Anxious Pups and Stressed Out Owners:
Navigating Dog Anxiety Awareness Week with a Smile
By Jesi Peck, Marketing & Communications Leader
As an owner of an anxious and fearful dog, I know firsthand the toll that taking care of an anxious dog can take on your mental health as an owner. That’s why I want to talk about Dog Anxiety Awareness Week (May 1-7) and share some ways to combat the stress and anxiety that come with caring for an anxious dog.
Dog Anxiety Awareness Week is a time to bring attention to the fact that many dogs experience anxiety and fear, just like humans do. It’s a time to learn about the causes of anxiety in dogs, the signs and symptoms to look out for, and the steps you can take to help your pup (as well as yourself!) feel more comfortable and relaxed.
As an anxious dog parent, I can tell you that it’s not always easy. My dog, Holder, is afraid of loud noises, new people, and unfamiliar environments. We have been working closely with a professional dog trainer, our primary veterinarian and a veterinary behaviorist for over a year now to help find the best solutions to help Holder! Yet, it can still be heartbreaking to see him so scared in certain situations and feel like I may not be doing everything I can to help.
Caring for an anxious dog takes a toll on me. It can be exhausting to constantly be on high alert, trying to anticipate what might trigger his anxiety and doing everything I can to prevent it. It can be frustrating when I want to take him on a walk or to a new place, but I know he’ll be too scared to enjoy it. I feel isolated when I have to decline social invitations and try to explain why I can’t attend or just have someone over at my house…a lot of people find it hard to relate!
So, what have I learned about ways to combat the stress and anxiety of caring for an anxious dog?
- Educate yourself: One of the most important things you can do is to educate yourself about dog anxiety and dog body language. Learn about the causes and triggers, the signs and symptoms, and the different treatment options available. Understanding what’s going on with your dog can help you feel more in control and less helpless.
- Practice self-care: Taking care of an anxious dog can be emotionally draining, so it’s important to take care of yourself too. Make time for activities that help you relax and de-stress, like reading, yoga, or going for a walk by yourself. It’s also important to prioritize your own social life and relationships, even if that means finding a dog-sitter or a friend to help care for your dog.
- Seek professional help: If your dog’s anxiety is severe or interfering with their quality of life, it’s important to seek professional help. A veterinarian or a certified dog trainer can help you develop a treatment plan that’s tailored to your dog’s needs. They can also provide you with support and resources to help you manage your own stress and anxiety.
- Practice patience and compassion: Finally, it’s important to practice patience and compassion with your dog – and with yourself. Remember that anxiety is a complex and challenging issue, and it’s not your fault that your dog is anxious. Be kind to yourself and your dog, and celebrate the small victories along the way. One of my favorites quotes from my dog trainer is, “Your dog is not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time!”
Caring for an anxious dog can be a challenging and emotional experience, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. With the right support and resources, you can help your pup feel more relaxed and comfortable – and take care of your own mental health in the process.
Marketing & Communications Leader