Canine and German Shepherd Anxiety can be varied and wide ranging.
Although separation anxiety is the most common anxiety among dogs, there is also anxiety of thunder, fireworks, travel, vet visits, and more.
As anxiety can be complex, you will want to see an animal professional/veterinarian if you believe your pet is experiencing anxiety or any other health related issues.
This is an informational and educational only guide – it is not professional advice or a recommendation of what you should do with your dog.
Below we have compiled a Guide to Anxiety for German Shepherds and dogs in general, including what is is, types of anxiety, causes, symptoms and signs, and management techniques others have used.
What is Anxiety, and Can Dogs/Canines Have It?
Dogs and German Shepherds can certainly have anxiety. Anxiety in German Shepherds and dogs is different to fear, and even phobias.
PetMD.com differentiates between fear, phobias and anxiety in German Shepherds and dogs in general –
“Fear is the instinctual feeling of apprehension resulting from a situation, person, or object presenting an external threat — whether real or perceived.”
“Phobias are the persistent and excessive fear of a specific stimulus – like fireworks and thunderstorms”
“Anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers from unknown or imagined origins that result in normal body reactions (known as physiologic reactions) associated with fear.”
In a nutshell, fear is a natural feeling in both humans and animals, that is common to all individuals. Phobias and anxieties are specific to an individual, and their development depends on a range of factors.
Read more about fear and anti-fear training for German Shepherds at The Daily Shep.
What Causes Anxiety In German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies?
German Shepherd Anxiety can be caused by a range of factors including but not limited to:
- Genetic Makeup or Disposition
- Lack of Socialisation as a Puppy
- Negative Experiences and Mistreatment As The Puppy Is Growing
Although development of anxiety is complex and is influenced by upbringing and genetics, some trainers have noticed that herding dog breeds like Border Collies and German Shepherds can be more prone to the condition due to their hyper aware senses of sound and environment.
What are the Different Types of Anxiety, in particular German Shepherd Separation Anxiety?
Taking what is explained above, anxiety can occur in any of the following circumstances if your German Shepherd anticipates it may be in danger:
- Thunder and Storms (can also be a phobia)
- Fireworks (can also be a phobia)
- Vet visits
German Shepherd Separation Anxiety is a common form of anxiety in GSDs (German Shepherd Dogs) that “is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians/owners, the people they’re attached to.”
Symptoms, Signs Of and Responses to Anxiety in German Shepherd Dogs
Anxiety can result in the following signs and symptoms you should be on the lookout for:
- Excessive chewing of inanimate objects
- Excessive and continual barking
- Tail tucking, trembling and hiding
- Manic pacing
- Peeing and pooping itself
- Attempts at escaping the house ‘at all costs’
- Self harm to the point of removing hair or bleeding, including excessive licking and biting themselves
- Whining and howling
- Aggression which always starts out as a defence mechanism and later turns into a habit when the dog realises that aggression gives it power in a situation that scares or threatens them
All of the above actions are releases for your German Shepherd from the stress of the anxiety.
How Owners Might Manage A German Shepherd With Anxiety
Prevention (Socialisation and Positive Experiences As A Puppy)
Prevention is the best treatment for anxiety, but not everyone has this opportunity.
A German Shepherd puppy’s brain will do most of it’s learning and absorption of knowledge of the world from the moment it is born to 16 weeks or 4 months old.
The more daily socialisation with other animals and humans, and positive experiences you can involve your GSD with in this time, and up to about 1 year old, the better the chance your GSD doesn’t develop anxiety (providing there is no genetic predisposition to anxiety).
Re-Direction and Independence Training
Redirection Training is for general anxiety, while Independence Training is for separation anxiety in particular.
General anxiety training involves getting your dog to focus or re-direct it’s attention onto something other than the event that causes it discomfort.
A bone, a toy or game, food and your attention are all things which not only distract your GSD from the event, but replace the negative emotions with positive ones.
With Separation Anxiety, your dog develops a hyper attachment to you/their owner and can’t cope when you leave their presence.
Independence training involves desensitising your German Shepherd to the departure triggers. You’ve got to understand that your puppy or dog develops attachment by spending alot of time with you and literally following your every move around the house and out of it.
Triggers includes mostly things that are associated with you leaving the house – think getting dressed, picking up the keys, applying makeup, having a shower and so on.
To desensitise your German Shepherd to these triggers, you break the pattern or behaviour of what happens after the trigger by walking out of the front or back door, and coming straight back in – this will release the anxiety from your GSD.
Do this regularly until your GSD doesn’t associate you walking out the door only with leaving them for long periods – you could be leaving for 1 minute, it could be for a few hours. Regardless, the trigger becomes less traumatic for your GSD.
Some trainers have also mentioned gradually decreasing the amount of time your GSD spends by your side may decrease separation anxiety by decreasing their dependence on you.
For example, if your GSD currently sleeps in your room or your bed and comes with you everywhere you go in the car, think about gradually decreasing those types of activities, even eliminating them altogether.
You can still spend time with your GSD exercising them and playing with them at home, but there is nothing wrong with training them to sleep in another room, or leaving them in the backyard or inside while you drive 10 minutes to the shops.
It is hard to completely cure anxiety in dogs. But, depending on the training, it is estimated that anxiety can be made 60-95% better with patience and repetition.
German Shepherd Anxiety Jackets
Some owners swear by anxiety jackets, whilst others don’t see a lot of results with them.
One option is a proprietary product called the Thunder Shirt Anxiety Jacket by Thunder Work.
It is claimed it has an over 80% success rate at relieving ALL types of anxiety for various breeds of dogs, and has a money back guarantee within 45 days if it does not relieve your GSD’s anxiety.
You can check out the Thunder Shirt Anxiety Jacket on Amazon.
Seek your vet’s advice before deciding if this is a good option for your dog.
Anti Anxiety Medication and Pills
Anti Anxiety Medication and Pills affect every dog differently, and should only ever be prescribed for your German Shepherd by an accredited and qualified vet.
Medication is seen as the most serious form of treatment and can be used where a dog has experienced Post Traumatic Stress from trauma, among other situations. Medication can take between 3 to 6 weeks to work after usage, and is never a permanent solution.
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