Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias
I work with a LOT of anxious and fearful dogs, and every case is just a little different because each dog has its unique challenges or triggers.
Body language is EVERYTHING when you’re reading a dog’s fears. Exceedingly small changes can tell you if you’re gaining confidence or trust or if you’re regressing. Regression is normal, but it does require patience with pet parents. Patience is vital for pet parents for anxious and fearful pets. Although I have seen some incredible transformations with my clients, none were instant. Although I never start out recommending medications, I may do so in severe cases. Medications used on their own will only be partially effective. Training on its own will also only be somewhat effective. Together though, they can have excellent results. In many cases, it does require veterinary behaviorist intervention. While many general practitioner vets can work with behavioral meds, many do not specialize in them.
It’s important to remember your dog is having a hard time, not giving you a hard time.
Anxiety and fear can overwhelm the body to the point that learning stops! It’s essential to identify and isolate as many “triggers” as we can so that we can work with the dog under what we call “threshold.” When we can stay under that point of “no return,” learning can happen! And eventually, we expand this being closer to the scary trigger. This process is not always easy to do with generalized anxiety and can be where the combination of medication and training can be advantageous. Some of my clients can wean off the meds or at least reduce their dosage once training has had time to become a habit, and we can generalize how amazing the previous scary things can be!
Many of my milder cases start first with some anxiety aids to take a little bit of the edge off. I like the Adaptil products (Pheromone collar, diffuser, and spray), Thundershirts, Composure Pro made by Vetriscience, Zylkene/CalmKeen, and Anxitane (L-Theanine supplement.) Although there is some evidence that they can help with pain and health challenges, CBD products don’t always significantly affect anxiety once thought in dogs.