white shepapoo sitting on a rock

How to Tell if Your Shepapoo is Anxious And How to Help

Introduction

If you have a Shih Poo, a Shih Tzu Poodle Mix, then you know that they are a dog breed that is prone to anxiety. Their small frame puts them at 8 - 18 pounds in weight and just 8 - 18 inches in height. Their status as toy dogs makes them especially vulnerable to feeling anxious and negative. As a dog owner, it troubles us when we can't quite tell how our canine is feeling. What can we do? This article will explore the many different ways to tell if your Shih Poo is feeling anxious, and exactly how to deal with that anxiety.

Anxiety Sign #1: Pacing or Shaking

The first key giveaway that your Shih Tzu Poodle Mix is feeling anxious is that they are pacing around the room, or shaking their whole body. This can indicate that the canine feels uncomfortable in the current environment, and doesn't know where to go. You'll see them "shake it off" after something traumatic happens; this is yet another sign that your Shih Poo is feeling anxious. Try and pay attention to what triggers your dog's anxiety symptom of pacing; maybe it's the doorbell or another particular sound. See if there's any way for you to control the environment and eliminate that variable. That will certainly help your Shih Poo feel better.

Anxiety Sign #2: Body Language

The next critical sign that your dog is feeling anxious can be found in certain aspects of their body language. Both in humans and in dogs, body language can tell you a lot about how someone is feeling. It gives off very distinct cues about their emotion, mood, and current temperament.

Let's examine what parts of your Shih Poo's body language to pay attention to. First, observe your dog's ears. Are they naturally resting beside their face, or are they pinned back to the side of their head? If it's the former, then your dog is likely not feeling anxious. This is the baseline state of a dog's ears, when they are feeling neutral or positive. However, if it's the latter, then we may have a problem. Dog's ears go back like that because they feel scared, vulnerable, or uncomfortable. It's best to comfort your dog, get rid of any external stimuli that could be disconcerting, and give your Shih Poo some space.

The next body language hotspot that signifies anxiety can be found in your dog's tail. As you may know, dog's tails can also express a range of emotions, such as "happiness, nervousness, feeling threatened, anxiety, submission and excitement." So how can you tell specifically if your dog is feeling anxious? Well, if they have a tucked tail and it's down, then it's quite possible that your Shih Poo is feeling stressed and anxious. Contrastingly, if their tail is up and wagging, it's a sign that they're feeling happy and positive.

Another clear-cut body language signal that your dog is feeling anxiety is if they are avoiding eye contact. Dogs do this when they feel something negative in your voice and body language. They are scared of you, and that fear is causing anxiety. Don't approach your dog in this situation. Give him time and let him grow comfortable with you.

Finally, pay attention to your Shih Poo's body positioning. How is their body set up? Are they closed off and stiff? Are they crouching and trembling? Any of these signs can mean that your dog is feeling anxious in the present situation. Once again, it's best to find ways to help your dog overcome this anxiety. Stick around for some great ones!

shepapoo walking in the grass

Anxiety Sign #3: Biting, Growling, Barking

As a Poodle Mix parent, over time you start to gain a better understanding of your Shih Poo's temperament. Most dogs of this breed tend to be friendly and playful. However, any dog is prone to exhibiting the trifecta of bad behavior: biting, growling, or barking. Any one of these three behaviors can mean that your dog is suffering from anxiety at the time. Growling usually means that the dog feels threatened, or vulnerable. It's not meant to be aggressive, but it's a warning from your dog that he feels uncomfortable. If your dog is biting you or those around you, it's usually a pretty clear sign that he feels in danger and needs to protect himself. Barking or whining, on the other hand, is usually indicative of some kind of stressor. Try and identify what could be irritating your furry friend and causing their anxiety.

