Anxiety in Dogs – March 13, 2013

There are various kinds of anxiety in dogs – the most common is separation anxiety, followed by fear of strange objects, people or animals. Some of the symptoms include, but are not limited to: barking, digging, chewing, following the owner from room to room, excessive touching or licking, “dry” panting, whining, sweating from paws, soiling, sudden hair loss, self-mutilation, destructiveness, defensive growling and occasional aggression.

The cause of anxiety is usually quite simple – the dog’s needs are not being met properly, or were not met during the dog’s developmental periods.
Dogs belong in a pack (or family). They need structure, limits, and clear rules to be set by their leader. If the leadership – and companionship – of the pack is not adequate, or not available, the dog will respond in ways that are definitely anxiety producing in humans!

Most problems of anxiety can be solved – or at least helped – by strong leadership from you, the owner (and leader of their pack), and a solid routine they can count on. However, the dog must learn to accept the routine — and that can take time. The following are some guidelines for the owner of an anxious dog.

1. First, make sure the dog understands what you want and looks to you for leadership. Take him to class, or teach him obedience work at home. Make sure he gets enough exercise and stimulation. Ball playing in the back yard is good…but a morning and evening run is better.

2. Be aware how much he approaches you for attention and petting. If it’s a great deal, stop petting him every time he demands it. Ignore him, turn away. When he relaxes, you can call him and pet him — at your discretion. This builds up your status in your pack, and helps him to trust your decisions.

3. If the dog goes from human to human in his search for attention, develop a signal that tells all the family members that the dog is on a doggy time-out. If necessary, set up a tie-down (a 3-4 foot leash attached to an immovable object) to prevent interactions, but use it AFTER the signal begins.

4. If the dog follows you from room to room, desensitize him to your departure. Go from room to room, and leave the dog behind you, shutting the door after you. You can tell him you are leaving him. When you return to the room, there should be no verbal warning and no greeting. Be very matter of fact, very cool.

5. Leave the house for short periods of time (beginning at two minutes), and return… again, no fanfare; cool, non-emotional departures, warm, calm arrivals. Gradually increase the amount of time you are away. If appropriate, leave the dog with something delicious that he can work on for some time. A “Kong” rubber toy, with peanut butter or cream cheese stuffed up the middle is a nice treat that takes some time to work on. Take it away when you return. This gives him something to look forward to.

6. If the dog is shy or sensitive, encourage independence by teaching games — find it, hide and seek, and agility. Play limited tug of war; that is, keep the excitement level moderate.

7. Never apologize to the dog for leaving – say good-bye lightly. Upon your return, act as though you’ve never been away. Putter around the house for a couple of minutes before greeting your dog. In essence, act as though nothing you do is unusual or noteworthy. That will lower the dog’s anxiety level…and make both of you happier.

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Adolescent Changes in Your Puppy – March 6, 2012

For those of you with ‘Winter puppies’, it is not only important to understand the impact of adolescent changes, but also that these can be intensified if adolescence hits at the same time as New England spring. For your puppies who have clung by your side, be aware that things can change at the first sign of grass blooming, birds singing and emergence of all kinds of new sounds and scents.

A dog’s adolescence is the time when everything starts to fall apart, unless you make a concerted effort to see it through to the stability of adulthood. Your dog’s adolescence is a critical time. If you ignore your dog’s education now, you will soon find yourself living with an ill-mannered, under-socialized, hyperactive animal. Here are some things to watch for.
Household etiquette may deteriorate over time, especially if you start taking your dog’s housetraining and other good behavior for granted. But if you taught your pup well in his earlier months, the drift in household etiquette will be slow until your dog reaches his sunset years, when housetraining especially tends to suffer.

Basic manners may take a sharp dive when puppy collides with adolescence. Lure/reward training your puppy was easy: you taught your pup to eagerly come, follow, sit, lie down, stand still, roll over, and look up to you with unwavering attention and respect because you were your pup’s sun, moon, and stars. But now your dog is developing adult doggy interests, such as investigating other dogs’ rear ends, sniffing urine and feces on the grass, rolling in unidentifiable smelly stuff, and chasing squirrels. Your dog’s interests may quickly become distractions to training, so that your dog will continue sniffing another dog’s rear end rather than come running when called. (What a scary thought, that your dog would prefer another dog’s rear end to you!) All of a sudden he won’t come, won’t sit, won’t settle down and stay, but instead jumps up, pulls on-leash, and becomes hyperactive.

Bite inhibition tends to drift as your dog gets older and develops more powerful jaws. Giving your dog ample opportunity to wrestle with other dogs, regularly handfeeding kibble and treats, and periodically examining and cleaning your dog’s teeth are the best exercises to ensure that your adolescent dog maintains his soft mouth.

Socialization often heads downhill during adolescence, sometimes surprisingly precipitously. As they get older, dogs have fewer opportunities to meet unfamiliar people and dogs. Puppy classes and parties are often a thing of the past and most owners have established a set routine by the time their dog is five or six months old. At home, the dog interacts with the same familiar friends and family, and is walked, if at all, on the same route to the same dog park, where they encounter the same old people and the same old dogs. Consequently, many adolescent dogs become progressively de-socialized toward unfamiliar people and dogs until eventually they become intolerant of all but a small inner circle of friends.
If your adolescent dog does not get out and about regularly and few unfamiliar people come to the house, his d-socialization may be alarmingly rapid. At five months your dog was a social butterfly with nothing but wiggles and wags when greeting people, but by eight months of age he has become defensive and lacking in confidence: he barks and backs off, or he snaps and lunges with hackles raised. A previously friendly adolescent dog might suddenly and without much warning be spooked by a household guest.

Puppy socialization was a prelude to your safe and enjoyable continued socialization of your adolescent dog. However, your adolescent dog must continue meeting unfamiliar people regularly, otherwise he will progressively de-socialize. Similarly, successful adolescent socialization makes it possible for you to safely and enjoyably continue to socialize your adult dog. Socialization is an on ongoing process.
Dog-Dog Socialization also deteriorates during adolescence, often at an alarming rate, especially for very small and very large dogs. First, teaching a dog to get along with every other dog is difficult. Second, it is unrealistic to expect a dog to be best friends with every dog. Much like people, dogs have special friends, casual acquaintances, and individuals they don’t particularly like. Third, it is quite natural for dogs (especially males) to squabble. In fact, it is a rare male dog that has never been involved in some physical altercation. Everything was fine with young pups playing in class and in parks, but with adolescent dogs, the scraps, the arguments, and even the play-fighting seem all too real.

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