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Dogs suffer with anxiety too

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Here's the monthly Pet Subject column with Laura Dickens of Amical Veterinary Centre, High Street, March...

The first week in May marked Dog Anxiety Awareness Week. Since the pandemic, veterinary professionals have seen an increasing amount of anxiety related problems in canines.

Anxiety is not a new phenomena in canines but it is being seen more by presumably a reduction in socialisation during the first 16 weeks of a young pup’s life.

Dogs can suffer from anxiety (56640330)
Dogs can suffer from anxiety (56640330)

During this time, pups adjust better to any new situation, event, or environment. They need to experience as many new sights, sounds, environments, events and other living things as possible within the first 16 weeks as possible.

Socialisation and de-sensitisation can happen after this time, but it is less effective and takes longer for a more mature dog to accept new things.

Most of the dog attacks that we see are when an anxious dog is placed into a situation it struggles to cope with. Humans with anxiety, I’m sure, can relate to that feeling - so we need to avoid putting them into a situation that they would struggle with. So below are some tips to help.

Firstly, consider using the lead traffic light system. A light yellow lead or bandana is traditionally used to visually highlight a dog that needs space, who is not aggressive but is anxious and therefore should be approached slowly and with caution.

Orange is for people friendly but non dog friendly. Red is traditionally used to indicate dogs who are both people and dog fearful, who may bite and therefore should be avoided. Green is used to denote dogs who are people and dog friendly. White is for deaf or blind dogs.

Dog’s should only be off-lead in public spaces if they have good recall, do not wander off too far from their handler, can stop on command and who are very well tempered with other dogs and people. Any dog in the orange or red banding should not be let off in public spaces unless there are no other people, dogs or distractions.

Consider muzzle training (positive associations) and muzzling a very anxious dog in public spaces.

Using calming supplements like Calmex, pet remedy, Adaptil or calming aids like Thundershirts can help relieve anxiety in known situations, like car travel or visiting the vet.

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