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Causes of Anxiety Disorder in Dogs


Identifying the causes and triggers of an anxiety disorder in dogs is like the work of a detective. But the effort is worth it, because the veterinarian or animal psychologist can help your four-legged friend better if he knows the reasons for the overly anxious behavior. Dogs can also become more anxious over time if the mental disorder is not treated. The causes of an anxiety disorder in dogs are many - Shutterstock / Anke van Wyk

An apparently harmless event may cause dogs to develop an anxiety disorder. The causes are trauma that people may not have noticed. After all, the perception of dogs sometimes differs considerably from that of humans. The animals perceive many smells and noises as much more intense and can intuitively capture moods around them. This also makes them more sensitive to overexcitation and, as a result, anxiety or panic conditions.

Mislinks as causes of fear

Frequent triggers of an anxiety disorder in dogs are so-called incorrect links. Because fear is partly a learned dog behavior that comes about through classic conditioning. The Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov discovered this learning process in an experiment: he always rang the bell when he gave his dogs something to eat. In the beginning nothing happened if the dogs only heard the bell without being fed. But after a while they linked the sound to the food and started to form saliva, even if there was no food after the ringtone.

With this classic conditioning, you can teach your dog important basic commands such as "sit", "place", "stay" and "come", for example, by ensuring that your four-legged friend combines a reward with obedience and therefore does a good job. Unfortunately, this "trick" also works in a negative sense, meaning: Your four-legged friend learns - usually without you noticing it - to connect certain situations with pain, disappointment or other inconveniences. The dog may accidentally perceive something that has nothing to do with the pain, but which he accidentally associates with it. For example, a dog gets hit on an electric fence, but pays attention to the sheep that graze in the meadow. He doesn't associate the pain of the electric shock with the fence, but with the sheep that he saw during it. As a result, he may develop a phobia of sheep, bleating noises, or even wool. Such mislinks are among the most common causes of anxiety disorders in dogs.

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Deprivation syndrome can cause anxiety disorder

In addition to specific phobias, dogs can also suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. This means that the four-legged friends are generally afraid of everything and not only afraid of certain sounds, situations or objects. Deprivation means that the dogs grew up in a low-stimulus environment and, for example, had no playmates or could never get used to everyday noises. They never got to know the noise of vacuum cleaners or traffic noise. There was simply no one to educate them. Later, such dogs react to everyday sounds and other stimuli with an anxiety disorder because all of this is unknown to them and therefore threatening. In desperation, some dogs therefore behave very aggressively.


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