Causes of Dog Anxiety

  • “My dog won’t stop barking!!!!”…. It could be anxiety.

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    As one of the most reported noise complaints in neighborhoods throughout the United States, excessive barking can take a frustrating and problematic toll on dog owners. From costly fines, police warnings and dealing with irritated neighbors, to risking potential revocation of a pet, this negative behavior poses a serious threat to the overall well-being of pets nationwide. Excessive barking is more than just a nuisance; it can be a sign that a pet is unhappy, unhealthy and should be attended to immediately.

    Pinpointing the exact cause of excessive barking can be difficult to identify. Many blame poor training, hunger and boredom. But, what pet owners may not know is that barking, along with a myriad of other negative dog behaviors, is commonly rooted in anxiety and stress. By treating the anxiety and stress, a calmer dog will exhibit fewer symptoms of anxiety.

    At ThunderWorks, we know that excessive barking can result from a dog’s separation anxiety from their owner, fear of strangers and more. And, that’s exactly why it’s our mission to make products that treat and calm dogs.  By treating the anxiety, the negative behaviors that occur are reduced.

    Curious about which products might be best to treat your dog? Visit www.ThunderWorks.com to see what would work for you!

  • Guest Blogger: Sandy Robins on Keeping Pets Safe This Holiday Season!

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    The holiday season is a busy time in every household. Friends and relatives come and go, the kids are home from school and college and often there are parties to plan too. Whether you embrace the festivities, or run screaming from an army of relatives who invade your peaceful home, remember that the holidays pose special risks to your pets.

    By paying attention to a few basic safety precautions, you can keep your canine and feline companions out of harm’s way and have a safe and happy holiday season.

    Decorating for the Howlidays

    When it comes to putting up Christmas tree lights and other lighting decorations, always look for the shortest route to the plug point and avoid leaving excess wiring lying on the floor.  Chewing cords can be life threatening to both dogs and cats. There are special cord covers infused with bitter aloe that will further prevent them from chewing.

    Also it's a great idea to sprinkle pepper on the lower branches of the tree. This will end any ideas your cat may have of trying to climb it! Further, if you have an inquisitive dog, put glass ornaments and tinsel at a height level she can’t reach when standing.

    Candles always add a fabulous festive touch but are a huge fire hazard as they can easily be knocked over with a wagging tail or pulled from a table if your cat gets hold of the tablecloth. Err on the side of caution and invest in flameless candles. Luckily, there is a huge array to choose from.

    Holiday Plants From Mistletoe to Poinsettias

    Nothing is more festive than decking the halls, but remember that both holly and mistletoe are toxic to pets and can cause acute stomach and intestinal irritation, cardiovascular collapse, and death. Despite the myths, the ever-popular Christmas poinsettias are considered safe for pets. Even so, try to keep them away from both pets and children because the milky sap can cause skin allergies and has a terrible bitter taste.

    Party Time and Festive Feasts

    The holiday season is synonymous with family feasts—huge stuffed turkeys, corn on the cob and tempting desserts. Never feed you're your pets turkey bones (or any other bones from the table). Bones are a choking hazard and so are corncobs. So when you clear the table deal with anything left on plates immediately by tossing in the trash.

    Also, when putting away the leftovers, be careful your dog doesn’t get a hold of anything wrapped in aluminum foil. If eaten, foil can cut a dog's intestines, causing internal bleeding, and, in some cases, even death. Plastic wrap is equally dangerous and can cause choking or intestinal obstructions.

    The moniker “drink responsibly” also applies to taking care of your dog. Alcoholic beverages can be poisonous to pets, so never leave drinks unattended. If your pooch consumes them, she could become very intoxicated and weak, depressed, or even go into a coma.  In severe cases, death from respiratory failure can also occur.

    If you are planning a huge party that involves caterers and furniture being delivered, be sure to secure your pets in one area of your home during set-up. This is one time doors will be left open and there is too much activity to monitor them carefully.

    And on the day of the event, remember not all pets enjoy raucous laughter, loud music and hectic activity. Be sure to bring out your ThunderShirts for both your dogs and cats and put them on even if you are going to secure them in another part of the house.

