Dogs, just like humans, can experience mental issues and problems due to traumatic or distressing experiences. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression which may manifest in aggression, over-reactivity, introversion, or other behaviors. But as dogs cannot speak for themselves, the only way to know the root cause of their issues is to know them first. But for that, you must build trust with your dog. But the question is, how to build that trust with your dog?
The key to developing trust with your working dog or any pet is patience. Dogs are like children, and they need consistent and gentle guidance to feel safe and secure so that they can learn to trust you. Make sure that all interactions are positive ones because negative experiences will only make them fear you. Spend time with your dog regularly, take them for short walks, play and cuddle with them. When you take the time to observe and understand your dog’s behavior, you will be able to explain what is expected of them better.
But for this, you will have to do a few things that are quite easy to go with but can make a huge impact on your dog’s mental health and drive them towards living a normal life. But what are those ways through which you can make that happen?
I’ve compiled a few tips that can help you to build trust with your dogs and make them feel relaxed and comfortable around you.
6 Ways To Gain Trust of Your Dog Going Through Anxiety and Depression
All the ways discussed below require attention, love, and care. Based on how you invest yourself in them will prove how fruitful your efforts were.
Know Your Dogs Innate Behavior
Dogs are sensitive creatures who instantly react to stimuli. To know your dog’s behavior, you will have to observe what kind of reaction your dog shows when exposed to different sounds, people, objects, etc.
By that, you will be able to deduce what makes your dog comfortable. By noticing going around places with people and other dogs and detecting their slight changes in mood, aggression, or affection towards certain changes.
Make Them Feel Secure
After getting aware of all the things discussed above, the next step is to make them feel secure verbally and physically. Speak with a very calm and affectionate voice, with gentle physical touch, which can make them feel relaxed.
And if he reacts to other people or dogs aggressively, come between your dog and that subject making a barrier between them and your dog to create an image in your dog’s mind of yourself as someone who is protecting him from all the dangers and distressing factors.
Giving Your Dog Space
Dogs need their space and personal time as well. Sometimes we humans get so much involved with them that we don’t let them have their “me” time. This can result in your dog feeling suffocated, leading to further behavioral issues.
So, you must provide them with a separate room or area where they can have their peace and can be away for some time. This will also help them get used to being alone without feeling anxious or stressed out.
Engage With Your Dog
Dogs with anxiety and depression are unpredictable. The best time to engage with your dog is when they are feeling relaxed and are not showing any aggression. Get closer to them, talk to them, offer them gentle physical touch in the form of petting or massaging, and again keep an eye on their reactions. If they show any discomfort, stop immediately and try again after some time.
Play Games With Your Dog
Playing games is one of the best ways to gain the trust of your dog. It not only helps in building a bond between you and your dog but also helps in reducing their anxiety and stress levels. But make sure that the games you play with them are not too strenuous or tiring, as it can again result in feeling stressed out for your dog.
By doing that it will allow your dog to release more stress causing its body hormones to come to a normal state. And even if you fail to do that, take your dog for long walks to places where they feel alive and refreshed. It is one of the most important points which must never be neglected.
Reward-Based Training With Your Dog
Dogs that are experiencing anxiety and depression can often be helped through the use of reward-based training. This type of training relies on positive reinforcement, which means that dogs are rewarded for good behavior with treats or praise. Dogs are very intelligent creatures, and they learn things quickly, so use that to your advantage.
Whenever your dog does something good, make sure to reward them with treats or their favorite toy so that they can associate the good behavior with something positive and happy. This helps to create a positive association with obedience and can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Common Signs of Stress in Working Dogs
Signs of dog stress can be seen in their physical movements as they are very impulsive towards everything.
When dogs start to show signs of shivering or pacing. You should instantly pay attention to your environment to locate what things are causing your dog to feel that way.
It can be either due to sounds, other animals, or many other factors which must be kept away from them.
Dogs do growling or bark whenever they feel threatened or feel any danger. And again, you should look for those factors making your dogs behave like this.
This behavior, once persisted, can cause problems for owners to deal with as dogs may start to show aggression towards owners as well.
Dogs freeze, and become stiff whenever they are frightened. They become submissive and won’t show any movements. They start to step back, and one can easily identify this behavior.
