Walking An Anxious Dog

So, you want to walk Fido, but guess what, he’s under the table shivering!

scared dog

Barking, shaking, snapping…?

…We don’t like to break it to you, but that sounds like he could be anxious.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Alright, let’s dive in!

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DOG ANXIETY?

dog anxiety wrap

Anxious?

Can a dog even be anxious? You might be asking.

Hell yes! And then some!

Dogs share far more in common with humans than you might realize.

And dogs can totally suffer from anxiety. Think sixteen cups of espresso you’ll be getting close to the stress levels that your pooch can experience.

anxious dog

It is more than likely that a dog will suffer some degree of anxiety at some point in his life.

The question is, can you spot the signs?

Because even though it should be simple, it may not be.

Not all signs of anxiety are the obvious ones – like declaring war on your favorite pair of shoes. In case you missed them, here are the main indicators of a stressed dog;

Panting

panting

Hiding

hiding dog

Excessive Chewing

chewing dog

Clinginess

lapdog

Destructive Behavior

dog chewing

Hyperactivity

flying dog

Shaking

shaking dog

Excessive barking

barking dog

Indoor Incontinence

dog poo

Diarrhea

sharpei poo

Running Away

dog awol

Growling And Aggression

scary dog

If your dog displays any of the above symptoms, he might be suffering from stress.

As we have mentioned, some of the signs may be missed, like panting and jumping onto your lap for cuddles for instance.

big lapdog

It is also easy not to realize that a dog may be anxious if it has never happened before.

Although a lot of anxiety in dogs is caused by something specific (fear of thunderstorms is common) other times the cause may be harder to spot.

Dual Dog Leash, Double

WALKING THROUGH THE FEAR

walking through the fear

Chances are, it’s something fairly innocuous (to you) that occurs in the course of their daily walk. And it’s a shame. Because not only does your dog desperately need the exercise, but he really enjoys it too.

dog walk

Stopping walkies is never an option. So all that remains is for you to work through whatever is the cause of his anxiety. Unfortunately, you may just never know.

And it’s not just the big scary world outside  that can provoke fear. Staying at home can do it too.

SEPARATION ANXIETY

separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is pretty common, and its one that’s not always expected by many owners, until the day they find their Queen Anne cabinet reduced to matchwood.

Some factors however may give a clue as to whether your pet is likely to suffer from anxiety. These include the age of the dog and its breed.

AGE

old dog

Put simply, younger and older dogs are most at risk of suffering anxiety.

It is also more likely to strike in a dog which has not been socialized at a young enough age.

dog play

A lot of phobias may occur somewhere between eight and ten months, and then again, at one and three years of age.

Owners of older dogs should be aware of the changes that can affect their pet as they age, including suddenly becoming fearful.

BREED

dog breeds

Certain breeds are more anxiety prone than others.

If you are the owner of a border collie, Labrador, German shepherd, standard poodle, bichon frise, cocker spaniel then watch out for the signs above. This is not an exhaustive list, and of course any dog may become anxious, or depressed.

lab pup

So now you know that if your dog is suddenly acting like a lightning conductor that he may be anxious. But, what can you do about it?

TREATMENT FOR DOG ANXIETY

Firstly, we recommend you see your veterinarian to seek advice. Some treatments for anxiety include training, correct socialization, regular exercise and good nutrition.

WALKIES: THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE

Being able to run off their fear is always the best solution to any anxious situation. Although you might want to make sure that it is safe for everyone to do so.

An anxious dog may suddenly snap and bite, even if it is out of character for him to do so. He may also unexpectedly go AWOL.

running after dog

Neither are situations you want on your hands, and a combination of a longer leash and muzzle might help when exercising a stressed dog.

This is in addition to all the usual advise about training, praise and remaining vigilante to the source of the stress.

anxious dog

Situation avoidance may work for some and – don’t laugh- but dogs may even be prescribed Prozac!

However, there are other things you can try which don’t involve medication. One of these things is a dog anxiety vest.

WHAT IS A DOG ANXIETY VEST?

thundershirt for anxiety

On the surface of it, a dog anxiety vest doesn’t really look much different from ‘normal’ dog clothing. That is, if clothes on dogs can ever be normal!

But the purpose of a dog anxiety vest is, as the name suggests, calming or soothing a stressed animal.

A dog anxiety vest or wrap is an item which is designed to be worn whilst your pet is in a highly vulnerable state.

Unlike a coat, this won’t be waterproof or warm. In fact, it is made of lightweight, breathable fabric, designed primarily for comfort.

WHY DO DOG ANXIETY VESTS WORK?

The theory behind dog anxiety vests is similar to the anxiety vests that exist for humans, and are sometimes worn by people with autism.

That is, to relieve tension by the feeling of light pressure over the body.

In some people – and dogs – this gives a  relaxing feeling, which helps them to release endorphins to deal with their stress.

Similar to the swaddling bands, which existed in times gone by for human babies, an anxiety vest is a calming experience, like being hugged or stroked is.

DO ANXIETY VESTS WORK FOR DOGS?

It depends. Some people swear by their dog’s Thundershirt. Others think they’re a complete waste of space.

