Owning a pet is the highlight of many people’s lives. Pets love you unconditionally – but, just like humans, they can experience different emotions. From fear to anger to happiness, your pet can feel all the same emotions as you. Some dogs experience anxiety. Whether they suffer from separation anxiety or simply get anxious at different points of the day, anxiety in pets is a real condition that can affect a large portion of your pet’s daily life. And, when it comes to being around other dogs, such as at the dog park, vet’s office or even at the boarding house, your pup’s anxiety can cause some serious issues for them. Here are some tips on introducing your anxious dog to other animals!
- Minimize noise. One thing that can cause dogs to feel anxious is noise. From bells on collars to large barks or even cars and trucks, lots of noise can overwhelm your already anxious pup and cause them to lash out or hide away when meeting other dogs. Minimizing the noise around them can really go a long way to ensuring the introduction is successful. This includes noise on your own dog. Using a set of silicone dog ID tags minimizes noise on your own dog so they won’t freak themselves out when running around or entering in a new space. No need to be scared of their own shadow!
- Be gradual. When introducing your dog to other animals, you don’t want to introduce them to a bunch of dogs all at once. Instead, choose a close friend or family member to start the introduction process. First, have that person come over by themselves. Let your dog get used to their scent and become familiar with them before considering having your friend/family member bring their own animal. Have them bring over a toy or two of their own pups and allow your dog to smell it. Giving them a chance to learn the other dog’s scent prior to meeting is a good way to keep them from being anxious. Plus, since dogs like to have their own scent on things, your dog will put their scent all over the toy and this will help the friend/family member’s dog recognize your dog’s scent when the toy returns to them and they put their scent back on it. After exposing your dog to the scent of the other dog, then have your friend/family member bring their dog over. Keep everyone on their leashes and approach from a distance. Encourage your friend/family member to keep their dog under a sit command. Together, these things will help to work towards a successful meeting of your anxious dog with another dog that’s less anxious. Do this each time you want to introduce your dog to new people, animals or places. Eventually, your dog might even find themselves being less anxious about things!
- Don’t go to the dog park. While it might be tempting to take your dog to the park and let them figure it out for themself, that can actually be very detrimental to your dog’s social and mental health. Similar to humans, overstimulation can negatively affect dogs. Overstimulation of a dog’s brain puts them in a constant state of fight-or-flight, which can cause them to back frequently, lick themselves constantly, pace around rooms or be unable to sleep well. Unfortunately, sending your dog to the dog park – especially if they’re already anxious – can only do more harm than good. Not only will they have the stress of being in a place with other dogs, but there are probably noises they don’t recognize – construction, cars passing by, people yelling or talking and more. This can really harm your dog’s mental state, so avoid the dog park, especially if your dog suffers from severe anxiety.
- Learn your dog’s signs. Dogs will communicate when they’re nervous. Learning to pay attention to your dog’s signs and behaviors will go a long way in your exposure process. Some common signs of anxiety in dogs are licking their lips frequently, perked ears, bared teeth and even growling. This is especially if you have your dog out and they experience a trigger for their anxiety. Rather than keeping them in the trigger, physically remove them. Turn around, cross the street or command them to do a different behavior so that their mind gets focused on something other than their trigger. Learning their specific signs of anxiety will help you be a better dog owner. Your top concern should always be their health and safety, so paying attention to their behaviors is just one of the many ways you can do that.
- Be consistent with training…and boundaries! Many people will try and get you to give up training your dog in a gradual way. And, yes, it is a lot of work. But, this is what you signed up for when you agreed to own a dog. Dogs don’t process information the same way that humans do, so it’s important to continue to train them instead of letting their anxieties go. Enforce your training – including boundaries with people and other dogs. Be clear when you know your dog can’t handle being pet or being around other animals, and make sure to stay on top of the training with your dog. How else do you expect them to be less anxious?
- Hire someone to train your dog. A dog trainer is a professional – and, sometimes, that’s just what your dog needs. Dog trainers can work wonders with dogs who seem to be untrainable, especially anxious ones. Make sure you look for one who’s knowledgeable in working with dogs who have anxiety, but also make sure your dog’s outfitted with everything they need, such as a silicone dog collar, a leash and lots of their favorite treats.
Some dogs experience severe anxiety, and it can impact a large part of their life. This includes interactions with other dogs. As a pet owner, it’s important that you know the safest and best ways to introduce your anxious dog to other dogs!