Poochon dog looking up

Helping Your Poochon Overcome Anxiety: What to Do

Introduction

One thing that all pet owners have to deal with is their dog's anxiety. Stress can create an anxious dog, struggling with pent-up emotions and weak mental health. The Poochon breed is especially vulnerable to mental illness. This breed is a mix of the Toy Poodle and the Bichon Frise, both traditionally miniature dogs. Their small frame contributes to the Poochon's increased susceptibility to anxiety. Other dogs and people appear larger and thus more threatening.

There are two steps to overcoming this battle: recognition and treatment. First, we humans need to recognize when our furry friend is feeling stress and anxiety. Then, we need to come up with effective strategies to minimize your pet's anxiety and stabilize their mental health. This article will give you a complete breakdown of both recognizing the mental illness and treating it.

Signs Your Poochon is Anxious

Before we dive into specific strategies you can employ to deal with your Poochon's anxiousness, we first need to educate ourselves on the signs that our dog is truly feeling anxiety. Only then will we know exactly when to make use of these strategies. Without this knowledge, our strategies would be useless; we wouldn't know when to put them into action. Let's take some time to identify key signs that your dog is facing anxiety.

Bad Behavior While You're Out of the House

The first telltale sign that your Poochon is dealing with anxiety is that your house is a mess once you return. Bad behavior, such as "chewing on objects, door frames, or window sills; digging at doors or doorways; destroying household objects when left alone," are all signs of anxiety, Dr. Richter told Bustle in 2018. Dr. Richter is a trained veterinarian for Rover, an online marketplace where pet owners can buy and sell pet care services. Later on in this article, we'll give you some effective methods of alleviating this behavior and combating separation anxiety.

Another common symptom of this bad behavior will be urinating or defecating around the house. The American Kennel Club asserted that this "is a common symptom of separation anxiety." Separation anxiety is the presence of an anxiety disorder once you, the pet's owner, have left the house. The dog simply can't bear life without you; they have formed a heavy attachment to you. When you leave, they feel as though a part of them is leaving, thereby causing anxiety. According to Care Center Vets this specific type of anxiety affects between "20% - 40% of dogs". That puts the Poochon breed at high risk, given their small stature. Even if your Poochon is house trained and potty trained, there is still a possibility of this happening. Dr. Turnera Croom told Bustle that dogs leave trails of pee around the house when they are anxious. The fight-or-flight response produces adrenaline, but also relaxes the "bladder and anal sphincter muscles, allowing waste to release." Don't administer punishment to your dog when you find out they've done this. That will only reinforce their fear and anxiety that there is something to worry about.

Poochon dogs making a mess

Your Poochon's Body Language

The next surefire signal that your beloved furry friend is facing anxiety symptoms can be found in their body language. Broadly speaking, body language is a "range of nonverbal signals that you can use to communicate your feelings and intentions." These can include posture, facial expressions, and stance. Let's explore what aspects of your Poochon's body language will signify they are experiencing anxiety.

The first key anxiety zone to watch on your Poochon's body is their ears. According to DogTime, a dog's ears "are great indicators for telling you what your dog is feeling." Take a look at how your Poochon's ears are positioned. Are they naturally resting next to their head? Or are they pinned back to the side of the head? A neutral, positive, or curious canine exhibits naturally resting ears. However, a fearful, anxious, or scared canine displays pinned back ears.

The next area of body language that can represent anxiety is your dog's tail. Bil-Jac, a premium dog food brand, stated that a dog's tail "can tell you a lot about how she feels in any given situation." Let's examine the different tail positions, and what they mean. A full-body wag is usually significant of a happy and excited dog. A slow wag can indicate that your dog is unsure, nervous, or hesitant about the current situation. A stiff tail can mean that your furry friend is in tension and on high alert. Finally, the tail position that is most relevant to anxiety, is the tucked tail. When your canine is exhibiting a tucked tail, down and almost between their legs, this is a clear sign that your dog is feeling anxiety and stress. They may even be utterly scared. Pay close attention to your Poochon's tail, and what kind of implications it could have on their mental health.

