Dog Anxiety

Dog Anxiety

Anxiety in dogs can manifest itself in various ways.  Sometimes a dog will engage in destructive behavior, such as chewing on furniture, or going potty even after being fully house trained.  The dog may whine, shake or bark excessively.

If you suspect that your dog has anxiety, it is always a good idea to discuss it with your veterinarian. Similar to humans, there may be numerous reasons for anxiety.  Some dogs are born with this condition.  In others, anxiety is a result of a stressful or fearful event.  Often times anxiety is observed in rescue dogs as a result of human abuse and neglect.  Even just the experience of staying at a rescue boarding facility can initiate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A strong fear reaction to something, such as a loud noise from fireworks or thunder, may be the cause future anxiety episodes during bad weather or Independence Day celebrations.  Understanding the underlying reason for anxious behavior in dogs is very helpful for managing anxiety.  In any case, the most important thing for the dog owner is to realize that anxiety is a condition and not bad behavior on the part of the pet.

In our years of dog behavior training experience, we have dealt with lots of anxious dogs.  When we meet a dog for the first time, we evaluate them and determine whether we are able help or if the dog requires medical attention.

One of the best starting points in dealing with dog anxiety is to provide them with a safe, calming place.  It can be any location in the house, like a dog bed or a crate.  The dog should go there once you issue a “place” command and place all 4 paws in the “place”.  Eventually, the dog will learn how to calm themselves down at that safe location.

Another method that we use often is desensitization.  If a dog is anxious in public places, we take her on short trips to a pet store.  We always start with brief visits and increase the length of stay gradually.  If done properly, this method helps the dog to adjust to noise and distractions around them and even start enjoying the outings.

One of the most common conditions that we see in our trainees is separation anxiety.  Often times,  the dog owners unknowingly encourage separation anxiety in their pet.  Before leaving the house, they fuss and pet the dog excessively while feeling guilty leaving the dog alone.  Instead, the best strategy is to pay little to no attention to the dog before leaving the house or coming back home.

It is very helpful to perform a “leave and return” exercise.  An owner gets ready to leave the house by collecting car keys and putting on a coat.  He then leaves the house for 2-3 minutes and comes back without paying too much attention to the dog.  The leave interval is being increased gradually to 5-10 minutes. This exercise helps the dog to realize that the owner is always coming home, thus easing separation anxiety.  It is also important to exercise the dog regularly to avoid boredom anxiety.

In most cases, with patience and proper dog training, anxiety is manageable and treatable.  In more severe cases, the dog may require anti-anxiety medication.  A veterinarian should evaluate the animal and choose the best suitable medication.

Stephanie and Adam Knapp,

Behave-U K9 Training, LLC

Dog Training in Cincinnati, OH

dog-crate-training

How To Crate Train Your Dog

When a lot of people think about crating their dogs, they associate it with being mean, abusive, or unloving. The truth is that proper crate training can prevent or eliminate lots of behavior problems in your dog. We believe that crate training involves a lot more than simply shoving your dog in, and closing the door. We expect dogs to go in when asked, stay inside the crate even with the door open, and relax once they are crated. Dog crate should never be used as a punishment or a way to avoid giving your dog sufficient time and energy outlets.

Dog Crate Training Basics

1. Choose the right size.

You want to choose a crate that is big enough for your dog to comfortably sit, stand, turn around, and lie down. If your dog is still growing, be sure to choose a crate that has a divider included with it. While a few dogs can handle being in a larger crate with zero issues, most will use a crate that is too big for them as a bathroom or a way to stress load.

2. When you have your crate set up, have your dog leashed and walk them up to it with the crate door open.

Having a little food to use as a positive reward can help, but it’s also important to understand that food sometimes doesn’t help if the dog is stressed out or apprehensive about a situation. DON’T throw food in the back of the crate and shut the dog inside if they go after the food. This is entrapment and will cause a lot of dogs to panic. If your dog does go in after the food praise them while they go in, and allow them to come back out on their own. Keep doing this a few times until they get the idea.

3. If you have a dog who doesn’t go in the crate after the food, you will need to use leash pressure to help them.

Applying steady leash pressure towards the crate opening until the dog goes in will help them understand what you want. If you’re using a wire crate, threading the leash through the top wires in the back of the crate will give you more leverage. As soon as the dog goes in, release the leash and praise. If they will take food, give them a little bit as an added reward. It’s a good idea to keep repeating the exercise until the dog is going in on their own with no hesitation. Depending on how resistant they are, you may practice for a while, so it’s a good idea to make sure that you aren’t in a hurry.

4. Keep your cool.

It can be frustrating to work with a dog who is fighting against what you want them to do, but it’s important to not get emotional. The crazier the dog gets, the calmer you should be. If you feel yourself getting upset take a break for a while and try again. If you feel as if the dog may need a break, give it to them and try again.

5. Adding a name.

Once you have your dog going in the crate willingly, it’s time to name it. We often use the word “Kennel”, but you can use any word you want to. As the dog is going the crate you want to say for example “Kennel, followed by good boy/girl”.

 

Creating & Reinforcing Calm Crate Behavior
It can be easy to get in the habit of letting our dogs out of the crate when they are excited, especially if they have been crated for a while.One thing you want to be aware of it that you are rewarding your dog for excitement if you let them out while excited. If you are just getting up in the morning, wait a while before letting your dog out. If you are still potty training, you may need to get up a little earlier to prevent accidents. Once you go up to the crate, only open the door if your dog is calm, if they are wildly bouncing around walk away, and try again. Open the crate door, and have your dog wait to let out or leashed. If your dog goes to rush out of the open crate, firmly close the door on them to get them to wait. How firm you close the door, will depend on the individual dog. Once your dog is waiting patiently, then you can let them out.