Recently it has shown that in such situations hugging your dogs and wrapping arms around them has also proved to be really helpful as they don’t feel alone anymore.
Other physical signs are given below:
- Tucking their tail
- Turning head away or avoiding a situation
- Dilating pupils
- Stiffening body posture
- Licking their lips
- Pulling their ears down
- Submissive peeing
Major Causes of Stress in Working Dogs
Dogs may possess stress or anxiety symptoms due to many factors. A few are given below.
Dogs can become stressed for various reasons, but one of the primary causes is their owner’s inhumane treatment. This type of behavior is often proven fatal for a dog’s mental health.
Without the proper care and attention from their owner, dogs can easily become abused, which is an incredibly dangerous situation.
Puppies that are taken away from their mother too soon can experience high levels of stress and anxiety. This is because they have a strong emotional connection with their mothers, which could be disrupted if the puppies are removed before they are fully weaned.
A dog’s mother plays an important role in its development, especially during the first few weeks of life. Studies have shown that puppies separated from their mothers too early can experience physical and psychological trauma that may affect them for the rest of their lives.
Dogs that are isolated from other dogs and humans can experience increased levels of stress and anxiety. This is because social interaction is important for a dog’s mental health. When left alone, dogs may become bored or anxious, leading to destructive behaviors such as chewing furniture or barking excessively.
Furthermore, isolating the dog and not allowing him to have exposure to other humans or dogs can lead to socializing problems and unmanageable behavior in later life when finally introduced. The inability to socialize left untreated can depress the dog’s mind leading to persistent stress and anxiety.
Dogs, like people, can experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This can occur after the animal has experienced a traumatic event such as an accident, attack, or abuse.
PTSD in dogs often manifests itself in behaviors such as excessive barking and aggression toward other animals or humans. It is important to get help from a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to help the dog cope with the trauma and learn new behaviors.
Lack of Exercise
Working dogs require physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy. Without adequate exercise, they can become bored which can lead to stress and anxiety. Regular walks or runs are good ways to provide physical activity for a dog as well as give it some time outside in the fresh air.
Physical activity helps dogs burn off excess energy and can also be used to mentally stimulate them. It is important to pay attention to the signs of stress in your working dog and take steps to address them.
By doing so, you will ensure that your dog has a healthy mental state and is able to perform its job effectively.
Stress and anxiety in working dogs can be caused by a variety of different things, including animal abuse, isolation, trauma, and lack of exercise. It is important to recognize the signs of stress in your dog so that you can take steps to address it properly.
With the right care and attention, you can help ensure that your working dog is healthy and able to perform its job effectively. Always keep in mind that your dog’s mental health is just as important as their physical health, and paying attention to the signs of stress can help improve their well-being.
With patience, dedication, and lots of love, you can ensure that your working dog has a long and happy life.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get my dog to trust me with anxiety?
Building trust with a dog who has anxiety takes time and patience. Start by doing activities that the dog enjoys, such as taking them for walks or playing games that involve gentle physical contact, such as tug-of-war.
Offer plenty of praise and rewards when they are calm and relaxed. It is also important to stay consistent with how you interact with the dog, as sudden changes in behavior can increase their anxiety.
What helps reduce dog stress?
There are many things that can help reduce stress in dogs. Exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of mental stimulation can all help to keep your dog in a relaxed state.
Additionally, providing them with a safe space, such as a dog bed or crate, and spending quality time with them can also go a long way in keeping their stress levels low.
How long does it take to build trust with a dog?
Building trust with a dog can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. It depends on the individual dog and how much effort is put into creating a bond between you and your pet.
Consistency, patience, and lots of positive reinforcement are key factors in building trust with your canine companion.
Dr. Mohsin Iqbal (DVM, RVMP)
Dr. Mohsin Iqbal is a licensed veterinarian with more than 5 years of experience in veterinary medicine. After receiving his DVM degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan, he worked as a
veterinarian in both government and private sectors. He has a deep passion for animal welfare and has been working for various animal welfare organizations since he was a student. Being President of Animal Rescue Organization Pakistan (AROP), he has been actively involved in animal rescue and welfare activities. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his rescue dogs and cats.