Your dog's eyes are another anxiety hotpot to pay attention to in their body language. There are key characteristics of their eyes that can tell you that your canine is feeling anxious. First, check to see if your Poochon has whale eye. This is when the "whites of [your dog's] eyes are visible (the sclera)." According to Dogster, it's a telltale sign that your dog is feeling "frightened or threatened." Another critical aspect of their eyes and body language is their eye contact. Is your dog avoiding direct eye contact with you? The American Kennel Club thinks this could mean that your "pup is actually reacting to your voice and body language and thinks something must be wrong." Pay close attention to your dog's eyes for either of these symptoms.

Panting or Pacing as You Leave the House

The final key sign that your Poochon is struggling with anxiety is panting as you are exiting the house. When you see your dog exhibiting this stressful situation, it typically means they are feeling agitated and uneasy. If this happens when you're leaving the house, it's an even bigger sign that your dog is suffering from a form of severe anxiety: separation anxiety. The fact that this behavior occurs as you're leaving the house indicates that your furry friend has developed an attachment to you, and when you leave, that gets threatened. This causes anxiety to swell up in your dog, which ultimately manifests as panting or pacing before you leave the house.

The next critical behavior that signifies stress and anxiety in your Poochon is pacing. This one is a classic behavior in agitated dogs who are feeling uncomfortable. That causes a burst of energy, and they don't know what to do with it. As a solution, they resort to panting around the room to relieve their anxiety and feel a bit calmer. Once again, if your dog is pacing around the house as you're getting ready to leave, it's likely a sign that they are suffering from separation anxiety. Stick around to learn some powerful techniques to battle these symptoms and fight their anxiety.

Couple at the Doctor's office with dog

Tips to Help your Poochon Overcome Anxiety

Now that we've identified four key signs that your dog is going through anxiety, it's time to explore six ways that you can help your Poochon overcome that anxiety. These are going to be full-scale breakdowns of each technique, why it's beneficial for your dog's mental health, what you'll need for it, and how to set it up. Let's dive right in!

There are two broad categories of strategies that can help your canine overcome their mental health struggles: chemical and distraction-based. Chemical techniques look to rebalance your dog's brain chemistry and stabilize their anxiety via key chemicals that regulate mental health. Distraction-based techniques seek to redirect your dog's nervous and anxious energy towards something more constructive and engaging. Both categories will utilize dynamic activities to achieve their desired results.

Chemical Technique #1: Petting Your Dog

The first way to chemically tackle your pet's anxiety is to give them your physical love and affection. As pet owners, we want to seek out ways to strengthen our connection with our dogs. Petting your canine is one of the best ways to do just that! Let's take a look at why petting your dog chemically brings about positive change. Physical touch via petting causes a chemical production of oxytocin in your dog's body; oxytocin has been dubbed the love hormone by Harvard University. Updated research shows that oxytocin promotes relaxation and trust, which together make it easier for your dog to manage anxious situations.

Here are two ways to go about petting your dog. The first approach involves your dog sitting in front of you, and you positioned adjacent to them. This gives you access to their head and back, two prime locations for petting.

The next petting technique is for when you really want to show your Poochon some love. Have your dog lie down comfortably on their bed or on a blanket. Then, situate yourself in front of or beside them, and let them get on their side. This is how you'll get access to your dog's belly, an all-time favorite petting zone.

Chemical Technique #2: Lay in The Sun

The next chemical technique that can serve to fight your dog's anxiety is a quick lounge out in the sun. This strategy is so effective in relaxing your dog and alleviating their anxiety because of its strong scientific basis. When sunlight enters your dog's retina, their body cues the brain to produce more of a key mental health chemical: serotonin. ReNue RX concluded that "serotonin is a crucial chemical for increasing mood and decreasing anxiety." They also found a "clear connection between low serotonin levels and increased anxiety." This directly supports the scientific basis for laying in the sun. The sunlight reacting with your dog's eyes will produce more of this vital neurotransmitter, thereby combating their anxiety and relaxing their mind. Moreover, the breeze in the air, the cool grass, and the warm sunshine will all mix to soothe your canine. After some time in the sun, there will be no sign of worry in your canine. So how can you sunbathe?

You'll need a blanket, some snacks, water, and a dog-safe sunscreen. Most human baby sunscreens are safe for pet use, but avoid anything that contains zinc oxide - that's poisonous. Find an open spot in the grass that is facing direct sunlight; place your blanket down and then set your things on top of it. Apply sunscreen on your dog as you would yourself. Then, begin your relaxation. As time passes, give your dog some snacks and see if they're thirsty. Try not to spend more than an hour in direct sunlight, as that can be harmful to your dog's skin.

