When our dogs are anxious about things it can be upsetting for us. There are many things which can make a dog anxious: meeting strangers, travelling in the car, being alone, fireworks ...
However, most dogs who find certain things scary can be helped to feel better.
Fearful dogs try different behaviours in response to whatever is scaring them. If the behaviour results in the scary thing going away, then the behaviour is supported and, over time, the dog displays this behaviour earlier and earlier.
Milder behaviours indicating stress include licking lips, panting, yawning, flattening ears back, restlessness or hiding. These can progress to raised hackles, baring teeth, growling, barking or snapping. Stressed dogs can become destructive, chewing the furniture or your shoes, or they may lose house training and start to toilet in the house.
Try to work out what triggers his behaviour. Once you can recognise the early signs of anxiety you can act to help. In the short term, try to avoid any triggers for fear. This will give you time to start a behavioural therapy programme. It is worth investing some money in getting help from a professional behaviourist. Your vet should be able to recommend some.
Make an appointment with your vet so that she can give your dog a full clinical examination to ensure there is no underlying medical cause for the stress, like pain. If your vet gives the all clear, you can start a desensitization plan. For example, if your dog is scared of fireworks, you can start early in the summer by playing CDs with firework noises at a very low volume. Over time, increasing the volume desensitises your dog to the noise.
It is worth considering a calming supplement for your dog. There are several available which are safe to give on a daily basis. Supplements will not make a massive difference overnight, but they can help your dog feel calmer and, in doing so, can help your dog be more receptive to desensitization techniques. They can also support new learning for your dog: dogs associate new learning with a calmer, positive experience. There are many supplements available and you should ask your vet for advice on which to use.
PLEASE NOTE: Whilst this article has been written by a qualified veterinary surgeon, it should not be taken as advice, If you are concerned about your pet’s health you should always take them to see your vet.