Tips to Reduce Social Anxiety In Pets
If your furry friend tries to run away when you take it to the park, starts drooling and panting unexpectedly, or lunges at a stranger, it’s possible that it’s suffering from social anxiety. Here are a few tips to reduce social anxiety in pets.
Most of us suffer from social anxiety, whether it’s speaking in public, meeting new people, talking to strangers or being in a new space with large crowds. The stress that comes with it is sometimes too hard to bear, isn’t it?
Just like you, your pet also has a tendency to experience anxiety, fear and apprehension in social situations. There are many instances that can induce social anxiety in pets, such as walking through big crowds, taking them to the park, being around other pets, and being in a strange place, to name a few.
If your furry friend tries to run away when you take it to the park, starts drooling and panting unexpectedly, or lunges at a stranger, it’s possible that it’s suffering from social anxiety.
As a pet parent, you are likely to be worried and concerned about your fur-ball, but you should be relieved knowing that there are many ways to help reduce social anxiety in pets.
While you are at it, make sure to be patient and careful because desensitizing a fearful cat or dog takes multiple efforts and is often a very elaborate process.
Start Socializing Early and Young
If you’ve recently brought home an adorable little furry cat or dog, it is best that you start the socialization process early and young. Doing this helps prevent social anxiety even before it starts because when your pet experiences new things early on, it can shape their perceptions about certain scenarios from the get-go. These experiences last for a lifetime, and the chances are that when your pet grows up, they’ll be less likely to be socially anxious.
After all, a well-socialized pet knows how to handle itself in tough and busy situations and isn’t afraid of big crowds.
Gradually Introduce Your Pet to People
One of the key indicators of social anxiety in pets is the way they behave and act around people.
When it comes to meeting new people, pets work the same way as humans. They get nervous around strangers the same way we do.
So, the best thing to do here is to gradually introduce your pet to new people and give them enough time and space to become familiar with their faces. For instance, bring a friend over to your place, and he or she should ignore your pet. Allow your furry buddy to be the one to initiate contact once it’s ready and has investigated your friend.
This way, your pet will become comfortable with new people at its own pace.
Comfort Your Pet
When dealing with social anxiety, the one thing that your pet needs from you is care and comfort.
Like human beings, they also to experience fear and anxiousness, and feel out-of-place in strange social settings. However, with ultimate comfort from your end, they are likely to be relaxed, and it also helps them ease into difficult situations.
One of the commonly used techniques to treat social anxiety in pets is counterconditioning, where you basically change your pet’s response to anxiety-causing stimuli by replacing their anxious behavior with something that is more desirable.
The end goal here is to get your pet to display a desirable reaction or behavior that is different than its current reaction to a given stimulus.
For instance, if your pet dog displays aggressive or nervous behavior when exposed to a visitor, you can change their response by pairing that particular stimulus with its most favored rewards, thereby modifying their frenzied emotional state into a calm and positive one.
Slowly Introduce Your Pet to Other Animals
Social anxiety in pets doesn’t only make them nervous around other people, but also around other animals.
Your dog is likely to be anxious around other dogs and might even resort to aggressive behavioral tendencies if the situation is too much for them to handle.
The ideal way to go about it is to slowly introduce your pet to other animals, one at a time. For example, avoid busy areas such as huge dog parks, and introduce them to one dog at a time, such as your neighbor’s pet, for starters.
Just like how you introduce your pet to new people, use the same strategy here where you need to make sure that the new dog is uninterested and composed in order to prevent your own dog from getting worked up.
Reward Good Behavior
If there’s one thing that works amazingly well with pets, it’s being rewarded for good and desirable behaviors!
Every time your pet remains calm in the presence of other animals or strangers, make sure to reward it with its favorite treat.
Or, when you take your dog to the park, and it shows signs of aggression but stops immediately when you give it a command, pat it on the back, appreciate it or give it a treat. That way, your pet will eventually associate rewards with desirable behaviors and will make sure to do it at all time.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
In case your pet suffers from extreme social anxiety or that the above methods don’t work out for you, it is best to consult your veterinarian and discuss possible treatment options with them.
There is a variety of natural therapies and medications for social anxiety in pets that your vet might suggest for your socially anxious pet.
Give Your Pet Space and Time
At the end of the day, treating social anxiety in pets comes down to how much time, patience and care you are willing to invest in the whole process.
It’s easier with new pups and kittens as compared to adult pets, but it’s nothing impossible.
You can also always consult a vet who will examine your pet, and suggest you the best techniques and approach to help reduce social anxiety in your furry friend.
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