According to a 2011 veterinarian survey published by ThunderWorks, nearly 23 million dogs in the United States suffer from anxiety or fear issues. Luckily, product development has kept up with the demand this has created.
“During periods of anxiety, stress or fear, a dog’s brain releases an increased amount of adrenaline and cortisol, which decreases the amount of blood flow to the frontal cortex of the brain,” said Emilye Schmale, senior marketing manager at Petmate. “This means less oxygen is flowing to the frontal cortex. With prolonged anxiety or fear, the increase in cortisol levels can weaken the dog’s immune system, leading to increased incidence of sickness or stress.”
There are multiple ways to treat anxious behavior.
“One of the most effective treatments doesn’t involve drugs at all, but rather, focuses on behavior modification to soothe dogs and calm their senses,” Schmale said. “The new Petmate CALMZ Anxiety Relief System for dogs combines high-tech innovation with acupressure in a revolutionary non-invasive, drug-free treatment that soothes anxiety.” The system includes an adjustable Comfort Fit Vest that places the therapeutic device over the dog’s spine, targeting acupressure points. The device plays a blend of classical music, tones and vibration to reduce adrenaline and increase blood flow to specific areas of the dog’s brain.
New ‘Leash’ on Life
Other non-drug approaches to treating anxiety include training, and numerous tools are available. For instance, Ruffwear’s Susan Strible said the brand’s short leash provides walking assistance with training.
“A short training leash means correction is more immediate. Dogs remain in control, closer to your side, and gentle correction is possible when the leash is relatively short,” she said. “Ruffwear makes two leashes that are ideal for this purpose: the Knot-a-Leash, featuring rope and a strong, locking carabiner, and the Ridgeline Leash, with a lightweight leash clip and stretch webbing.”
Another leash option comes from ThunderWorks. The Dial-A-Distance (“D-A-D”) serves as a good walking aid.
“In a word? Safety!” explained Phil Blizzard, ThunderWorks CEO and founder. “D-A-D offers all of the features of a regular retractable leash: more freedom and exercise; less leash tangling; a manual thumb brake; and a tape-style lead. But unlike other retractables, with D-A-D you can set the maximum range to whatever length is safe for where you are walking, anywhere from zero to 15 feet. D-A-D will always keep your dog within a safe range, even during those inevitable distractions on a walk.”
Combining exercise with training helps customers work with their dog’s anxiety, too. According to Jamie Popper, a professional dog trainer and the business development manager for Blue-9 Pet Products, “the KLIMB is essentially a dog training table. It is most commonly used as a ‘place’ for your dog to go to and rest out of the way.”
The KLIMB off ers dogs an elevated place to stay and to provide focus.
“Anxiety in dogs can stem from various causes. Additionally, separation anxiety, noise phobias, over arousal and reactivity take on many forms behaviorally,” Popper said. “A component of addressing these fears and anxieties is confidence building. Giving a dog a space they can call their very own can help with building confidence as well as provide them a safe space to go when they are afraid.
“The dog learns to associate positive experiences with being on the KLIMB,” she continued. “Giving a dog a job, such as staying on the KLIMB, can help them turn their focus to work rather than what may be causing them to feel anxious.”
Treatment Through Treats
Beyond exercise and training, anxiety and behavior solutions stretch into the treat aisle. With the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) treats, along with the increase in anxieties among dogs, Austin and Kat founder Kat Donatello said that “anxiety is probably [her] No. 1 driver for the product.”
Th e hemp-based treats can be used preventatively as well as daily for maintenance.
“It’s safe and it’s well-tolerated. With medications, there can be a lot of stomach-related issues,” Donatello said. “If you can provide something that is a little bit healthier and that doesn’t have the negative side effects that some of the prescriptions have, and if you can curb what’s going to happen to this pet, you’re being proactive in your approach.”
Another option is the snuggle puppy from smartpetlove.
“Whether they’re new to the family, or perhaps just going through a tough time, the snuggle puppy has been designed to provide comfort and is an all-natural and medication-free way to help relieve anxiety,” said Anjilla Young, the company’s director of marketing. “Dogs are pack animals who are instinctively drawn to their mother and others in their pack. Th e snuggle puppy relieves anxiety by recreating the same sense of security a puppy had when lying on their mother with their littermates through physical warmth and a ‘real-feel’ heartbeat. The result is a calmer, more peaceful pet—one that feels less loneliness, fear and anxiety.”