An unexpected visitor can be a big source of anxiety in dogs, so having a well thought out plan of action is essential to help your dog cope and allow you to enjoy your visitors.
You may already be aware of what kinds of people trigger your dog’s anxiety. Dogs can feel anxious around specific groups of people such as children or men or may have a generalised fear of all strangers. Being aware of what triggers your dogs anxiety will make it easier for you to know when to take action, so keep a careful note of when they get anxious and look for the patterns.
What are the Dog Anxiety Symptoms to Watch Out For?
An anxious dog may react to a visitor by acting shy or scared, for instance staying close to you or standing behind you. They may also cower under furniture or even go into hiding.
At the other end of the scale, an anxious dog can react to visitors with nervous aggression and bark loudly or even try to snap at them or bite them, so be aware of what dog anxiety symptoms your dog is likely to show.
Create an Action Plan to Help Your Anxious Dog
While having visitors around can be hard on your dog, it’s not possible to keep everyone away from your front door and life would be a bit dull if you had to!
If you know you have visitors coming, prepare in advance for it as not having to rush around at the last-minute will keep everything calm and you will avoid triggering your dog’s anxiety before your visitors even arrive.
It may be sensible to put your dog in a separate room for the duration of the visit, so make sure they will be comfortable and have bedding, access to water and perhaps a favourite indestructible chew toy. Using a dog crate may also help give your dog a sense of security.
Be calm and positive with your dog when you put them into the room so that they don’t get the sense they have done something wrong.
If visitors arrive unexpectedly have a room you can pop them in quickly and when you’ve let your visitors in, ask them to give you a few minutes to sort your dog out so they are comfortable.
Dealing With Dog Anxiety during the Visit
It is best to ignore your dog if they start whining or barking because they are in a different room from you, because if you go to them every time they make a noise, it will only encourage them to do it more. They should settle after a while and it is much better to check on them when they are quiet.
It is important that you don’t shout at your dog or get cross with them if they do bark or start whining as this will only increase their anxiety.
If you want to bring your dog in to the same room as your visitors, wait until they are calm and then bring them in on a lead so that you stay in control of the situation.
To make sure it is a positive experience for your dog which encourages them to be more confident, enlist the help of your visitors. Ask them not to look your dog directly in the eye as this will be seen as a challenge. It may also help if your visitors know not to make any sudden movements or loud noises.
Arming your visitors with treats can also be very positive, but don’t expect your dog to take the treats direct from their hand as they may not be bold enough to do that. Instead they could drop the treat close to your dog and let the dog make the first move.
Getting Rid of Anxiety in Dogs
By slowly introducing your dog to visitors and always making it a positive experience your dog should gradually gain more confidence.
It is important that you are very patient and let them progress at their own pace. Watch your dog carefully so that you can remove them from a situation as soon as you see them start to act anxiously and eventually you may be able to get rid of dog anxiety completely.