    Home Alone

    Finally, if you plan to travel during the season and are unable to take your pals with you, don’t leave them alone at home with a stocked-up food bowl. Make arrangements with a pet sitter or check him into a pet hotel. Once again, make sure ID tag information is current.

    Happy Howlidays!

  • ThunderWorks Releases Infographic on the Alarming Numbers of Dogs Suffering from Anxiety

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    The number of dogs suffering from anxiety is probably higher than you think. In fact, studies have reported that more than 15 million dogs suffer from noise anxiety alone. In an effort to display this alarming information more visually, we developed this infographic that outlines the major causes of pet anxiety and how ThunderShirt has been the most popular and effective form of treatment.

    Check it out and please share with your fellow dog owners!

    TW_Infographic

  • Guest Blogger: Mikkel Becker

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    We’re thrilled to welcome back well-known and respected pet behavior and training expert, and Vetstreet.com contributor, Mikkel Becker on our blog today! She’s talking separation anxiety in our pets… Take it away, Mikkel!

    Countless canines become anxious when left alone. Stress upon separation spans from mild anxiety to an extreme state of panic. Whenever a dog is anxious at separation, it’s important to address the issue immediately, starting with a visit to your veterinarian. Stress upon separation rarely goes away without intervention, but more often, escalates over time. Caretakers of dogs who are anxious when left alone, find that normal tasks, like going to work or going out on a date, are difficult to impossible. The situation can become so severe the dog causes serious harm to themselves or to the home. Even for dogs who internalize stress, the state they are in emotionally is damaging long term to their health and affects their ability to cope with everyday stressors.

    There are numerous indicators of a dog nervous with separation. Signs can include excess salivation, panting, hyper vigilance, whining, barking, acute anorexia, pacing and inability to settle. Anxiety can amplify to the point of self-injury where the dog causes themselves serious harm as they attempt to claw, bite and jump out of exit points. The household also suffers devastation. Doors, crates and windows can be damaged as the dog attempts to flee, while household items like couches can be ravaged from anxious chewing. Dogs become so nervous they may even lose control of bodily functions and have accidents in the home.

    Dogs in this panicked state are literally helpless at their own behavior. Dogs don’t do these destructive behaviors out of spite as a way to teach their person a lesson for leaving them. Instead, their behavior stems from a root emotion of fear. To change the behavior, the root emotion must be changed.

    In my profession as an animal trainer working in conjunction with numerous veterinarians, including my father, Dr. Marty Becker, I help address separation anxiety on a regular basis. Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavior problems in dogs, with 20-40% of dogs reported as having the condition.

    Thankfully, with the right combination of training, environmental modification and veterinary intervention, separation anxiety can be decreased or eliminated. Whether a dog is only moderately nervous or in an all-out panic, it’s important to take the necessary steps to help a dog overcome their distress when left alone.

    Keep in mind, before training begins, it’s important to train under the supervision of a veterinarian who can rule out any medical conditions contributing to behavior and properly diagnose separation anxiety if needed.

    As an animal trainer, I want to share with you several of my top tips for addressing separation anxiety. The training is also helpful as a preventive tool against the development of separation anxiety.

     

    1. Use a ThunderShirt. One of my favorite tools in my training arsenal is the ThunderShirt. Regardless of the size or breed of the dog, the ThunderShirt works on about 80% of dogs. Even without any training, the ThunderShirt drastically reduces anxiety with near immediate results. The ThunderShirt works to non-invasively calm dogs in a similar manner to swaddling a baby.

    2. Many dogs dislike being crated, and some of their panic may stem from being shut in an enclosed area. If your dog dislikes the containment aspect of separation, find a more open area of the home to leave your pooch in that’s doggy proofed. The area of the home should have windows, as dogs feel less enclosed when windows are present. If you have a secure fence and your canine is not an escape artist or incessant barker when separated, consider allowing access the outdoors. By opening up the dog’s area, canines are less likely to feel trapped, and may relax as a result.

