Causes of anxiety
Just like the many different ways that anxious dogs can behave, so too are there many causes of anxiety. It may result from a lack of social skills, inappropriate socialisation, previous negative experiences, or be influenced by a dog’s genetics. Owners sometimes reinforce anxious behaviours in their dog, too, without realising that they’re making matters worse.
A dog that hasn’t been introduced to a wide variety of experiences in a positive way and hasn’t been well socialised is more likely to express anxiety and be hesitant when faced with something new (known as hazard avoidance behaviour). Although, poor socialisation is rarely the only cause.
How to help your pet feel better
The best way to help your dog’s problems is to work with an animal behaviourist. They’ll be able to create a plan specific to your dog’s anxieties.
How a dog perceives an experience can be made more positive by the introduction of rewards. Repetition is also key to building familiarity and enabling the dog to become desensitised to what was once a trigger for their anxiety.
Dogs who suffer from anxiety may not cope well with change and can find being out of their normal environment stressful. Keeping your dog in a familiar environment lowers their risk of anxiety, as they’re surrounded by the toys, and things they love. If you are going away, boarding kennels can be confronting for pets, but by using a service such as TrustedHousesitters, a dog can remain calm and happy and retain a normal routine.
When to visit the vet
It’s best to seek expert help as soon as you notice that your pet is experiencing a problem with their behaviour. Waiting to see if the problem fixes itself usually results in it being harder to correct that behaviour down the track.
It’s also best to get professional advice before starting treatment, so as to avoid feeling frustrated, defeated or even accidentally making matters worse.
Your vet will check that there’s no underlying medical issue contributing to the behavioural problem and will also be able to give you advice on how to get help from an animal behaviourist.