Unfortunately, the one opinion that’s missing here is the one you really need to hear and that’s your dog’s.

The principle of applying light pressure, like a hug, to calm down both humans and animals alike has been backed by scientists, including renowned animal expert Temple Grandin. However, it is yet to be truly backed up by scientific evidence.

Certainly, the theory holds good and there are a lot of satisfied owners out there. But some behavioralist’s think that dogs may simply remain still, as opposed to calm, when they are in them.

Others even far so far as to suggest they may inhibit the dog and deter them from expressing themselves.

Perhaps like so many things in life, especially ‘cures’, one size does (literally) not fit all. What works for some pets isn’t going to for all of them. This seems reasonable when you consider how diverse dogs as a bunch are.

One thing we would say is that it is definitely worth a try!

WHICH BRANDS ARE AVAILABLE?

Although there are many great vests out there by various brands, these are our experts selected picks!

Thundershirt

Thundershirt are one of the major brand leaders when it comes to dog anxiety vests. Producing a full range of calming innovations for both cats and dogs, they have become a name to trust for pet owners everywhere. Check out their website here.

Their patented dog anxiety vest is a best seller and it is easy to see why.

Mellow Shirt

Another of the leading lights in the world of dog anxiety reduction.

Mellow Shirt produce the classic Dog Anxiety Calming Wrap.

Popular with dogs and owners alike, this is a highly lightweight vest that won’t cause your buddy to overheat.

Kingswell

kingswell logo

What’s even better than a chilled dog? Well, a dry dog! With the Kingswell Dog Anxiety Poncho you can have both – and without breaking the bank too!

The Kingswell is well worth a shot for anyone not yet totally convinced that a dog anxiety vest is worth a shot. It’s not expensive and it doubles up as a rain jacket too!

And there’s a handy pouch where you can pop your pooch’s poop away securely. With poop pockets ahoy, what more could you possibly ask for?

Surgi Snuggly

surgi snuggly

Designers of the E Collar Alternative, Surgi Snuggly was created by a vet to do more than fit just right – it soothes and calms your dog by its mere wearing.

With antimicrobial properties, this may be the vest to choose if your dog has any kind of open wound that needs keeping sterile. Check them out here!

Comfort Zone

comfort zone logo

Comfort Zone’s Calming Vest For Anxiety is a little different, in as that unlike most pet anxiety vests, it may be worn as a ‘regular’ dog vest pretty much all the time, and just tightened in times of stress.

This is actually really useful, because it means that you don’t have to try and wrestle a stressed dog to the ground to put the damned thing on in the first place (although, actually, this would be doing it all wrong – see our guidelines below on the best way to put an anxiety vest on a dog).

You simply tighten the vest at times of anxiety and loosen it again when the ‘peril’ passes. Simple!

CAN YOU WALK A DOG WITH A THUNDERSHIRT?

Yes. You can totally walk a dog in a Thundershirt, or any other type of animal wrap. It is only cats that might fall over (!)

Most dogs are fairly used to wearing coats or something around their bodies and are usually just fine with wearing the Thundershirt for walkies.

HOW DO I PUT A THUNDER VEST ON A DOG?

Well, here’s the million dollar question. When you have a stressed rottie on July 4th, how do you persuade them to let go of your trouser leg and go get in their stress suit?

Answer: You don’t. You put it on before they crawl behind the toilet cistern and start howling.

And of course, in order to ensure your worried pet doesn’t go from anxiety jacket to full metal jacket, you need to pay attention to getting the detail right.

SEX

If you have a male dog, then you cannot fail to have noticed his… needs. In short, you don’t want to cramp his… style.

Therefore, you need to look out for vest which allows for the total comfort of Fido’s meat and two veg. We would advise trying on a couple of sizes if you are in any doubt. Your dog will thank you for it. Or he should do, anyway!

SIZE

Since dogs can range in sizes from a chihuahua to a St. Bernard and so it’s important that the sizing of the vest does too. The good news is Thundershirt is available in seven sizes and most other manufacturers offer a goodly selection of fits too.

Once again, try a couple on before making your final selection.

HOW DO YOU CALM A DOG WITH ANXIETY IN A CAR?

If, like many owners, there is nowhere nearby that is suitable for letting Fido off the leash, then a car ride becomes an essential part of walkies.

But car journeys can be the bane of many a dog’s life. And the owners’ too!

Trying to concentrate on the road ahead with the Hounds Of The Baskervilles in the trunk can be tricky.

It’s hard enough having a human backseat driver, but when your canine sidekick chews the satnav and tries to step on the gas pedals, then you know you have to do something.

PRAISE

We cannot set enough score by the simple act of praise. The key to keeping your car ride nerve free is to treat and coax your friend with whatever he loves best.

COMFORT

If that’s toys and treats, then that’s the thing to choose.

Anxiety wraps are also a good idea in the car.

What you are trying to do is acclimatize your pet to the simple act of being in the car and getting him to associate it with fun times.

COMPANY

Never leave him alone in the vehicle – neither whilst acclimatizing him to the car or later on.

Not only can this trigger separation fear, but also it may be actually dangerous, especially on a hot day.

