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  • Anxiety in dogs, why is it so common?

    This is a topic that has been floating around in my mind for a long time.

    I'm posting this not to start any arguments but simply to learn from others.

    I'm seeing a huge increase in the number of dogs who (according to owners) have severe behavioural problems, separation anxiety being the main one. Many of these dogs are on medications to manage the behaviours.

    4 years ago it was unusual for me to groom a dog on behavioural medications.... now days I'm seeing lots and lots of them.

    The question that keeps coming to my mind is why is this becoming more common... or dare I say a normal thing for dogs now days.

    One common factor I've noticed among these anxious dogs is owners spoiling them rotten, not much training going on, dogs being treated like babies.

    Another thing I've noticed (not quite as common though) is the behaviours that the owners are complaining about (resulting in drugged dogs) are things that in my mind are just normal (untrained) dog behaviours. Things that with my own dogs are generally caused by boredom and solved with more training, exercise and mental stimulation.

    I'm not trying to be judgemental, but I'm struggling to stop myself from thinking that all these dogs on meds because of anxiety wouldn't be in that situation if they were raised differently.

    The above statement makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite because I know dogs can be reactive or aggressive because that is just the way they are... and I myself have social anxiety not because of the way I was raised but simply because that is the way I am, just the way my brain ticks... But I still can't help myself from thinking separation anxiety in dogs is because of the way they are raised.

    If I am completely wrong on that, please do correct me... I want to learn!

  • #2
    Interesting topic. Some of it is genetic and quite a lot of breeders, and I use that term loosely are not paying enough attention to temperament. I have had several dogs in my family that fitted that category and it was not for lack of socialisation, training or exercise that I can be sure, they were just wired that way. I really think that from personal experience temperament is a huge factor.

    Sure lack of training etc can also be a big factor but I have a rescue who was bought up in the most awful of situations but his temperament was such that with patience and love he was a very solid dog temperament wise. I have known quite a few dogs like this. Just salvageable and rock solid despite how they were raised whereas others can have anxiety issues even when raised in the best of homes. I have seen that all too often.

    There are a lot more dogs been bred on whims of the public or as fashion accessories. Perhaps people don't have as much time to train and exercise or cant be bothered to make time. It is a bit of a consumer society where people seem glued to social media instead of getting out and doing family outings which include the dog. As kids we would roam far and wide with our dogs.

    I think there are a lot of factors going on but number one is to get the temperament as good as you can in your lines and then home to appropriate homes. Too much money spinning going on out there and not enough care.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Kalacreek View Post
      Interesting topic. Some of it is genetic and quite a lot of breeders, and I use that term loosely are not paying enough attention to temperament. I have had several dogs in my family that fitted that category and it was not for lack of socialisation, training or exercise that I can be sure, they were just wired that way. I really think that from personal experience temperament is a huge factor.

      Sure lack of training etc can also be a big factor but I have a rescue who was bought up in the most awful of situations but his temperament was such that with patience and love he was a very solid dog temperament wise. I have known quite a few dogs like this. Just salvageable and rock solid despite how they were raised whereas others can have anxiety issues even when raised in the best of homes. I have seen that all too often.

      There are a lot more dogs been bred on whims of the public or as fashion accessories. Perhaps people don't have as much time to train and exercise or cant be bothered to make time. It is a bit of a consumer society where people seem glued to social media instead of getting out and doing family outings which include the dog. As kids we would roam far and wide with our dogs.

      I think there are a lot of factors going on but number one is to get the temperament as good as you can in your lines and then home to appropriate homes. Too much money spinning going on out there and not enough care.
      Thanks Kalacreek, you pretty much explained what I figured is the case but have been struggling to accept (for whatever dumb reason, I dunno).

      This is one reason I will always study the lines my dogs come from, meet parents etc before making a commitment.

      I'd say 99% of the dogs I am seeing who are on medication for behaviour problems are designer cross breeds... I'm yet to find one who came from health and/or temperament tested lines.

      I do find the attitude of many of these owners interesting... they seem to have little tolerance for inconvenient (yet common/normal) dog behaviours. As you said, perhaps a sign of society changing towards dogs being more of a status symbol, fashion statement.

