Changes or stress within the family unit, lack of physical and mental stimulation, excessive confinement and loneliness are just some of the factors that can result in anxiety in dogs. When stress takes a toll on your dog, he can display it in different ways. It's up to you to recognize these signs early on so you can deal with them appropriately before a full-blown problem develops.
When you come home to find that your dog eliminated on the floor, destroyed the sofa, curtains or wallpaper with his teeth or scratched the door, you might not think anything of it at first. If this constantly happens, separation anxiety might be to blame. You might notice that your dog gets restless while you're preparing to leave; as soon as you do, anxiety triggers him to resort to undesired behavior.
Consistent vocalization such as barking, howling and whining can signify anxiety in dogs. If your dog is alone when the excessive noise-making occurs, separation anxiety might be triggering it. You furry pal might be used to having you around, so suddenly being alone is stressful. Your neighbors might complain about your dog's noise, making you aware of the problem.
Physical behaviors can indicate anxiety in your dog. If your dog hides, trembles or seems hyperactive or less active and withdrawn, stress might be the trigger. He might also develop compulsive, repetitive behaviors such as consistent pacing, tail-chasing, fly snapping or flack sucking. Self-injurious behavior, during which he licks or bites himself to the point he injures himself, can also have roots in anxiety.
Before trying to relieve your dog's anxiety, take him to a veterinarian to rule out medical conditions that might be causing his behavior. Sometimes pain from an injury, parasites, allergies and infections are to blame. Once he's cleared of ailments, treating the problem is essential. Training that very gradually extends the duration that your dog is alone might reduce his anxiety. Provide toys for him to play with, and exercise him before leaving him alone. When entering and exiting the door, make no big deal out of it. If he's developed a compulsive behavior, consider getting professional help to overcome it.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.