    3. When you leave and when you come back, keep attention on the dog as minimal as possible. A simple, non-emotional goodbye or greeting will do, rather than hugs, kisses and emotional words. The more calm and nonchalant the greetings, the less worked up the dog will get. When you return, wait five minutes or until the dog calmly settles into a relaxed sit or down, before acknowledging.

    4. Reduce departure cues. Throughout the day, even on weekends, randomly put on your shoes, pick up the keys, turn on the car, open the garage and do other cues that may signal you’re leaving. Often dogs become anxious even upon the perception of these cues, because they signal you’re leaving. However, if you do these cues with the end result being you still stay home, the cue loses its meaning.

    5. Train your dog to enjoy time alone in their own area. Put the dog in a certain area of the home, like an xpen, or tether the dog with a leash and harness next to a comfortable area, like a dog bed. Place food puzzles or long lasting chews in these areas for the dog to nibble on. To begin with, sit a few feet away and get the dog comfortable with just a short distance separation. The training can be made more challenging later by giving the food item and leaving to go into another room or going outside. Return to the dog before they finish eating their food reward. The idea is to have separation happen with associated pleasurable rewards and at a pace the dog can remain relaxed at. Play classical music during separation, proven to calm pets, to further promote relaxation.

    6. Protect your pet. During training, management techniques like sending the dog to doggy daycare or a dog sitter during inevitable long departures is helpful. In some cases, medication from your veterinarian added in combination with training, will provide especially anxious pets with the best chance of recovery.

  • Summer Storm Safety

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    As we are all aware, summertime storms can cause MAJOR anxiety and stress in our dogs and cats. And, it’s just about that time of year when super storms and hurricanes begin to arrive. Using a Thundershirt is an excellent way to calm your dog or cat should heavy winds, thunder and rain begin to pick up. In addition to using a ThunderShirt, here are a few more tips to keep in mind should heavy storms and troublesome weather arrive:

    • A permanent pet ID such as microchip is advised to help you locate your pet in case they get lost.
    • Keep pets inside and monitor them when the go out for bathroom breaks, at times, storms can spook pets into running away.
    • Photograph each pet and store these pictures with other important documents in sealed/waterproof plastic bags.
    • Make sure that your pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations. Boarding kennels typically require proof of current vaccinations.
    • During a storm, you can play pet-friendly, classical music, or even run a load of dishes or laundry. The calming or familiar noise may be relaxing to your pets.
    • Also, have your pets’ favorite toy, blanket and/or bed nearby during a severe storm.
    • Try not to scold a scare pet as it may confuse them and reinforce fearful behaviors.

    We hope you have a safe and calming storm season!

  • Pets Can Suffer From Empty Nest Syndrome Too

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    We are happy to announce that we have another guest blogger today! Take it away Sandy!

     

     Pets really enjoy the summer months as much as people do simply because the kids are home from school and there’s lots of activities and outings to keep them engaged and happy to be around the people they love the most.

    Then September rolls around and children go back to school or off to college and the sudden emptiness in the home can leave them feeling very lonely and depressed – and often anxious too.

    According to Professor Nicholas Dodman, director of the small animal behavior clinic at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, MA at least one in six dogs will exhibit symptoms of separation anxiety or display increased levels if they are already prone to the condition, along with a countless number of cats.

    “Dogs and cats that enjoy human interaction and affection can become psychologically unglued especially if their best human friend in the household happens to be one of the kids and suddenly that person “disappears” and goes off to college. It definitely leaves a void in the pet’s lifestyle,” explains Dodman. “The same applies when kids go back to school and suddenly their lives are so filled with extra mural activities that they no longer have the same amount of time for fun that includes the family pet.”

    Dodman cited the a canine client who had slept in with his teenage best friend since puppyhood and when the boy went off to college, the dog found himself sleeping alone in the empty bedroom.  He started howling at night looking for a new place to sleep.

    This dog would have been an ideal candidate for a ThunderShirt, put on at bedtime to help ease his anxiety and get him into a different sleeping routine.

    Cats can get equally upset but because they don't often display their feelings, people are often unaware that they are feeling anxious and stressed in similar situations too.

    Reduced appetite or complete loss of appetite is a sign that your pet may be suffering from empty nest syndrome.