      Having said that, there are still plenty of owners out there who are dedicated and make an effort to train their difficult designer doggies.

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      • #4
        "One common factor I've noticed among these anxious dogs is owners spoiling them rotten, not much training going on, dogs being treated like babies."

        "Some of it is genetic and quite a lot of breeders, and I use that term loosely are not paying enough attention to temperament. I have had several dogs in my family that fitted that category and it was not for lack of socialisation, training or exercise that I can be sure, they were just wired that way. I really think that from personal experience temperament is a huge factor."

        I think these two are a huge factor in the problem... And also the behaviourist vets are very quick at dishing out drugs.

        Having had dogs with behaviour problems, as I have always been involved with rescue, I took the first few to behaviourist vets. the solution was always meds or PTS... And that is not just one vet....

        I have trained quite few out of their anxiety and aggressive problems since, I think there might be a few dogs that do need meds, but mostly I think it is behavioural, even if "wired", some people can get past it with training and doing a lot with their dogs.
        And there are now a lot of people who want a quick fix, they don't want to put in the effort it might take to work with the anxious dog and maybe not cure, but manage the dog.

        I think some are "wired" for it, but a lot is to do with how dogs are treated and not allowed to be dogs and over humanised....

        Sadly many Breeders now don't seem to look at a dogs temperament, amazingly enough only a very few "Breed Standards" actually have a "good Temperament" as part of the Standard.... it should be in all of them.
        sigpicPets are forever

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        • #5
          Depends on the dog I would think.

          Some... poor genetics OR wrong breed/type of dog for a home

          Some... energy, brain or training needs not being met eg smaller yards

          Some... inadequate socialisation for their adult environment eg city life is so very unnatural

          Some... health reasons

          Some... poor experiences.

          Combinations of the above that make a dog seem worse than it is that escalates

          Misdiagnosis / mislabelling eg a barky territorial breed is most likely behaving as it should

          I don’t think the overall ratio of anxiety dog population is increasing but I think it is more noticeable because:

          There are just plain more dogs more people

          The ownership culture is changing so the dogs are more likely to receive the diagnosis versus locked up out of sight or PTS or tolerated as is.

          The increase in small living situations and large busy locations over a large yard in a quiet town.

          Just plain more things to stress dogs out. There’s a dog on my train as I say this. My super packed train. Big ask for a lot of dogs, *I* get stressed out on it!

          We all talk about it more, forums, Facebook, reality tv shows, more ppl taking dogs to groomers. 35 years ago nobody but immediate family knew about dads aggressive boxer or my mums super anxious gsd. Hell I only know cause she told me Thistle reminds her of that old gsd. These days it could be brought to attention by help seeking online versus what can you do. More opportunities for help. To work on the dog.

          That anxiety meds are even an option these days too, so prob a bit of “well we will try it” and the stigma against it decreasing.

          So yeah I don’t think the overall ratio of anxious dog population is increasing. I think it’s just more brought to our attention through combinations of factors.

          I do think about that s lot though. The book Our Dogs Our Selves is a collection of historical dogs things and it’s very interesting how a lot of today’s concerns with dogs were concerns hundreds of years ago too. From the “my neighbours dogs bark at night” all the way up to leash laws and BSL. Even concerns about companion dogs being “child replacements”! So I reckon as the population booms and time passes it seems like in the past it was less of a problem... but it probably wasn’t.

          Secretly I hope in another hundred or so years, our dog forums and discussions will be recorded and analyses too

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          • #6
            Funnily enough, i am currently doing 3yr research on behaviour therapy, 16 sessions, Vs Treatment as usual: GP prescribing meds for people diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, or social anxiety disorder. Im at 2yrs into 3yr study. The results are ridiculously in favour of behaviour therapy cohort. I suspect dogs would fair similarly.

            Thistle, your list seems comprehensive. And covers much of my thinking.

            I am currently searching for a farm. When you obtain the S32 paperwork, im educated that living in farming zone, comes with farm noises and odours, and i need to seriously consider if i can accept that, as the law is not on your side, if you decide your neighbours pigs stink.
            Ive come across 'problem' guard breeds. Medicated, for doing what they are supposed to do. Guard. So right dog, wrong home, bad vet combo.
            I blame pharma companies, and the medical profession, for their collusion in increasing use of pharmaceuticals.
            I also blame the positive only craze. Some of the "anxious" diagnosed dogs, are ruling their roost, and being pandered to.

