Does your dog whimper in the car, bark excessively at everything and even wait for you outside the bathroom door?
A Moncton veterinarian said it could be a case of canine anxiety.
Dr. Susan Malone is a vet at the Maritime Animal Hospital in Moncton. The vet of 35 years said that she has seen a dramatic increase in the number of dogs suffering from anxiety and it is often being caused by people.
“That closeness of the bond where our pets are with us all the time is part of the reason,” said Dr. Malone who added that she now treats several pets a day with various forms anxiety behaviour.
She said gone are the days of the independent farm dog who spent most of its days laying on the living room floor ignoring its master.
“They didn’t sit around that table when we were eating and they certainly didn’t sleep in our bedrooms at night,” said Malone.
Dogs today spend a lot more time with their owners, being held and coddled and cuddled she said, and when they are stressed that affection only reinforces the behaviour.
She said that pet anxieties may also be on the rise due to improper breeding. Malone said mental illness and anxiety in people can also impact a pet’s behaviour.
“You have lots of people talk about when I am upset and stressed my pet gets upset and stressed.”
Malone said that most breeds of dogs were bred for a purpose and when a dog isn’t being stimulated based on it’s “job” it can start to exhibit symptoms of anxiety such as shaking, excessive barking and licking.
“When you think about the terriers, they were bred to hunt and kill rats and they were bred to be pretty intense and very determined,” she said.
But Malone said with the right combination of exercise, medication and behavorial therapy a dog’s symptoms can be improved.
Moncton dog trainer April Saulnier said pet owners often try to sooth their stressed dogs, which is a big mistake, saying that it only rewards the behaviour.
“The biggest mistake is too much affection, too much love and petting and encouragement of behaviours that are caused by anxiety,” said Saulnier who said that most of her clients are owners of anxious dogs.
Donna Barnett is working with Saulnier to try to get a handle on her dog Diesel’s severe separation anxiety. Barnett said she took in the rescued pit bull mix after several flustered foster families gave him back
“He was broken out of wire crates and plastic crates, he destroyed one foster’s home, he opened their cupboards and took all of their food out. He has chewed my walls,” said Barnett.
However, she’s beginning to see some changes after her dog began to exercise more and take medication to help him overcome his anxiety.
“It is no different than with people with anxiety, you deal with it,” said Barnett.
But once severe anxiety has set in, Saulnier said it can take months to years of consistent training for a dog and owner to overcome.