Dealing with Pet Anxieties
Pets bring so much unconditional love and happiness into our lives. They make us laugh. They make us cry. Pets give us a sense of calm.
Most pet owners have never had to deal with a dog or cat that experiences any form of anxieties. Some pet owners have. It is not fun. It is stressful and we hate to see our pets exhibit anxious behaviours. Some of the common triggers that cause anxieties in our pets are related to loud sounds. Thunderstorms, fireworks, vacuums, lawnmowers are just a few of the common event-driven situations that most pet owners are familiar with. Shaking, excessive salivation, barking and/or whining, destroying items in the house, scratching at walls doors and floors, urinating, or pooping in the house are some of the more common behaviours exhibited due to anxieties.
Separation anxiety is something we have been hearing more and more of over the last couple of years. Many of us have been spending most of our time at home these days and our pets have certainly been enjoying the time with us (and us with them). We are now starting to move to some type of "new normal" as we start to spend more time away from our homes. This is creating more and more moments where we are leaving our pets alone for the first time or for the first time in a couple of years. Now some of us are seeing our pets exhibit some or all of those anxious behaviours. What can we do?
Let’s look at the event-driven, big bang loud sound situations first.
We can usually anticipate fireworks and thunderstorms. Desensitizing our pets to loud sounds and bangs is a difficult undertaking and can take a lot of time and specific training for our pets to overcome the fear of the big bangs. Many of our customers have made the decision to use some type of calming aid that they can use in advance of the big bang events. These can work but need to be used in advance of the oncoming thunderstorms or the fire works being set off.
We like to use a product called Licks Pill Free Zen. It is a gravy in a packet that is loaded with tryptophan. Most of us are familiar with this essential amino acid that can be found in foods, like turkey. Tryptophan plays a role in the production of serotonin, a mood stabilizer, melatonin, which helps regulate sleep patterns. Most dogs love the taste making it easy to administer. Give it an hour or so before a thunderstorm or fireworks and you might find a much calmer and less anxious pet. Some of our customers have told us their pets actually slept through the event. This is also a great option for the pet that is anxious with car rides, lots of our customers have had success using Licks Pill Free Zen packs for the situational stress a car ride can create.
Another supplement solution is CBD Oil. This supplement has shown to significantly reduce anxious behaviour. CBD Oil needs to be administered daily and over time. It is not an effective “one hit wonder” that can be used in a moments notice. The key is to get the right dosing for your pet, administer daily and when a big bang event is going to occur, you can dose your pet a little extra an hour or so before. Some of our customers have found that once they get onto a proper daily dosing of CBD Oil, their pets have calmed down to the point where they no longer exhibit those terrible behaviours.
What about separation anxiety? What can we do? It really doesn’t make sense to administer something every time you need to leave the house. Is there something that we can do or work on to help our pets deal with us leaving them for a period of time?
We asked Anna Marie Stewart of Instinct Canine Training about her thoughts of how to deal with pets who exhibit forms of separation anxiety.
“The problem with separation anxiety is it is a beast we unknowingly create ourselves. It is a difficult thing to un-train and takes time and dedication from the owner”.
“Crate train your dog from day one. We need to make the crate a relaxing and desirable place to be. Starting with short amounts of time and gradually increasing. Next, we don’t want to make it a big deal when we leave or come home. In fact, don’t say good-bye to your pet at all. When we fuss over the good-bye, we amp our dogs up. They know something is different and we put them in a state of anxiety with a what is going-on mentality.
Covid-19 has put many of us in a situation where many of our pets have been with us 24/7 and there are many dogs that have not been properly crate trained as there has really been no need to crate them since we have been around the house for the majority of the time. What do we do now that we are leaving the house more often and for longer periods of time?
“I’d recommend starting a routine of leaving your dog alone for short times. Go out for a walk, or even have the dog resting in a crate or another room of the house. Use an exciting (safe) chew toy as a distraction in the crate.”
This is an interesting approach. Get them busy doing something they love to do and don’t make a big deal when you leave (or come home). Another thing to try is get your pet to do some serious licking. It has a real calming effect on dogs and can be a bit of a work-out. Lick mats can be wonderful for this situation. Maybe spread some healthy bone broth or goat milk onto a lick mat, freeze it up and introduce to your pet just before you leave. A West Paw Toppl is another amazing toy that can aid in soothing anxieties, it's large enough you can freeze an entire meal into it, and bonus these items are dishwasher safe! Some things we like to recommend freezing onto these stress relieving items are their raw food, canned pumpkin or sweet potato, bone broth, goat milk, all natural peanut butter, etc.
“Ultimately, prevention is best, but if you find yourself in a situation with an anxious dog, remember not to coddle the behaviour and seek out an experienced dog trainer who can help guide you through training”.
Keeping our dogs busy with lots of exercise and mental stimulation can go a long way towards helping our pets live a long and anxious-free life.
Some pets may need the help of a safe and healthy supplement to help them get through those tough moments. Training is definitely a solid option, especially when certain behaviours are due to us not doing the right things at the beginning. Distraction chews, lick mats and treats can certainly be beneficial towards minimizing the impact of you leaving the house. Take an approach and stick with it to see if it has an impact.