Remember the last time you were asked to speak in front of a group of people and how incredibly nervous you were, or how your palms were hot and sweaty before a job interview?
That is a form of anxiety, and your dog could be suffering from a chronic version of anxiety. Imagine how much that fear made butterflies flutter in your gut and just how fearful you were.
Try to imagine what it would be like to be a dog with that fear all the time and no way to tell your human family about it? Step up to the responsibility of recognizing and treating your dog’s anxiety.
Just as people have different levels and types of anxiety from simply being nervous in a situation to having a real disorder, the anxiety a dog may be suffering or feeling could be very complex.
1. The Reactive Dog
Dogs can lash out, growl, bark or even bite simply because they are afraid.
This is his only way of communicating, he cannot look to you and say, “I’m not happy in this situation, I need to walk away!” You can help him feel more comfortable while exercising on the leash, when family members or friends visit your home and in other unfamiliar or potentially stressful situations by changing his emotion from scared to calm and relaxed using positive reinforcement.
There are two methods of going about helping an anxious, reactive dog through this debilitating condition. One method is counter conditioning in which you provide a positive reward like a treat whenever your dog notices but does not react to his trigger.
The other is called desensitization and helps the dog over come his fear through steady and slow exposure to his trigger, helping him to become uninterested or simply numb to it entirely.
Both are highly useful, but choosing which route to go should be discussed with your local professional canine behaviorist with your dog’s personality in mind!