"Aaron McDonald, a Birmingham, Alabama-based canine behaviorist, says he sees a significant amount of dogs with anxiety related issues. In fact, some of the most common dog "problem" behaviors stem from anxiety, which in turn stems from insecurity."
This is by no means a comprehensive list of anxieties. Many of the strange behaviors you might have seen or heard of in your own dogs are often signs of low-level stress or higher levels of anxiety.
Why do dogs dig holes, for instance? Because they are experiencing elevated stress or anxiety. The next logical question might be, what does digging a hole have to do with anxiety? I can answer this with another question: What does a human with OCD washing their hands 25 times have to do with anxiety?" In fact these behaviors are attempts to control a world they feel is going out of control. In other words, rituals that externalize internal strife, confusion, and insecurity.
Each anxious behavior is an indication to us as 'dog parents' that some emotional need is not being met. Of course you will always want to check with your vet to make sure there are no physical problems present. But if all the check-ups come back negative, then it is time to start looking at your dog's emotional needs -- and the ultimate, foundational emotional need for dogs is to feel secure. This is accomplished through the setting of boundaries and limitations, not through freedom, physical exercise, nor affection.
So grab a leash and begin asking your dog to do less, not more.
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Aaron McDonald is a canine behaviorist, cognitive theorist, and author. He can be reached at www.ThreeDimensionalDog.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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