Featuring Jen Larson, KPA-CTP & Courtney Emken
Concept by Courtney Emken

Got an anxious dog? There are lots of different causes for dog anxiety. We walk you through the causes, how to start helping your dog, and how you can begin changing your dog’s emotional response to whatever is making them anxious.

– And today we’re tackling dog anxiety. Now, there’s a lot of different types of anxiety out there. I know there’s thunderstorm anxiety. Both my dogs suffer from that. There’s just general separation anxiety and it runs the whole spectrum from mild to severe. And there’s other kinds too, so tell us a little bit about dog anxieties and what we can do?

– Yeah, so there’s generalized anxiety where a dog might just be kind of anxious in general and is usually kind of nervous about new situations, new people, things like that.

– And can that come from abuse?

– Well, absolutely. I mean, it definitely can. It can also just come from a lack of proper socialization as a puppy. Or maybe they were well socialized as a puppy but as they got older the owner stopped bringing them out to places and having them have new, positive experiences. So they started becoming more anxious about new things or strange things. So there are lots of different causes of anxiety but the treatments are pretty much the same no matter what the cause is. And that’s just to identify what your dog is feeling anxious about and then to do some purposeful training where you’re working to change your dog’s emotional response to whatever that thing is. So starting to pair some positive emotional associations with whatever they’re afraid of or anxious about. So in some cases dog anxiety is so severe that it does require medication to be corrected. Sometimes dog’s brain chemistry is off enough that they need medication before you’re able to get any successful behavior modification in.

– So as far as medications, one of the ones that I know worked for our dog, Rebel, was fluoxetine. And that’s one that he used a lot when he was younger and now that he’s older, he doesn’t need it anymore.

– And so that’s a great point that anxiety doesn’t always necessarily last forever. If you do some work to change the behavior or if you’re able to actually change the dog’s brain chemistry, it can go away.

– So Jen, talk to me about making a list and how can that help us solve some of these anxiety issues?

– So that’s a great suggestion and that would actually be my first suggestion for anybody who’s experiencing some anxiety with their dog. So keeping track of what your dog is feeling anxious about so that you’re actually able to start working your way down the list and changing their feelings about those things. So for an example, if a dog might be anxious about going to a new location, you could start adding some positive emotional associations to that experience by bringing treats along, bringing a favorite toy, something like that and making that new location a comfortable, fun experience for them instead of something that they’re feeling anxious about. Another thing that you can do for dogs to just start making them feel better about things that they’re anxious about are some calming additives and things like that you can use. So one that’s really good is called Adaptil or DAP, that dog appeasing pheromone. So you can get that in a spray or a diffuser. And that is actually a synthetic version of what mom dogs secrete to their puppies and so it’s a really calming smell for dogs. And so you can plug that in next to a crate if maybe they have separation anxiety. You can spritz it onto bedding or a bandanna that a dog wears around their neck if they’re maybe nervous about going to a new place.

– That’s a great idea and I know at home we use a lot of CBD oil to help our dogs with anxiety. So that’s something that we just started using recently and it seems to really be helping.

– And we sell that here at DogBoy’s.

– We do sell that here at DogBoy’s. One fun and easy way to give dogs treats that help with anxiety are turkey treats. Because just like us at Thanksgiving, turkey has tryptophan in it and that really helps calm dogs down and eases the anxiety, right?

– Exactly, so tryptophan is actually the precursor to serotonin in your brain. And so if you feed your dog a little bit of extra turkey or tryptophan, it can actually really keep them a little bit calmer and just feeling good.

– That’s awesome. So one thing I know that doesn’t work that some famous dog trainers preach is forcing a dog to be in a situation where they’re afraid. It’s called flooding, where you put a dog in a situation that they’re terrified of, thinking that you’ll desensitize them to it, which is totally incorrect.

– Absolutely. So that’s exactly right, flooding is when you’re just exposing the animal to the stimuli at such an extreme level that they just shut down. And so for some trainers they might call that desensitization, but what it really is is just shutting the animal down until they’re no longer reacting to the stimuli. So I would absolutely not recommend anything like that for an anxious dog.

– Or any dog, ever. Seriously, ever. I can’t say this enough. Don’t do it.