DON’T OVERFEED

dog dinner

Although a light meal and treats are just fine in the car, we would avoid giving Fido anything heavy either in, or prior to the journey.

This may be counterproductive Some dogs can suffer quite badly from car sickness, just like people do. A heavy meal may cause nausea and vomiting, which won’t help ease his anxiety!

TAKE BREAKS

Don’t forget to take frequent breaks when driving. Not only is this an opportunity to toilet for your dog, but it also gives the chance to offer regular reassure, throughout the journey.

DOES THUNDERSHIRT WORK FOR BARKING DOGS?

barking

Whether a Thundershirt will work for your constantly barking dog depends on the reason for him barking in the first place!

Anxiety is only one possible cause for the annoyance that is continual barking. Other reasons include:

Pain – could your dog’s barking possibly have a physical cause at all? Always make sure he is not in pain or ill in any way.

Bored – one simple reason dogs bark repeatedly is that they are bored. Think about relieving his boredom, especially if he is often indoors alone.

yawn dog

Needs – is your dog trying to tell you something, with his excessive barking? He may literally be trying to ask you for more food or to go out.

dog needs

Protective – does your dog think he is defending you by alerting you to something when he barks? Some dogs bark a lot when strangers come to the door, or at some other occurrence. Is there some way to discourage him or manage this behavior?

protector

Only when you have discounted all the other possible reasons for your dog’s barking, is it time to conclude it may be due to anxiety.

In that situation, a Thundershirt may possibly work for a stressed dog who is constantly barking.

WILL A THUNDERSHIRT WORK FOR SEPARATION ANXIETY?

tugging

Separation anxiety occurs when the human world and the canine one come into collision.

The human world dictates that humans must leave the house regularly.

However, the canine world states you are your dog’s pack leader and must never leave him alone.

Crisis!

dog beg

Some dogs hate it being left alone. If separation anxiety is not nipped in the bud, it will last a lifetime.

The best advice is to exercise him as vigorously as possible prior to leaving the house.

dog walker

Try and make time to fit in a walk before you go out for the day. That way he is more relaxed and likely to settle.

But as well as praise and not making a big deal about leaving the house, there are other things you can do and one of those includes trying a Thundershirt or wrap.

CAN I LEAVE THE THUNDERVEST ON MY DOG ALL THE TIME?

If you want to use the Thundershirt to address your dog’s anxiety whilst you are out at work, then this could potentially be a long day ahead for your pet – so is it safe to leave the Thundershirt on for this extended period?

Yes. The Thundershirt has been designed to be fine to wear for long periods of time.

The only thing we would suggest is that the first times you use it, you don’t leave it on for too long – just in case there is any chafing.

Thundershirt – and pretty much any anxiety wrap – is suitable for wearing long term.

But although getting the vest on early enough is important and wearing it for brief stints during happy moments, vital to establishing it in your dog’s mind as a good thing – wearing it long term might dilute its usefulness.

For the best results, our advice would be to keep the Thundershirt for short periods only, putting it on just prior to the anticipated stressful event and removing it shortly afterwards.

IS THERE A RISK OF MY DOG OVERHEATING WHEN WEARING AN ANXIETY VEST?

Unless you live in the middle of a desert, there is little danger of your dog overheating whilst wearing an anxiety vest.

The Thundershirt is made from a mesh like material and most vests are breathable.

However, do keep an eye on your dog when wearing the vest, especially on hotter days.

Not all vests are made from the same fabrics – some are slightly thicker or constructed from manmade fabrics. You might want to give those the swerve if you live in hotter climes.

Of course, you wouldn’t walk your dog outside when the temperatures were really crazy anyway, so on the whole it should be fine.

HOW DO I CHOOSE THE RIGHT DOG ANXIETY VEST?

The brand of anxiety vest you choose is of course down to you – or, to be more precise, your dog!

We recommend trying a few on before making your selection.

Here are some things to look out for when choosing;

Fabric:  As mentioned, although most anxiety vests are lightweight, they are not all made from the same material. We advise you to pay attention from what the vest is constructed from. It could be anything.

For comfort, we would always recommend cotton. However, if you are looking for something a bit tougher, then nylon or polyester might be better.

Ultimately, it is more about you and your dog’s needs than one particular fabric being ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Size:  The vest needs to fit and properly. The whole idea is that it fits snugly around the body and makes the dog feel reassured.

However, it should not be so tight that it is uncomfortable or he cannot move!

When selecting your dog’s vest, it helps to have a clear idea of his weight. So get him on the scales before you venture out to buy one!

Fastenings: Not all dog anxiety vests fasten in the same way. There is a variety of closure systems on offer – ranging from Velcro to buckles.

Velcro is easy fastening, but it may also be easy unfastening for a dog hell bent on getting the thing off!

If your pooch is determined to perform a striptease, then it might be best to opt for a buckle fastening system, which will be more secure!

FINALLY

All in all, a dog anxiety vest could be the missing piece of the puzzle, needed to get your best friend through his anxious period.

But don’t get too reliant on it, or use it as an alternative to the number one dog stress buster – walkies!