Child sitting in the sun with a poochon

Chemical Technique #3: Music Therapy

The final chemical technique to battle your Poochon's anxiety is music therapy. While it may seem ineffective, music therapy has actual scientific benefits in minimizing feelings of stress and anxiety.

The first chemicals that aid against mental illness are serotonin and dopamine. One study found that "auditory stimulation by exposure to melodic music increases dopamine and serotonin activities" in animals. Those are the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood and anxiety in your dog. By exposing your canine to certain frequencies of music, we can increase their production of dopamine and serotonin, thereby eliminating your dog's anxiety.

The next chemical that music therapy controls to fight your dog's anxiety is cortisol. It's nature's main stress hormone. Murdoch University concluded that listening to music can reduce the body's production of cortisol. In this case, instead of increasing the production of a chemical to battle anxiety, we are decreasing the production of a chemical.

So what's the best way to approach music therapy for your canine? A study performed by Dr. Kogan of the Colorado State College of Veterinary Medicine found "a significant calming effect with classical music." Another study conducted by Deborah Wells supported these findings, concluding that "classical music appears particularly beneficial" in relaxing dogs. So, find a playlist of some of the best classical music and leave it on when you go to work! This will stimulate your dog's auditory field, chemically inducing the right changes to eliminate their anxiety.

Someone playing violin for dog

Distraction-Based Technique #1: Make a DIY Kong Toy

The first strategy that will serve to distract your canine from their anxiety is a classic: a homemade Kong toy. A big reason your dog suffers from severe anxiety when you're away is because they don't have anything to do. That idleness spirals into anxiety, which ends up resulting in destructive behavior from your Poochon. When you leave them with a tasty toy that they actually need to engage with, it stimulates their mind. It also offers a source of positive reinforcement for your dog via a healthy stream of treats.

Here's what you'll need to make your own Kong toy at home:

  • Apple
  • Apple Corer

To make the Kong toy, first de-stem the apple and remove the sticker. Then, entirely core the apple so that the center is removed. Now it's free for you to stuff with tasty dog treats and peanut butter! Plus, your dog can eat the apple after he's done playing with it. We recommend using our Calming Zen Chews. Each bag is rich with pet-safe ingredients and calming agents such as Chamomile, L-Theanine, and L-Tryptophan for maximum therapeutic effect.

Distraction-Based Technique #2: Go to The Dog Park

Another reason dogs face anxiety is because they lack socialization. Socializing your Poochon early in their life is key to their development. When your dog is left isolated and alone, their temperament is more prone to anxiety and stress. Even worse, sometimes we leave our dogs at home alone for hours; this can cause separation anxiety. Whenever we get the chance, taking our dogs to the dog park gives them a dynamic environment where they can play and enjoy themselves. It takes their mind off their anxiety and redirects their energy toward something positive.

Find a dog park near you online and check to see when they're open. When you get there, verify whether the park is split up by dog size; many parks are. Bring your canine's favorite ball or toy to play with, and some water in case they get thirsty. Keep a close eye on your dog to ensure they aren't getting into any trouble.

Woman walking her dog in park

Distraction-Based Technique #3: Scent Work

The final distraction-based strategy to combat your dog's anxiety is scent work. This is an activity that involves hiding several treats around a complex environment, then releasing your dog to try and find these treats using their sense of smell alone. The reason scent work is so effective against anxiety is because it engages your dog's mental and physical capabilities. When they're idle, your dog is much more prone to developing stressful and anxious symptoms. Diverting that energy into something constructive, like scent work, can be the perfect solution for an anxious dog.

For scent work, get a dozen of your dog's favorite treats. Set up obstacles in a large room, and scatter the treats throughout the obstacles. Once it's all set up, let your dog go and find the treats. Be sure to give them positive reinforcement through praise when they successfully locate the treats!

Dog smelling flowers in a field

Conclusion

Anxiety is a constant struggle that both pets and pet owners need to adapt to. It takes effort from both sides to overcome stress and anxiety, but ultimately it comes down to recognition and treatment. Once you know how to identify the behavior, and you know how to treat it, you're well on your way to solving your Poochon's mental health struggles. Let us know which technique was your favorite!

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