While having a dog with social anxiety can be a challenge, you may find a peace of mind in knowing that it’s a common thing for dogs to experience.
Just like humans, some dogs are prone to experiencing anxiety. Whether it’s common for their breed or they’ve had some experiences that trigger the social anxiety, it’s something that many dog owners find their furry friend struggling with.
So what exactly is social anxiety, and how do you treat a dog with social anxiety? Doing some research to have a deeper understanding of what it is and what causes it can do wonders for helping your dog get the attention and treatment they need. Take a look at some facts about social anxiety in dogs and some tips on how to treat it!
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety in a dog is a fear of people or other animals. It may also be a fear of the unknown, such as unknown places, experiences, or even sounds. If your dog spends most of their time around you and your family in a handful of locations, you may not notice their social anxiety, at first. If someone comes to visit or you take your dog to a new place and you notice a lot of hesitation or fear, it’s possible that they are experiencing social anxiety.
Causes of Social Anxiety for a Dog
There are a number of things that could cause social anxiety for a dog. Like we mentioned above, introductions to unknown people or places could trigger your dog's anxiety. It’s also common to see social anxiety in specific breeds of dogs, such German Shepherds or Cocker Spaniels.
If you have a puppy, you may find that they experience social anxiety if they are not adequately or frequently introduced to new people or dogs. If these social interactions are not part of their early life, it’s easy for them to get overwhelmed at the prospect of going to a park or meeting new people because it’s not an experience that they’re used to.
It’s also normal to see social anxiety in dogs that have been abused or neglected. You may find that a dog that has been rescued from these difficult situations have increased anxiety around people that remind them of their previous homes. For example, if their previous owner was a large man, they may struggle more when encountering other large men.
How to Identify Social Anxiety in a Dog
There are a number of ways that your dog may be showing you that they are suffering from social anxiety. It will differ from dog to dog, and they may do a number of things to manifest their social anxiety.
One way your dog may show their anxiety is through aggressive behavior. This could include growling or barking, or even jumping at another person or animal, whatever may be driving them to feel that they are unsafe. It could also show itself through destructive behavior. If you come home to find your furniture torn up, holes in the curtains, and broken items around the house, this could be a sign or social anxiety.
Your dog may also show it through depressed or anxious behavior. This could include things like pacing and acting restless, or even pooping or peeing in the house, even after they’ve been trained not to. They may appear timid and fearful when presented with someone or something that they feel is making them unsafe.
There are a few ways that you can treat a dog with social anxiety. Try one method and, if that one doesn’t resonate with your dog, move on to the next one. Give it some time and don’t get discouraged – this is something that may take some time, and that’s ok! Just like people with anxiety don’t all respond to the same method of treatment, dogs will respond differently to varying methods of anxiety treatment. Take a look at some of the most common treatment methods.
One method that you might consider is training. This can either be done in your home with you and your dog, or you might consider reaching out to a professional trainer to help you through the process.
One method of training a dog with anxiety is called desensitisation. This is where you slowly introduce your dog in a safe way to the thing that is causing them to feel anxious. Whether it’s other animals or new places, slowly start introducing them to the situation. Slowly increase the amount of time spent interacting with it. This can do wonders for relieving their social anxiety.
Another method you might consider is called counterconditioning. This is where you work to change the way they respond to what is causing them to feel anxious. This may be replacing aggression with an intentional command, such as sitting at attention, or changing their anxious pacing for a trick, such as shaking or rolling over.
You might also consider some intentional distractions when your dog’s anxiety gets triggered. This could include anything from playing calming music to taking them out for a run, or even giving them a nice, at home grooming! It’s amazing how calm your dog can get with some slow and steady brushing. If you can identify what is triggering them and catch it in time, these distractions can be a great tool for helping your dog through those tough moments.
Another option you could consider is medication. This method is typically reserved for more severe cases of social anxiety. Depending on the seriousness of your dog’s anxiety, as well as how old your dog is, medication may be the best option for you. Set up an appointment with your vet so that you can get their opinion on what the best course of action may be.
Preventing Social Anxiety
Do you suspect that your dog may be prone to social anxiety and want some ideas on how you can prevent it? You’re in luck! There are plenty of things that you can do to help your dog have a healthy state of mind as they grow and experience new things.
One of the most popular sources of social anxiety for a dog is socializing. If you make it a priority to introduce them to other people and animals from an early age, they’re much less likely to experience social anxiety. Set up playdates with other dog owners, or find a dog park nearby that you can take them to to make some new friends.
You can also make it a point to bring your dog to family and social gatherings when acceptable to help them get accustomed to the idea of being around other people. While these efforts may seem small, they can make a world of difference for your pup in the long run.
Making it a priority to get out with your dog and let them get some exercise is another effective way to prevent social anxiety. Often, your dog may experience anxiety from being left alone in a confined space. Giving them the ability to get some energy out and exercise is a good way to curb their anxiety around being left alone without the ability to roam and explore.
Take them to a field or park and bring along a ball or toy with you that they can chase and run after. Not only will they get a good amount of exercise, but they will also feel closer to you for it. If you’re looking for a way to bond with your furry friend, this is a great place to start!
Ensuring your dog is healthy and well fed is sure to lend a hand with their social anxiety. Do some research and see what kind of dog food your pet would benefit from most. If you need to, seek out the opinion of a vet or other professional to get some input on what you can feed them in order to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive. If your dog is doing well physically, this can do wonders for helping them mentally. This might mean cutting back on the treats, but it’s certainly worth the effort if it keeps your dog happy and healthy!
Keeping Your Dog Happy with Plush Paws Products
While finding that your dog has social anxiety can be overwhelming, we know that there is so much power in gaining a deeper understanding of it so that you can more effectively help your furry friend. Knowing that there are a number of ways to treat and prevent social anxiety can lend a tremendous amount of hope! Here at Plush Paws Products, we know that you want the very best for your dog. Browse our selection of car seat covers and health products to make sure your dog is comfortable and taken care of!