Anxiety Sign #4: A Mess When You Come Back Home

The next telltale sign that your dog is suffering from anxiety and stress is that you find an absolute mess at home when you return from work. The furniture may be chewed, the trash has been gone through, there's toilet paper everywhere, and your socks are wet. Your dog might even have peed or pooped around the house. Think of it like Marley and Me. Let's try and understand why our Shih Poo might behave this way. Believe it or not, destructive behavior like this is usually significant of separation anxiety. While you're out of the house, your dog simply doesn't know what to do with himself. He grows irritated and frantic, and that spirals into a series of destructive events. It's the anxiety and stress of you missing that fills up inside your Shih Poo; when they don't know where to direct that negative energy, they end up taking it out on the house. Later on in this article, we'll discuss some key ways you can prevent this behavior, and treat your dog's separation anxiety.

Now that we have a solid understanding of the potential signs of an anxious dog, we can move on to finding strategies to help fight that anxiety and stress.

shepapoo sitting in front of a white background

Anxiety Strategy #1: Physical Love and Affection

The first key tactic we have to battle your Shih Poo's anxiety is good old love and affection. By petting your dog and showing them you love them, you incite a variety of benefits in your furry friend. The act of petting your dog causes oxytocin to be produced in your dog. Oxytocin is a chemical that creates a warm and fuzzy feeling. Ongoing research supports the claim that oxytocin promotes relaxation and trust, which ultimately make it easier for your dog to handle their anxiety. There are two main approaches to petting your dog.

The primary approach involves your dog sitting upright in front of or adjacent to you. This gives your prime access to their head, snout, and back for tons of love and affection. Scratch and massage your dog thoroughly, but be careful with how much pressure you apply.

The second method of petting your dog is much more involved. It requires your furry friend to be laying down on their bed or the floor. You come in front of them or on their side, and begin petting them. This gives you even better access to your dog's belly: their favorite petting zone.

Anxiety Strategy #2: Interactive Dog Puzzles

The next strategy we have for combating anxiety and stress is a fan favorite: interactive dog puzzles. These are mechanical toys that can store treats. They feature an array of buttons, sliding panels, and other mechanisms that the dog must play with. If the right combination is applied, the positive reinforcement is dispensed and your Poodle Mix can enjoy their tasty treats. Let's explore why this strategy can alleviate symptoms of anxiety in your Shih Poo.

One thing that we mentioned earlier was destructive behavior, caused by separation anxiety. When your furry friend is left all alone, that loneliness breeds anxiety and stress and provokes your dog to destroy the house. Leaving a dog toy full of treats for your canine directly solves this problem. It redirects your dog's idle attention towards something constructive and engaging. Instead of mindlessly laying there growing frantic and anxious, now your dog can utilize their mental and physical capabilities to accomplish something.

Consider using our tasty Calming Zen Chews. They are the perfect homeopathic treat for your canine. They have three calming agents that are all-natural and pet-safe: Chamomile, L-Theanine, and L-Tryptophan. These substances work together to reduce anxiety levels in your dog and instill peace and good feelings.

black shepapoo puppy laying on the concrete

Anxiety Strategy #3: Go Sunbathing

A fantastic way to scientifically battle your dog's anxiety can be found in the sun! That's right. Laying down in the sun for 30 - 60 minutes can directly fight your dog's anxious feelings and bring about a positive shift in their spirits. The reason that sunbathing scientifically eliminates anxiety is because of a chemical reaction that takes place. When your dog's skin is exposed to direct sunlight, their body begins to produce more of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. According to Healthline, serotonin is responsible for reducing depression and regulating anxiety. The heat of the sunlight, the nice breeze in the air, and the cool grass will combine to create a pleasant environment for your dog. This will lull them into a peaceful state of mind, as they relax their mind and body and refresh. Here's how to sunbathe with your furry friend.

Find an open, grassy area that is facing direct sunlight. Put down a blanket or sheet, and have your dog lie down here. Join them, and bring along some treats and water in case your dog gets hungry or thirsty. If you plan to spend a long amount of time in the sun, be sure to apply sunscreen to your canine; this will work to prevent sunburns. Most human baby sunscreens are safe for dogs to use, but avoid anything that contains zinc oxide — that's toxic for pets.

