to his favorite treat, he might just miss noticing the stressor or learn to not care as much.

7) Introduce Him to Other People and Animals 
Dogs who are fearful around people or animals should remain on lead at all times when out in public. If you have not yet tested your dog's reaction to other people or animals, try letting a friend or adult family member lean down with hand extended in a calm manner or bring a pet near. Be sure to keep him at a safe distance in case he lunges. You can tell when he is comfortable with the new person by watching his demeanor.

     For example:
     A) Does he run up to the individual with his tail wagging or are his hackles up?
     B) When reaching toward him, does he attemp to smell the person's hand and move towards the individual or does he shy away?
     C) If he is making noises, are they happy noises or warnings?

Consider Getting Him a Friend
One more reason why your dog may be anxious is a lack of exercise and companionship. Dogs are pack animals, and, if he likes other dogs, a friend may be just what he needs to relax and enjoy his surroundings more. You can browse our list of adorable dogs waiting for a forever home at our adoption page. A friend for your dog with the right temperment and energy level may end up being the piece of the puzzle you've been missing all along!