Anxiety in dogs can lead to unpredictable (and even dangerous) behavior. If your dog is anxious on walks, or even afraid of going outside, he might try to run away or might even go after another dog. The more anxious your dog feels, the worse it can be to take him for a walk. Anxiety does not have to ruin your special bonding time with your pup. The team at Westarbor Animal Hospital has tips on dealing with a dog who is anxious on walks:
Recognize the Signs of Anxiety
Before you can try to help your dog feel less anxious on walks, you have to be sure that anxiety is the root of the problem. Here are some of the most common signs of dogs who are anxious on walks:
- Walking in a zig-zag
- Unpredictable barking or lunging
- Constantly looking around
- Doesn’t take treats
- Cannot focus
- Walking ahead on the leash
- Jumping or starting at noises
- Trying to go home or lose the leash
- Slowing down or refusing to move forward
You can also better understand what your dog is feeling when they feel anxious.
Identify Specific Triggers
See if you can identify what aspect of the walk triggers your dog’s anxiety. Is it walking on a leash? Is it the fear of encountering other dogs. Your dog’s anxiety may be general or tied to a specific aspect of going for a walk. Once you figure out the trigger, try to avoid noise, other animals, or whatever causes him anxiety, or at least stay as far from it as you can.
Be Consistent with Your Walks
If your dog is anxious, unexpected situations can make this anxiety worse. Creating consistent walking schedules and routes can help your dog know what to expect. Try to keep your walks short and along the same path. You should time your walks when there are minimal distractions—or loud noises like garbage trucks. Avoid passing dogs barking loudly at their fences if possible. Try to stay closer to home so your dog is familiar with his surroundings.
Use Positive Association Techniques
While you should never force your dog to confront something that is clearly triggering anxiety, there are ways to create a positive association with it. Even encouraging your dog to look at something (like a garbage truck) with a positive tone of voice can help. You can also use treats to encourage more positive associations with things that seem to trigger anxious responses. You can also use treats as a distraction when your pup is most anxious.
Dogs can feel our emotions, so if we start to feel anxious, it can increase their anxiety. Try to stay calm throughout your walks with your dog. If you see an upcoming trigger, don’t tighten the leash in anticipation of something bad happening. Instead, use positive vocal cues and encourage your dog to turn away from the trigger.
Find a Confident Partner
Sometimes an anxious dog just needs a buddy to show him that everything is going to be okay. Schedule a walk with one of your dog’s more confident pals. Strolling along with a dog that isn’t afraid of anything can help your dog get over his own fears.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
If your dog is anxious on walks and anxiety is starting to affect his daily activities, it might be time to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. They can suggest accessories (like pheromone collars or an anxiety wrap) or even medication that can help your dog get past his fears.
Westarbor Animal Hospital is here to help you provide the best life for your pets. From anxiety to illness, our veterinary services can keep your pets in top shape. To learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment, please call (734) 769-5391.