Understanding canine anxiety

by Nikki Ivey

Are you unable to leave your dog alone at home because he suffers from separation anxiety? Are friends unable to pet him when they come over for fear of submissive urination? Is he unable to play with other dogs because he is afraid? Does he get nervous when you put him in the car because of his fear of going to the vet, the groomer or the kennel? Does he hide under the bed during thunderstorms? If so, your dog suffers from a form of anxiety.

There are different levels of anxiety from mild to severe. Some dogs only suffer anxiety attacks when they are out of their comfort zone while some have attacks when inside their comfort zone. Anxiety is not a stand-alone problem; it is a symptom of an all too common problem, low confidence.

When a dog suffers from confidence issues, he is unable to handle stressful situations. Confidence issues occur because humans don’t understand their dog’s true needs or proper communication skills.

Dogs need to have interaction with other dogs, they need rules, a consistent leader, problem-solving skills, control, and they need owners to understand that they are not children with fur, but four-legged canines.

Dogs need interaction with other dogs so they can learn appropriate dog language. Dog language helps them to avoid conflict, calm situations and calm themselves. Dogs need rules and a consistent leader so they know what is expected of them. When you are inconsistent in your expectations you are confusing the dog and lowering his confidence. So, if you reward your dog for jumping sometimes but punish the dog other times, you are being inconsistent. Your inconsistency is setting your dog up to have behavioral problems. You should NEVER use harsh corrections when teaching or interacting with your dog. Learn to reward the behavior you like and ignore the behavior you don’t like, but do it consistently.

Dogs need problem-solving skills because they need to learn to think for themselves. Don’t feel the need to always tell your dog what to do, let him figure it out for himself.

All dogs need to learn control. If your dog doesn’t have control of himself, he is going to be unable to tap into that appropriate behavior when stressed, even if he knows what that appropriate behavior is.

And you must understand that when your dog is scared, nervous or timid, the worst thing you can do is baby and coddle him. Talking to him like he is a small child, using a sweet and tender voice is only going to make his confidence problem worse. Remember, dogs are not children. They are not going to respond to being coddled the way children do.

Once you understand your dog and his needs and you learn how to communicate and interact appropriately, you can help your dog overcome his confidence issue and eliminate the anxiety that he feels everyday.

For more information on building your dog’s confidence, email me at info@dogspeak101.com.

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