I've seen an increasing amount of clients lately who are struggling with their dog's anxiety issues. Concerns include fear of storms, strangers, other dogs, areas in the home, walks once it's dark outside and being home alone.
While anxiety concerns in dogs can be complex here are a few solutions to help your best friend out:
1. Create a Regular Routine
Just like kids, dogs need to be able to predict what's going happen in their day. This does not mean to live life by an exact schedule (ie. the dog eats every morning at 6am) but it does mean that your dog understands that certain events take place in order (ie. bathroom break, breakfast, walk, etc.) so they know what to expect. Dogs should also have a regular bed time and an over tired dog should get naps.
2. Feed a Balanced and Healthy Diet
A poor diet can affect your dog's mood significantly. While the jury is still out on what the best food is to feed your dog here are a few recommendations; pick a high quality dog food instead of a grocery store product, consult with a nutrition expert (may or may not be a veterinarian), read a book on canine nutrition so you know what to look for and consider alternative diets such as raw or home made which can be a great solution for some dogs. Every dog is different and sometimes you have to try a few different options. My 4 dogs all eat differently: Russ gets Go Natural Salmon & Rice kibble supplemented with veggies, Heidi gets Go Natural White Fish or Wellness Core wet food with rice, veggies, yogurt, flax and vitamin C, and both Marco and Tank get a mixed raw food diet which is partially home made. Do your research and figure out what's best for your dog.
3. Keep Your Own Anxiety Under Control
Owners that are also experiencing high levels of anxiety can affect their dogs. It's important to be as relaxed as possible especially when exposing your dog to something they worry about. Some interesting products that can help both humans and dogs include Rescue Remedy, soothing music, exercise and plenty of sleep.
4. Contact a Trainer versed in Anxiety
Not all dog trainers know about anxiety issues in dogs. Contact a variety of trainers when looking for help. Dog trainers who have their CPDT-KA designation have passed an exam that includes an Animal Behaviour component. Or a trainer who has experienced in this field and has taken the time to attend seminars about this type of issue. Anxiety issues should never be addressed using coercive or forceful methods.
A few great products:
1. DAP collars, sprays or diffusers (stands for Dog Appeasement Pheromone) and is available through most vet clinics and the Calgary Humane Society.
2. Thunder Shirts, now available through most pet stores including Global Pet Foods and Mungo's Books for Dog People.
3. Through a Dog's Ear CD, available at the Calgary Humane Society, Mungo's Books for Dog People and of course online.
4. Rescue Remedy, great for people and dogs! Available at most health stores.
Here's Dexter one of Where's Your Sit?'s clients. Dexter is scared of bath time so he can be seen here getting more comfortable with the bath tub. Where's Your Sit? has a variety of classes and private training options to help anxious or fearful dogs.