            And i see some horrendous weak nerved dogs, who are just wired wrong, and wrong lines being mated. my mali being a good example, that was so far off breed standard, that had no business being sold as pedigree. So breeders hold some responsibility.

            And in this "on line" dog forum world.... people are more likely to read all about it, that actually get on with DOING something about it.

            There are effective evidence based methods for these super anxious dogs: BAT, LAT, Low stimulus e collar training. But they all involve a LOT of work, skills and knowledge from the other end of the leash. Not everyone has this willingness for various reasons.

            Child substitution and anthropomorphism of dogs, yeah, dont get me started on this lol

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            • #7
              "I blame pharma companies, and the medical profession, for their collusion in increasing use of pharmaceuticals.
              I also blame the positive only craze. Some of the "anxious" diagnosed dogs, are ruling their roost, and being pandered to."

              A definite "yes" to both of these.... dogs need balanced training all four quadrants at times

              And people need to put in the time it takes
              sigpicPets are forever

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              • #8
                Great list from TTG! I always learn something new or gain new insights here.

                Just one little thing I may add, is an ever increasing lack of patience nowadays. While not everyone is like that, sadly I have seen way too many from the younger generation who grew up with Internet, to be really short sighted and impatient, always looking for shortcuts and quick-fixes. The dog is barking and having other behavioral problems? Instead of learning about the underlying issues and investing time to train the dog, a "magic pill" sounds exactly what they want unfortunately.
                sigpic

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                • #9
                  Thanks all for your responses, all helped answer my question

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by furbaby View Post
                    Great list from TTG! I always learn something new or gain new insights here.

                    Just one little thing I may add, is an ever increasing lack of patience nowadays. While not everyone is like that, sadly I have seen way too many from the younger generation who grew up with Internet, to be really short sighted and impatient, always looking for shortcuts and quick-fixes. The dog is barking and having other behavioral problems? Instead of learning about the underlying issues and investing time to train the dog, a "magic pill" sounds exactly what they want unfortunately.
                    I have noticed this too but I haven't found it to be more common in younger people. I'd say it's pretty evenly spread among society. I've seen this attitude among everyone from young non-dedicated people to working parents with no time to retired older people who haven't the energy to train a dog.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by maddogdodge View Post
                      I have noticed this too but I haven't found it to be more common in younger people. I'd say it's pretty evenly spread among society. I've seen this attitude among everyone from young non-dedicated people to working parents with no time to retired older people who haven't the energy to train a dog.
                      Never have truer words been said !

                      All you have to do is look at all the pets - of all varieties - that find themselves in pounds and/or rescue - to realise that there is a massive problem regarding pet animals - both here and O/S !

                      I am on quite a few GSP FB pages and it absolutely breaks my heart - with some of the questions and comments some owners make ! The latest I came across was from a 'new owner' of a GSP pup that was only 14 weeks old ! The question this owner asked was - Do all GSPs suffer from separation anxiety ?

                      Give me a break ! The pup is only 14 weeks old and needs to be trained to like and feel safe to be left alone. This all takes time, patience, love, training and heaps of high value treats.

                      Most people now-a-days can't be bothered !

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RileyJ View Post
                        Never have truer words been said !

                        All you have to do is look at all the pets - of all varieties - that find themselves in pounds and/or rescue - to realise that there is a massive problem regarding pet animals - both here and O/S !

                        I am on quite a few GSP FB pages and it absolutely breaks my heart - with some of the questions and comments some owners make ! The latest I came across was from a 'new owner' of a GSP pup that was only 14 weeks old ! The question this owner asked was - Do all GSPs suffer from separation anxiety ?

                        Give me a break ! The pup is only 14 weeks old and needs to be trained to like and feel safe to be left alone. This all takes time, patience, love, training and heaps of high value treats.

