HOW TO DEAL WITH GREYHOUND ANXIETY PROBLEMS
Normally greyhounds are relaxed couch potatoes. However, some anxiety among retired racing Greyhounds is a common phenomenon that can be managed through time and patience. Greyhound anxiety is the constant anticipation that something causing fear may happen. If you have a nervous dog, here’s some insight you can use to identify the signs and triggers, and steps you can take to help calm your dog’s anxiety and improve their quality of life.
Some common dog anxiety problems include –
Separation anxiety – A dog gets anxious when left alone.
Noise anxiety – A dog becomes fearful when exposed to loud or unusual noises. Some examples include fireworks, thunderstorms, garbage trucks, and more.
Travel anxiety – The car is like a den, but dogs are unaccustomed to moving dens. Therefore, they may become unsure and stressed over something so new and unexpected.
Social anxiety - Retired racing Greyhounds’ early socialization includes other Greyhounds and limited experiences with people/new situations, and therefore, their socialization is also limited. It makes their transition to a domestic environment challenging. Plus, rehoming is a stressful event for a Greyhound.
Confinement anxiety – A dog gets anxious when he feels trapped or confined. If a threat should arise, a confined dog may be unable to escape or flee.
When dogs are anxious, they may engage in repetitive or displacement behaviors to relieve their stress. Dogs may pace, groom, shiver, hide and more. Some dog anxiety behaviors may lead to property destruction, may cause us harm, or may simply be undesirable to us. These can include –
- Non-stop barking or whining.
- Chewing up furniture, walls, shoes, garbage, and anything else in sight.
- Pooping and peeing in the house, crate, or other confinement area.
- Aggression toward people, dogs, or other animals.
- Freezing up or display of non-responsive behavior.
- Collecting and hoarding toys or objects
- Following you closely
- Lack of appetite
Aging can also contribute to a dog’s anxiety level. Sight and hearing in senior dogs can be impacted in a negative way. Medically, mounting anxiety can cause such ailments as: Loose stools or diarrhea, urinary tract infections, weakened immune systems, and skin diseases. Discuss specific issues with your veterinarian.
The most important tip of all: Don’t use punishment with an anxious dog! Pain and fear will only reinforce the anxiety a dog feels.
It’s almost always beneficial to help build your Greyhound’s confidence. Daily walks offer your dog an excellent opportunity to experience new sights, smells, sounds, animals, and people. It is a great opportunity to practice good behavior because there are many social situations. If your dog responds in an undesirable manner, avoid tugging on their leash or scolding, as this will heighten their excitement and create a negative experience. Walk in another direction away from the situation that is causing anxiety.
Make some playdates with dogs that are confident and well socialized. Dogs can learn far more from other dogs than they can ever learn from us. An anxious dog can feed off the energy of more confident dogs, and over time learn to be less anxious in both specific situations and in general. It’s important to let them just be a dog.
Exercise can help your dog relieve stress as it produces helpful endorphins. Exercise also stimulates the brain to produce dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which helps your dog feel better. Exercise stimulates the center that manages moods, and stimulating it diminishes depression and anxiety.
Stay calm: dogs can easily sense your emotions. Show your dog that there is nothing to be scared of when they are frightened by staying calm and collected. Remember that for older dogs, it takes time and a lot of repetition when socializing them. Be patient; create a calm loving environment with positive associations. If you need more guidance, consult a professional trainer or veterinary behaviorist.
We know a schedule keeps us on track, but the familiarity of a routine also gives dogs a sense of security. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but feeding, walking, rest, and playtimes should be somewhat predictable. This helps the dog know what to expect from each part of the day, reducing the anxiety that can be caused by the uncertainty of not knowing what to do with themselves.
Providing a safe space for your dog can be an important management tool. Your dog may like a cozy den that they can retreat to if there is something in their home environment that scares them (perhaps fireworks, strange people, the vacuum). If your dog has been crate trained and is relaxed in this space it can be very useful. Don’t force your dog into the space, they should have the option to come and go and you may want to cover it with a blanket or towel to make it feel cozier.
Desensitization: one of the best ways to help a dog deal with his anxiety issues, is by slowly desensitizing him to the problem stimulus. It is not easy, though – it requires persistence and patience. In the desensitization process, start with a weak version of the stimulus that is triggering the anxiety attack. The stimulus must be weak enough, so that your dog is able to stay calm in its presence. Then, get him to focus on you, by doing eye-contact commands or simple obedience exercises.
If your dog is able to focus and stay in-control, reward him with a very high value treat. Try to pick a highly aromatic or smelly treat that your dog loves, but does not usually get to eat. The smell will help to engage his nose, and further distract him from the source of his anxiety.
When he is comfortable with this exercise, is calm, and able to follow simple commands, very slowly raise the strength of the problem stimulus. Make each session short, fun, and very rewarding. In this way, your dog learns alternative behaviors for dealing with stressful situations. He also learns to associate something that was previously a source of fear and stress, with something positive (nice smells, yummy treats), and with being calm.
Cuddles and reassurance can be good. For some fearful dogs, they look for reassurance from their humans to help them feel less scared. You may have heard that you should not offer cuddles or comfort to a scared dog as it will only make their anxiety worse. This is NOT true. In fact, ignoring them when they are looking to you, their safe thing, for reassurance can actually increase their levels of anxiety. If your dog is actively looking to you for comfort, give it to them.
It is important to recognize that every dog is different. Some dogs, prefer to have space when they are frightened. They may hide under the bed or go to their crate. If they are not seeking comfort, do not force them into being cuddled. This can also be stressful.
Something to chew on may help if your Greyhound likes to chew. A bully stick, turkey tendon or dental chew may distract them for awhile. Some vets like Relax and Calm chews to help ease anxiety about new people, surroundings, and sounds. The high levels of L-Tryptophan and chamomile promote a feeling of calmness and relaxation, while the ginger helps with an upset tummy.
Recent studies show probiotics can help with anxiety in humans, and now probiotics are prescribed by veterinarians to help soothe anxiety in pets. A new probiotic called Calming Care from Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements is effective for many canine patients experiencing anxious behaviors.
Quality food fortifies your dog’s body to keep it humming at its healthiest. But certain foods and strategies may also help melt anxiety in your dog with each swallow. Consider these comforting options to fight stress with dog food for anxiety.
Introduce intriguing tastes and textures. Top your dog’s food bowl with healthy crunchies like broccoli, carrots or green beans. Or safe-sweet choices like apple slices or blueberries. These added surprises may be a mood-booster for your dog.
Swap the food bowl for a food puzzle. Being fed the same time in the same bowl with the same food can become b-o-r-i-n-g to your dog. Mix things up once or twice a week by putting your dog’s meal in a food puzzle, or snuffle mat (search online).
Some dogs are comforted by a body wrap – a snug garment that puts gentle pressure on your hound’s torso, much like swaddling helps calm an infant. Try a small T-shirt, wrap an Ace bandage, or try a Thundershirt. For DIY solutions, search “anxiety wrap” or “compression shirt” on YouTube.
Many dogs tend to experience anxiety at some point in their lives. Understanding what to do will help you better handle your dog during these anxiety-inducing situations. If you suspect your Greyhound has anxiety problems and the above tips do not manage the bouts of anxiety, consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis. You may also consider a consultation with a clinical behaviorist who can help you develop practical treatment plans that suit your dog.
For more tips to help your houndie with thunder or fireworks, you might be interested in these past blogs: https://bit.ly/GHandThunderPhobia
For more ideas to help with Separation Anxiety, check this article out: https://bit.ly/SAafterCOVID19