It’s something we all know the feeling of. But we often don’t consider our dogs anxiety. Obviously, you hate the idea of your dog feeling anxious, right?
Only a few days ago, I had a day full of anxiety. Once it was all over and things were back to normal the next day, As my behaviourist brain kicked in, I suddenly had an epiphany. My day of anxiety was just like many dogs experience on a daily basis.
It was a normal Thursday during the week, I got up, said goodbye to my partner who was still sleeping away and went to work. At 11am, I noticed I’d had a couple texts from him.
“Just a bit of a heads up, I’m in a bit of an annoyed mood.”
Ut oh, what has happened… The worry begins!
The message goes on to claim that he’s the only one who ever tidies the flat and he’s spent all morning cleaning.
Firstly, I felt this was over exaggeration as when I’d left the flat that morning there wasn’t much mess! However, although this was the case, I felt anxious and guilty that he was upset. Next text...
“We need to have a chat about the flat later, I’m p*ssed off.”
I went back to work with this playing on my mind. Although my job meant I was often busy, I continued to think about it every chance I got. Although I really felt he was overreacting, I spent the entire rest of my shift anxious and stressed. Playing through what might have caused the reaction and what might happen when I get home. It impacted how well I could focus on my work and my attention span. Even when I got home I still felt anxious, but I didn’t really know why, other than that he was angry. The flat didn’t look all that much different from when I left. My partner wasn’t there and I felt quite lost as I was concerned for when he came home. Eventually he came home and we talked about it...
Aaaand, it turns out he was in a bad mood about something else anyway and had just taken it out on the fact the washing up wasn’t done….
Now imagine going through something similar, but not knowing even the slightest bit why you were told off. Sounds pretty horrible doesn’t it?
That’s what we can unintentionally put our dogs through on a regular basis. We tell them off for something, but they often won’t understand what they’ve done to anger you. This can lead to heightened levels of cortisol (the stress hormone!). It's been found that dogs can suffer with PTSD, just like humans.
If you have a dog that you consider ‘naughty’ and ‘spiteful’, you may find yourself verbally telling your dog off, shouting at them and some people (yes - it’s sadly true) will physical harm their dog in their anger.
Consider whether, maybe, this anxiety may be causing the behaviours that you don’t want. Anxiety causes dogs:
to chew, due to the relaxing nature of the natural behaviour,
to urinate in the house,
to howl or bark
to become defensive
Even if you catch them in the act of these unwanted behaviours, they still might not understand why you’re angry.
One of the first things I tell every client is that their dog no longer gets told off, never! I’m usually greeted with a face of utter disbelief and confusion… But trust me!
The best way to help your anxious dog is to teach them what they should be doing, instead of what they shouldn’t be doing! Give them opportunities to satisfy their needs and make the right choices:
Got a dog that chews? Rotate their toys every day and calmly praise them for chewing the correct toys!
Urinating in the house? Start toilet training again, reward them when they go to the toilet outside!
Your dog likes to bark? Train them to bark on cue, ignore any barking you haven’t asked for and teach them to collect a toy instead!
Play games with your dog, it will increase their confidence and your bond together. Remove the cause of their stress and go back to training.
Try it, and let me know when you’ve seen how successful it can be!