If you believe what you read lately, we’re in the middle of an epidemic when it comes to canine anxiety. But do dogs really worry? And if they do, what do they worry about?
It’s actually been estimated that as many as 30% of dogs might suffer from anxiety. In fact, if you look online, you’ll probably find all kinds of remedies (some good and some utterly useless) that are supposed to calm anxious dogs. There are even CDs that are supposed to play sounds that are pleasing to dogs, that will supposedly help them relax.
So, is canine anxiety really on the rise? Or are people just “helicopter parenting” their dogs the way so many of them do their kids?
Actually, it’s not unreasonable to think that dogs may be more anxious now than they were in days gone by – so many of them are in homes where both adults work, and there is no one home with the dog during the day. Dogs are social animals, and crave human company. If they’re not getting it, they are probably going to feel anxious.
For that matter, even when you are at home, you are probably being distracted by any number of things – your text messages, your need to be on Facebook, and of course your kids if you have any. There are any number of things keeping you from spending time with your dog, and a lonely dog is an anxious dog.
I’ve touched on the topic of “designer dogs” before, and I think this is a good time to point out that if you don’t already have an anxious dog, you can buy one.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, when you buy a “designer dog,” you are not getting a so-called Chorkie, or a ShiPoo, or a Doxie, or whatever an irresponsible breeder wants to call that cross-breed that they wouldn’t even have been able to give away 10 years ago. You are buying something that should never have been bred, that is picking up all the undesirable traits of each breed, and that will probably end up with a ton of health problems that will bankrupt you. You will also end up, in most cases, with a very anxious dog.
“Designer” breeders do not breed for temperament. They are breeding for a certain look, and temperament does not enter into it. There are entire dynasties of dogs out there that should never have been bred. I see people who say “He’s a Chorkie!” and I just want to say “You’re an idiot.” These dogs are born into crowded conditions, have no interaction with humans, and little with other dogs. Then they end up in homes where their humans are away all day long. Is it any wonder they end up neurotic?
You can learn more about this topic by reading Why You Should Walk Away From Teacup Dogs.
Your dog’s anxiety can manifest in a number of ways. Perhaps the dog is afraid of noises, men, or other animals. The biggest type of anxiety, though, is separation anxiety. Your dog assumes, every time that you leave the house, that you will never be coming home.
Of course, the easiest way to cure separation anxiety is to take your dog with you when you leave. You may not always be able to do that, though, so what is the solution?
I hate the idea of “puppies on Prozac,” but if the anxiety is severe, sometimes medication is the only solution. There are a couple of medications that are specifically designed for canine anxiety – Reconcile and Clomicalm. They are essentially the same types of anti-anxiety medications that are used for humans, but they are meat-flavored to be palatable for dogs.
The down side is that they’re not a perfect solution. If your dog is anxious, then you are still going to have to work on behavior modification. All the drugs are going to do for you is ease the anxiety to the point where you can do what you need to do, and you might be able to solve the issue in a couple of months instead of three or four.
You might assume, as you would with human health care, that if you just wait, there will be better drugs available down the road that will ease your dog’s anxiety. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Big Pharma is about Big Money, and there is not all that much to be made on anti-anxiety medications for dogs.
You might see your dog improve somewhat on anti-anxiety medication, but it is not a cure-all, and it is not a substitute for care and compassion. You are far better off working with your dog, training him, so that he becomes more confident. A well-trained dog is not often an anxious dog.
So, do dogs worry? Probably not the same way we do. They don’t ask themselves, “Where is my next meal coming from?” or “What is going to happen to me when I get old?” But they can feel anxious. If you’re like most people, you don’t want your dog heavily medicated. In the same way that an anxious human might relax with a cup of chamomile tea as opposed to taking Xanax, dogs can also benefit from more natural measures. Pro-Sense makes a great chewable anti-stress calming tablet for dogs. It contains chamomile, ginger and valerian to help calm your dog and keep him relaxed. It ordinarily lists at $8.99, but you can buy it at Amazon for $6.26. It might not work on very serious cases of canine anxiety, but I think it is a good “first step” before you get into pharmaceuticals for your dog. Give it a try, and if it isn’t to your liking, see your vet for something a bit stronger to calm your anxious dog. Dogs don’t worry the way we do, but they can still be prone to anxiety.