Anxiety Strategy #4: Dog Television

This is another effective strategy to fight separation anxiety: the fear and loneliness that your Shih Poo feels while you're out of the house. This often causes your dog to display destructive behavior - they need something to balance their dog's anxiety and boost their mood. That's where dog television comes into play. Older televisions had slower refresh rates; this meant that while we humans could see continuous motion, dogs could only see a flickering image. Newer TVs, however, have much faster refresh rates that enable our furry friends to actually watch television!

So what kind of television do dogs like to watch?

shepapoo puppy laying on the ground

Other Animals

The first thing your canine enjoys watching on TV is other animals. This is the area that they know the most about, and so it's always a great choice to show your furry friend other animals. It may be better to pick content that features animals that your dog is attracted to in real life. This can be squirrels, birds, or rabbits for the average canine. Choosing familiar animals gives your dog something relatable to watch; they don't know much about the ocean, so showing them sea animals might have left them confused or uninterested.

Dynamic Motion

Another key characteristic of television content that dogs like to watch is motion. It needs to have objects, people, or animals in diverse motion. This kind of stuff gives your dog a dynamic viewing experience, not something slow that's easy to lose the attention of. You might want to pick a show with active animals, combining motion with something relatable to give the dog visual stimuli that they understand.

Real vs Animated

While it may seem alright to play animated, cartoon content for your dog, this is actually counterproductive. It's harder for the canine to recognize what is being shown to them when the image is a cartoon. They don't have much experience seeing those kinds of shapes, so it's best to show your dog real, life-like images when picking TV.

Variety of Sounds

The final element of great dog television is a variety of sounds. We all know that dogs highly rely on their sense of sound, having some of the best hearing out of any animal. This is why it's important that your dog's TV has loads of different sounds, both loud and quiet. This keeps not only the dog's visual field stimulated but also their audio field.

happy shepapoo sitting in the grass

Anxiety Strategy #5: Give Your Shih Poo a Massage

As a proud Shih Tzu Poodle parent, there's nothing that you're unwilling to do to help your furry friend overcome their anxiety. Even giving them a massage. While it may seem a bit odd at first, giving your dog a massage can serve to combat their anxiety greatly. Let's take a closer look at the mental benefits of giving your dog a massage.

The primary reason that a massage can fight your dog's anxiety is because of chemicals. Just like petting your dog, massaging your canine also causes the release of the neurotransmitter oxytocin. This is because both activities involve physical touch, a key ingredient in increased oxytocin production. As we mentioned earlier, oxytocin is known for its positive effect on mental health. An article by Live Science stated that oxytocin eases stress, supporting that conclusion with a 2007 study that observed decreased "stress, anxiety, and depression" in animals injected with oxytocin.

So how can you give your Shih Poo a massage?

Step 1: Find a comfortable, open space in your house for your dog to lie down on. Consider using their bed, a blanket, or something else soft to maximize the relaxation.

Step 2: Begin to gently stroke the area of interest. Start with the back or belly, and slowly apply light pressure as you sweep your arms in long, parallel motions. Don't go too fast! Give sufficient time to each area of your dog's body. Pay close attention to any swelling or sensitivity; we don't want to hurt our dog.

Step 3: Start to apply that same technique to other areas of their body, like their head and neck. The muscles at the top of their skull and the back of their neck are especially powerful massage zones. If you notice your furry friend enjoying the massage more in a certain area, apply a bit more pressure and see how they like it.

Step 4: The final places left to massage are the base of their skull and the base of their tail. Both these locations are sensitive, so gently massage each until your dog seems satisfied.

Conclusion

Anxiety is an ongoing battle for both the dog and the dog owner. As we fight our furry friend's anxious feelings, we learn more about what works for them uniquely. Every canine is different, so it takes time and effort to truly identify the right strategies to help your Shih Poo. The first step is recognition, so we shared four surefire signs that your beloved Shih Tzu Poodle Mix is feeling anxious. The next step is treatment, and that's why we left you with five effective strategies to combat their anxiety and elevate their mood. Which one was your favorite? Was there anything that we missed?

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