My dog is showing signs of Anxiety, Fearfulness and Agression
Even the best well intended owners do run the risk of setting up a dog for failure by failing to do several different things for a dog at a young age. Just to give a a few good examples:
1) Not socializing your dog at a very young age with other puppies, adult dogs, different people and different surfaces.
2)They do not understand the way a dog learns and when a dog makes the mistake of punishing the dog. They can do this either physically and/ or Mentally.
3) They have created a very stressful environment in which the dog lives in. Couples who are constantly fighting, single dog owner who feels bad and resentful towards its dogs, children or adults who harass the dog for no reason.
4) You have decided to give your dog conflicting messages. One day they are allowed to sleep in bed with you and the next day they aren't. When the owner realizes that the dog is not performing what he wants, he gets frustrated with the dog, and the dog mirrors back that resentment.
5) You are part of a big family. Different family members are giving the dog different Que's and you expect the dog to obey them while they are confused. When the dog does not know what you want, they are punished.
6) Yelling at a dog.
7) They do not get enough exercise.
8) A dog just got back from a shelter and has been traumatized by the experience.
9) The dog has a history of having new owners.
10) The dog’s family has moved multiple times in a small amount of time.
It's important to never punish your dog either physically or mentally. All this does is break apart the relationship between dog and dog owner.
In case you are wondering what, are the signs of aggression?
1) Dog has become growling when it used to not growl.
Please note that growling is the dog telling you, "Hey you are making me feel uncomfortable" and is the last warning before a bite. However, if a dog has been punished because of growling, they can in fact stop growling and go directly for the bite. So please do not ever punish your dog for growling. As people we need to know when the dog is being pushed past it's stress threshold and growling is a clear indicator that we as people have to change our approach.
2) Baring Teeth, with a closed mouth all the way until you can see its Molars. In other words, a way you can know if a dog is angry is if it is smiling at you, but has a closed mouth. He is not happy.
3) Body is either Stiff, or frozen (this can be leading into a lunging situation). Dogs can do this depending on their breed, will do this right before they strike.
4) Intense Snarling and intense barking (Tail can either be up and curled forward, straight back at an angle, or tail tucked under showing fearfulness).
5) Intentionally lunging at other dogs facing them head on. This can be sometimes confused with excitement, please always play it safe.
Anxiety and fearfulness have a lot of the same root causes. Most often aggression is the result of a dog that cannot handle stress and has moved into a state of fear and/ or anxiety and now has no other means, but to react for the sake of self-preservation.
So, now what?
We know that in all these cases Cortisol is running high in the dog’s brain. The goal would be to recreate the event and or environment (depending if it’s safe or not of course), where the dog has a low level of Cortisol.
There are now finally ways of dealing with dogs that have developed issues in the sense that there are medications that will help. I know a lot of dog owners are hesitant or do not believe in medications. Others are scared of putting dogs on medications. I think those fears are valid as the general public is not informed of the risks and benefits of having a dog on medications.
The first question you might want to ask yourself is "How bad is the aggression?".
The answer is simply, the dog, will not just "Grow out of it". In fact, with time aggression if not treated, tends to get worse over time unless intervention is not done either through medication or training. Trainers can only help you so far, but when it comes to chemical imbalances that dogs are having to deal with your Veterinarian Behaviorist would be the person you should talk to.
Many times, a Behaviorist will refer to the owner to a Trainer. Training can help your dog out in the following areas:
1) Increase in exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog. If you are wondering if your dog is getting enough exercise. The guidelines are for every month your dog is alive, you multiply that times 5. This will give you the total amount of minutes your dog should receive twice a day. This is the bear minimum. The goal is to get your dog tired. So, in other words, if the bear minimum won’t cut it, you will have to increase the amount of time outdoors. The dog has to psychologically think that he is crossing a terrain while the exercise is taking place. There is now a direct relationship between the amount of exercise a dog gets and there overall psychological well-being. This is not to say that aggressive behavior that is well ingrained can be fixed by increasing exercise alone, but it will definitely help significantly, in both decreasing pent up energy and adjusting the dog’s overall mood.
2) Detect why is the dog reacting the way it is? This is something you as the owner has to know to be an informed owner to then speak to multiple professionals about your dog’s situation. The behaviorist should have asked you several questions in regards to what is going on with your dog’s behavior already.
Most likely will the trainer should respect the behaviorist opinion. However, a trainer will want to know if the behaviorist recommended any particular course of treatment that in the behaviorist had in mind, that would be best suited for your particular dog.
If the behaviorist just said something like “Go see a trainer”. Then the trainer will have to make their own evaluation as to what is going on, and might have to send you back to a behaviorist if needed.
3) Counter conditioning exercises. Trainers create positive associations in situations where dogs used to have anxiety, this can take a while, but the results are well worth it.
4) Desensitization or flooding. Recently the American Veterinarian Society has come out strongly against the flooding technique which is basically throwing someone into the pool of water to get them over there fear of water. While slow desensitization is a gradual exposure to what triggers a dog.
5) Placing a dog on a “Calming diet”- No you, do not have to buy the brand food called “Calming diet”, but you can look up what foods help your dog’s calm down. Yes, your dog’s diet can make a huge difference.
· Please check out the following website to for assistance: https://www.thenaturalpetdoctor.com/post/top-11-foods-for-reducing-your-dog-s-anxiety
6) Feed your dog treats that you know have tryptophan in them.
7) Providing owners with the options of either Calming treats or CBD oil. This is a touchy subject and should never be given to dogs that are already on a medication. As CBD oil, or hemp treats can actually cause an effect on the medication that the dog is on. It can actually deteriorate the medication, making it not as effective, or exacerbate the effects of the medication. As of today’s, date, there is little anecdotal evidence that CBD oil and Calming “Hemp” treats by themselves make a difference in treating dogs.
What we do however, have are several individuals who swear that for their dog it made a huge difference. I do believe that when an owner believes that everything is being done to help their dog it creates a placebo effect making the owner feel good, and in turn the dog feels good as well. Now that the owner and the dog are in sink and feeling good about each other, this can definitely bring about a big change in the every day life that the owner and dog have.
8) Calming Music.
9) Aroma therapy.
10) Talking to you the owner. Yes, we do that also. 😊
All the best,