    When it comes to dogs, signs of stress and anxiety can include sudden pacing and even at attempt to escape by scratching the back of a door or pulling down a blind, trying to get into a trashcan or chewing on a couch.

    For a feline perspective a cat   that is usually friendly and comes to greet their favorite people may stop doing this and lie and sleep a lot more. Some can also begin grooming excessively, pulling out chunks of fur until their skin is raw.

    Of course there are ThunderShirts for cats too and it's a good idea to put one your cat (or dog) if they are going to be left home along for long periods until they are better adjusted to the new dynamics of the household.

    Exercise is a great stress-reliever too. Be sure to schedule walks with your dog several times a day – even they are short ones and amp up games with your cat. Wand toys keep them very engaged.  There are also battery-operated toys that can be pre-set so that they can play by themselves throughout the day too.

     

    Sandy Robins is an award-winning author and respected Pet Lifestyle Expert.

    Sandy and Cat

  • Guest Blogger: Mikkel Becker!

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    We’re thrilled to have well-known and respected pet behavior and training expert, and Vetstreet.com contributor, Mikkel Becker back on our blog today! She’s talking summer storm season and pet anxiety. Take it away, Mikkel!

    Thunderstorm phobia is a common fear I address in dog training. Countless canines suffer every year when summer storm season hits. Symptoms of fear include panting, pacing, increased salivation, whining, shaking, hyper vigilance, looking overly sleepy, lip licking, furrowed brows, the whites of their eyes showing and shadowing their owner or attempting to hide or flee. Although the external signs of fear vary amongst individual dogs, the internal state of distress the dog experiences cannot be ignored.

    While logically there’s little danger involved for a dog kept indoors during a lightning storm, there’s no reasoning a canine out of their fear. The fear is very real to that dog, and without intervention, the fear not only remains for most dogs, but grows stronger with time. Fear is a motivator in the natural survival response for the animal to move themselves away from a perceived threat and into a safe place. Dogs are wired to avoid dangerous situations and flee danger for self-preservation. Loud booms and flashes of light are two such stimulus’ that dogs are wired to flee from, rather than run to, for survival. There is also the likelihood of a genetic influence, as studies have shown that certain tendencies, such as fear of numerous noises and separation anxiety, are linked to the fear of thunderstorms.

    Ongoing fear decreases a dog’s quality of life and impacts even internal functions, like debilitating their body’s immune system. Dogs are also at risk for injury or worse when they panic, as they may hurt themselves when attempting to escape or when running in a blind panic. It’s not only traumatic for a dog to experience ongoing fear, but it’s stressful to the pet parent who feels helpless to calm their pet.

    Though our dogs can’t help the fearful state they’re naturally in with thunderstorms, as loving pet parents, we have the ability to help our pets. Dogs don’t need to suffer needlessly. With just a few changes, a dog’s fear of thunderstorms can be drastically decreased or taken away all together.

    Here are the top recommendations I offer to pet parents when training their dog to relax during storms.

    The first tool I recommend to owners is the ThunderShirt. The ThunderShirt is essential, as it instantly calms the dog in a non-invasive manner. The gentle pressure of the ThunderShirt increases feel good endorphins and is similar to the comfort a baby experiences when swaddled. Pressure has a calming effect on animals, as made famous by Temple Grahndin in her work of transferring the calming effects of pressure on cattle to other uses, such as decreasing anxiety for people with autism. The effects of pressure have likewise been shown to calm dogs.

    The ThunderShirt is essential, because the wrap has immediate results for calming the dog with no prior training needed. The ThunderShirt works in about 80% of canines, thus it’s the most effective and natural tool to decrease anxiety in dogs. If the dog is in an overly panicked state, other methods may be used to no avail when a storm hits, because the dog is already so over threshold, they are not receptive to reinforcement. When dogs are panicked, even activities they would normally do without hesitation, such as eating a treat or playing with a ball are denied, because the dog is too fearful to respond. Fear also inhibits learning; with animals most receptive to learning when they are in a relaxed state. The ThunderShirt is my go-to tool as it calms a dog and brings them to an emotional state where they are receptive to learning and can receive rewards to help build a positive association with the storm.

