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Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety is an epidemic in companion dogs. Anxiety can be obvious to see : the dog destroys your home when you leave or more subtle- the dog follows you from room to room. Whatever the outward behavior is- your anxious dog is not a happy balanced dog. He has an inability to fully relax, be calm and unaffected by change in his environment.

Many owners have no idea how to work with anxiety in their dog. They do many things that they think will help quell their dogs' nerves but very often these actions are the very things that increase the anxiety. They try to calm the dog by petting him a lot. They allow him to sleep on their bed every night. They let him sit by the dinner table every dinner time. They do nothing to stop him from following them into the bathroom time and time again.

Anxiety is unbalanced energy in the dog. In order to change the dog's anxious state - we must inhibit all the behaviors and actions that are acted out of anxiety. We calmly yet firmly teach the dog a strong "Wait" command before exiting any door, especially when he is excited to get to his destination because it means seeing his other family members or getting closer to his owner who is on the other side of the door. We teach a solid strong Down Stay when the dog is nervous and easily triggered to get up and follow the owner or watch the front door. We use a tie down every day, as a way of life, to give the dog his own calming space, so he learns to cope from pressures of not always being right next to his owner.

When we start to chip away at the anxiety by inhibiting the behaviors that drive it- for a time, we may see increased anxiety in the form of whining , barking or panting. This means the dog is going through the pressure and releasing it. We do not intervene through this often intense phase. We allow the process to unfold and then, the dog surrenders to a calmer happier state of mind.

We change our dog's anxiety by really tuning in to the energy of this unbalanced state. If we watch what our dog is telling us during these heightened states of vigilance- we will come to see that affection, attention, rushing, and excessive freedom feeds it while calmness, neutrality, structure and strong impulse control quells and shifts it.

Be patient with your anxious dog. It is a journey of small steady steps that can eventually lead to a total relaxed state of being for your dog.

~Written by Kathy Kear

 

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