                        Most people now-a-days can't be bothered !
                        It is a combination of people having the time to train and thoughtful breeding. My young niece has a young dog and she has worked so hard with her and had good professional help and goes to her local dog club. I am so proud of her. Sadly the young dog has a very anxious temperament. My niece could not have worked harder and the dog has come a very long way but she will always fundamentally have a nervy anxious temperament when certain unexpected things or even unknown stressors happen. Doing you homework on breeders and really looking into the lines along with understanding the needs of the breed are so important. A good breeder should also really assess where their puppies are going, if they don't do this one can only assume that their breeding practices could be suspect.

                        I remember one of my cattle dog breeders talked to me on the phone for a good hour before she even admitted that she had a pup for sale. We actually had a great conversation but it was really an interview about how passionate and how much I really knew about the breed. I then traveled 600km to meet her and she insisted on me meeting the pups parents and her other dogs while we talked cattle dogs lol. I think I was there for a good couple of hours or more. Fortunately I am as passionate about the breed as she was. She also had a good reputation for breeding nice dogs which is why I contacted her in the first place.
                        Last edited by Kalacreek; 25-05-2018, 07:13 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Kalacreek;223627[B
                          ]It is a combination of people having the time to train and thoughtful breeding.[/B] My young niece has a young dog and she has worked so hard with her and had good professional help and goes to her local dog club. I am so proud of her. Sadly the young dog has a very anxious temperament. My niece could not have worked harder and the dog has come a very long way but she will always fundamentally have a nervy anxious temperament when certain unexpected things or even unknown stressors happen. Doing you homework on breeders and really looking into the lines along with understanding the needs of the breed are so important. A good breeder should also really assess where their puppies are going, if they don't do this one can only assume that their breeding practices could be suspect.

                          I remember one of my cattle dog breeders talked to me on the phone for a good hour before she even admitted that she had a pup for sale. We actually had a great conversation but it was really an interview about how passionate and how much I really knew about the breed. I then traveled 600km to meet her and she insisted on me meeting the pups parents and her other dogs while we talked cattle dogs lol. I think I was there for a good couple of hours or more. Fortunately I am as passionate about the breed as she was. She also had a good reputation for breeding nice dogs which is why I contacted her in the first place.
                          Thank you for your comment regarding my post !
                          What I have highlighted above makes absolutely no sense to me ! Oops -Looks like I couldn't do a highlight ! Though this is the comment that I thought I highlighted - 'But It is a combination of people having the time to train and thoughtful breeding'

                          Most people - from my experience - can't be bothered with training a dog. As far as breeding - FFS - If the dog looks good - Why worry about the breeding ? If these people are fed up with their 'so-called precious pet' - or find the vet bills a tad tiresome - they just get rid of it !

                          Hence - What arrives at a pound/rescue !

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by RileyJ View Post
                            Thank you for your comment regarding my post !
                            What I have highlighted above makes absolutely no sense to me ! Oops -Looks like I couldn't do a highlight ! Though this is the comment that I thought I highlighted - 'But It is a combination of people having the time to train and thoughtful breeding'

                            Most people - from my experience - can't be bothered with training a dog. As far as breeding - FFS - If the dog looks good - Why worry about the breeding ? If these people are fed up with their 'so-called precious pet' - or find the vet bills a tad tiresome - they just get rid of it !

                            Hence - What arrives at a pound/rescue !
                            Okay what I am saying is that anxiety in a dog can not always be attributed to lack of training as you suggest with your comment on the GSP puppy, it could be a combination of factors

                            A good breeder will try and produce good lines, they will then try and find good homes and those good homes will hopefully put in the time. Oh and I know plenty of people who care about training their dogs and some of them struggle with anxious dogs. Sure plenty who don't but there are some terrible breeding practices out there as well.

                            I dont understand what you mean by ffs (not sure why the need to swear) why care about breeding? Good breeding is everything it is the very foundation. I have known some of the best positive trainers dealing with genetically anxious dogs and they find it hard let alone the average dog owner. Didnt Bernie say that her Mal is very nervy due to her lines?

                            Sure some dogs are very spoilt but I know spoilt dogs with very sound temperaments and I know very well trained dogs with anxious temperaments. Bad behaviour can be attributed to poor training but anxiety can be more complicated and be a result of a number of elements.

                            I refuse to believe that every anxious dog is because it was spoilt or badly trained or ignored or whatever because I know for a fact that that is simply not always so
                            Last edited by Kalacreek; 25-05-2018, 09:31 PM.

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