    Once the dog’s emotional state has been brought to a better baseline, there are additional tactics I use. One of my favorite solutions is to create a thunder room in the house. A thunder room should have the feeling of a hide-away where the dog can escape to and should be somewhat insulated from outside noise. A roomy closet or bathroom is ideal. Static electricity may build up in a dog’s coat during a storm, thus keeping the dog on hard floors rather than carpet and using dryer sheets to rub over the dog’s fur is helpful. Music can be calming for dogs and drowns out noise. For best results, play music loud enough to drown out some of the booms from the thunder, with classical music shown to have the greatest relaxation effect. The blinds should also be kept closed in the house, as flashes of light can be frightening for canines if they happen to catch a glimpse.

    Your dog should also be given training to associate the storm with good things happening to change their emotional baseline. For a play focused dog that enjoys fetch or structured tug, start a game as soon as the storm hits and continue throughout. Keep in mind you may want to play these games inside while sheltered from the elements and the loud noise. For other dogs, the storm should be associated with delectable treats. Each time the thunder hits, immediately deliver a piece of high value reward, such as boiled chicken or turkey hotdog. You can also use the storm to refocus your dog on another activity they deeply enjoy, such as trick training or giving them a stuffed food puzzle. Another less thought of but effective tool is to get a dog into a different state by triggering a behavior that’s innate in a dog. Use a chase toy, such as a fishing pole with a toy on the end to get your dog involved in a game of chase, or even race off a few steps yourself and reward your dog with a treat for following. You can also howl or bark, potentially triggering other dogs in your household if present, and starting a group howl. The chase or howl may break the cycle of fear even for a moment as a different area of the brain is engaged, where at that point the dog can be refocused onto another activity, such as eating their tasty treats.

    In addition, consider daily exercise for your dog as it boosts serotonin levels, a regulator of mood, and releases other feel good endorphins that build a dog’s resiliency. Exercise also provides a productive outlet for pent up energy that will help a dog relax more during the rest of their day. During the summer, dogs should be exercised regularly during the cool parts of the day with the amount of exercise needed depending upon the dog’s age, breed and energy level. Dogs should be exercised preemptively before a storm hits.

     

  • Tips to Keep Your Pets Calm on 4th of July

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    Check out this video of our tips for the 4th of July:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJr3Ls5RdQI&feature=c4-overview&list=UUuIymvC4yigIVyLy_srg25g

  • Wishing you a “Thunderful” 4th of July! Now, let’s have a treat!

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    What a better of a way to include out pets in on the patriotic fun than to whip up these delicious red white and blue treats!

    We found this recipe from one of our favorite bloggers, Sugar the Golden Retriever and thought they make the perfect cool and summery treat for our favorite four-legged pals!

    Frosty Yogurt Berries Bone Parfait

    treats

    Ingredients

    ~1 tablespoon of Greek Yogurt

    ~1 tablespoon of Plain Yogurt

    ~2 teaspoon of fresh blackberries juice (=3 pieces of blackberries)

    4 x-small pieces of strawberries

    1 teaspoon of homemade toasted coconut honey oats (using old fashion oats, coconut oil and honey)

    Directions

    Use a Bone cookie cutter as a mold. Place it on a flat surface. We used a clear plate.

    1. Pour into the mold ~ 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt.* Freeze it for about an hour.

    *This is the first time we used Greek yogurt for frosty paw recipe. It does not freeze well unlike the regular plain yogurt.*

    2. Pour ~2 teaspoons of the fresh blackberries juice. Smashed blackberries can be added too. Freeze it for about 20 to 30 minutes.

    3. Place little pieces of strawberries.

    4. Pour ~1 tablespoon of plain yogurt. Freeze it for 20 minutes.

    5. Place the tasted oats on top. Freeze it for another 10-15 minutes.

     

    Image via

  • Thundershirt rescues Tiny Santa from Big Pit Bull

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    Check out this funny holiday video we found, Thundershirt to the rescue for this little Santa!!

    Watch full video here:  Thundershirt rescues Tiny Santa from Big Pit Bull

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