Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dealing with Anxiety and Destructive Behavior

Some triggers of anxiety:

  • Moving to a new home
  • The addition of a pet, baby, or spouse into the household
  • Loud noises, such as thunder or fireworks
  • Going on car rides
  • Being left alone (separation anxiety)
  • Being in a crowd

Dogs may react to anxiety by chewing, pacing, barking, excessive licking, shaking, urinating or defecating inside, or trying to escape.

For anxious or nervous dogs, remember to think about what you are praising.  One of the most misunderstood things people do with their dogs is to praise or console them when the dog is nervous, timid, scared, or uncertain.  This is because we are thinking like humans and trying to comfort the dog, which is completely logical in our human minds.  However dogs do not think the same way we do.  Therefore when you think you are consoling, the dog receives this message to mean that you like dog in this week state of mind.  So do not praise if the dog is feeling uncertain.

Suggestions that have worked for previous adopters:

  • Thunder Shirt or Anxiety Wrap [same basic concept different manufacturers] - This shirt/wrap's gentle, constant pressure has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs if they are anxious, fearful, or over-excited.  You can read more about it on either website as well as see videos of how to use it.  It is relatively cheap too--$36!
    • Off-Leash Dog Training has a couple of locations here in Colorado where you can buy them or you can purchase them off of the manufacturer's website!
  • Natural Remedies [herbs & supplements]
    (always consult your veterinarian prior to the use of any natural remedies, especially if your dog is on other medications)
    • Thiamin (a water-soluble vitamin of the B Complex).  It has been shown to affect the central nervous system, in particular, it helps to calm and soothe anxious animals.  A deficiency of thiamin has been found to cause irritability in animals.  Because thiamin is not stored in the body, increased activity, stress, illness, or increase metabolism depletes its levels in the body.
      • Put in dog's food or water (it is water-soluble)
    • Chamomile reduces anxiety and can encourage a dog to sleep.  Chamomile can also help if your dog has stress-induced diarrhea or loose stools.
      • Make your dog a cup of chamomile tea (allow it to cool completely before giving it to your dog)
Keep in mind that not all destructive behavior is a consequence of anxiety.

Often times dogs can become destructive when they are bored (if they are left home alone for long periods of time).  Here are some tips for keeping your dog occupied with good, productive behavior while you are away:
  • Filling a Kong with Peanut butter and then freezing it!  Freezing it will make it last a little longer than usual, and it's like a popsicle during the summer time!
  • Kong also has a Wobbler Treat Dispenser that you can fill with regular dog food to keep them entertained.  There are a bunch of variations of this by other companies as well...just pa ruse the toy aisle :) 

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