Dogs are, by nature very social and curious animals. They love to meet new people, pets and they are always following their nose to the next interesting thing! However, on occasion you may reach out to pet a dog that instantly backs away or simply refuses to greet you in any way. Maybe your own dog refuses to mingle with your friends when they come over for a visit. Your dog may not be anti social, but he may instead be experiencing anxiety in social situations, just as some people may experience! You can help your pet through social anxiety, though, through a variety of ways!
The act of counter conditioning is reversing a previous conditioning that a dog has already had. In other words, your dog’s social anxiety just may stem from previously been in uncomfortable or scary situations that involved other people or dogs. He may had been teases extensively or some other bad thing happened that conditioned him to associate socializing with negative feelings such as fear. This will make him automatically avoid a social situation, bringing up all that anxiety.
Counter conditioning takes time, patience, empathy and a great effort. You are trying to make him feel positive emotions while being exposed to his triggers. This means he should be rewarded each time he notices his triggers, such as another person in your home. Each time he looks at them, sniffs towards them or in any way acts curious and interested he should be rewarded with something highly desirable that will be looked at as a positive consequence. This can be real meat or cheese, a favorite toy or even petting depending on what it is that your dog loves the most.
Your veterinarian can provide medications for the most anxious dog. These medications will calm him down and help him relax during social interactions such as when visitors come to your home. These medications are mostly safe, and are not meant as a way to bring out the social butterfly hiding in your pooch but that can be a short term solution for this on going problem.
For best results, your dog should be allowed to stay out of the way of any people or dogs who visit. This means he should have access to his bed or crate while medicated as he will most likely want to sleep off the drowsiness that the medicine makes him feel. Do not force your dog to endure petting from people that may scare him during this time, as it will only increase his anxiety and make his behavior even worse!
In conjunction with training, using certain natural products to reduce anxiety to help your pet become a more calm and relaxed best friend can be of great help. These are not medications nor are they supplements that your dog must eat, but instead are scientifically proven ways of reducing canine anxiety!
One is the anxiety wrap. There are various brands that sell these little doggy jackets or shirts and they come in all sizes. These wraps literally wrap around your dog. This is a form of deep pressure therapy and it hits certain pressure points, releasing calming hormones in your dog’s brain naturally. This will help him relax and enjoy company!