Overcoming Stress Anxiety in Dogs

by Lisa McQuerrey
    Stress can lead to depression.

    Stress can lead to depression.

    Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    Dogs can experience debilitating anxiety, stress and even depression. Recently adopted dogs and pups who have been abused and rescued may have underlying trust and abandonment issues that produce anxiety. Highly sensitive dogs or shelter dogs can experience separation issues because they fear being left alone. Other forms of stress anxiety can be temporary or environmental, and can be addressed with simple behavior modification techniques.

    Some dogs are naturally high-strung or prone to being clingy and needy. Others exhibit this behavior because they're reacting to something fear-provoking in their environment, ranging from another household pet to the sound of a vacuum cleaner or loud music. Isolating the source of your pet’s stress anxiety is the first step to help you overcome the situation. Pay attention to circumstances in which your dog exhibits stressed behaviors, such as hiding, accidental elimination, whining, crying or barking, and pinpoint the source of anxiety.

    If your dog is stressed when you leave him alone, he may become destructive in your absence, or you may have reports from neighbors that he barked or cried all day. Consider creating a routine in which you have a set schedule your pup can become accustomed to. Employ the assistance of a dog walker or pet sitter to check on your dog periodically throughout the day so he doesn't feel alone. Consider the possibility of a companion animal to keep your dog company and to reduce his feelings of isolation and anxiety.

    A dog who was abused may have a difficult time trusting human beings, which can produce stress and anxiety. Don't force your dog into a relationship overnight. Consider enrolling yourself and your pup in a behavioral management or obedience training program to help you bond and establish boundaries and expectations. Make yourself available to your dog and allow him to get comfortable interacting with you. Reward with treats and praise when you have a positive interaction.

    What appears to be stress or anxiety on the surface may be an indication of an underlying health problem for your pet. Get a physical from a qualified veterinary medical professional and discuss your behavioral concerns. Your vet may be able to offer some advice or prescribe low dosage anxiety medication to help your dog overcome this disorder.

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    About the Author

    Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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