Despite the breed’s joyful, energetic, friendly nature, golden retriever anxiety is a relatively common problem.
Everyone feels anxious at times, and dogs aren’t an exception. But sometimes, anxiety becomes a persistent issue.
Dogs are very much like humans. They have the same emotions – our furry friends can feel excitement, arousal, pain, fear, and discomfort.
And like humans, dogs may develop an anxiety disorder because of traumatic experiences, excessive attachment to someone, fear, or lack of socialization.
The owner’s responsibility is to identify the anxiety cause, find a suitable treatment, and undertake preventative measures to ensure the mental well-being of their pet.
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What Is Golden Retriever Anxiety?
First, let’s determine what anxiety in dogs is. Like human anxiety, canine anxiety can be characterized by discomfort, fear, and stress. One may say that anxious dogs feel “uneasy.”
Imagine going to school for the first time, performing on stage, or attending your boss’s office for a talk – perhaps, you’ve felt anxiety at least once in a lifetime. Feeling anxious in a new environment or under pressure is natural.
Dogs, too, can experience anxiety when they are exposed to environmental triggers. But there’s a difference between ordinary anxiety, a moderately strong feeling that comes and goes, and anxiety disorder.
Ordinary anxiety doesn’t appear for no apparent reason and doesn’t interfere in one’s everyday life. In the case of anxiety disorder, this uneasy feeling may be with a dog all the time or most of the time.
Anxiety disorder can prevent a dog from going outdoors, doing the things it enjoys and socializing. An anxious dog may be afraid to leave home, cross the road, or encounter other dogs.
Anxiety in golden retrievers comes in many forms. Panic anxiety occurs from intense fear; social anxiety manifests with discomfort interacting with other animals and people; separation anxiety disorder is characterized by a dog’s inability to stay alone.
Interestingly, obsessive-compulsive disorder is also considered a form of anxiety. Some dogs start doing repetitive actions, such as chewing furniture to calm down when they feel anxious.
Generalized anxiety is when a dog feels anxious most of the time, regardless of the situation. It’s the worst anxiety form because the dog never feels relaxed.
Scientists still research what causes anxiety in dogs and humans. Perhaps, this reaction is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and overactivity in areas responsible for emotions and behavior.
Do Golden Retrievers Often Suffer From Anxiety?
Golden retrievers are one of the dog breeds prone to anxiety. Although golden retrievers are active, friendly, confident, and fearless dogs, some goldens experience extreme discomfort when exposed to environmental triggers.
All dogs can feel anxious at times. Anxiety is natural when visiting a vet, during a car trip, or when introduced to a new pet in the family.
However, some golden retrievers feel anxious most of the time. The most common golden retriever anxiety type is separation anxiety. These dogs are loyal, affectionate, and loving. They quickly bond with owners and suffer when left alone.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is another common golden retriever anxiety form. Golden retrievers are energetic dogs that need much exercise to stay fit.
Without sufficient physical and mental stimulation, a golden retriever may develop an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Sometimes, the obsessive-compulsive disorder results from other anxiety forms and works as a coping mechanism.
Panic anxiety in golden retrievers isn’t as common as separation anxiety because fearlessness is in their blood.
They were bred to hunt and must be confident when exploring new terrains. Still, panic anxiety is possible in some goldens.
Social anxiety is also uncommon because this breed is known for its friendliness and confidence. But golden retrievers that lack socialization as puppies may grow up socially anxious.
Overall, anxiety in golden retrievers is more common than in an average dog but is never normal and should be treated.
Determining how a dog feels can be tricky because it can’t communicate its feelings verbally, so you should know the symptoms of anxiety in golden retrievers. Symptoms may differ slightly depending on the anxiety form.
Common signs of canine anxiety include shaking, pacing, whining, drooling, excessive vocalization, panting for no apparent reason, cowering, yawning or lip licking, excessive grooming, hiding, and laying flat on the ground.
Sometimes, dogs with anxiety disorder have potty accidents despite being previously potty trained.
The body language can tell a lot about a dog’s emotional state. In the case of anxiety, the overall posture is stiff, and the tail is tucked between the legs.
Some anxious dogs may appear lethargic, whereas others may become restless, running around and attempting to escape the space.
Many anxious dogs engage in destructive behavior, chewing on things, digging, barking, and biting. Such coping mechanisms are the canine equivalent of human nail biting or skin picking.
When determining whether a dog is anxious, look at the overall body language and assess the environment. Sometimes, the symptoms may be appropriate for the situation and setting or indicate an entirely different emotion.
For example, if a dog is panting, it may be feeling hot or exhausted. Or, if a dog is barking a lot, it may have seen a squirrel or stranger.
An anxious dog won’t necessarily have all the listed symptoms but should display at least several – for example, panting, yawning, and digging floor.
The causes of anxiety in golden retrievers are numerous. Sometimes, it results from genetics. If a golden retriever’s parents exhibit anxious behavior, it is more likely to also suffer from the disorder.
But genetics are complex, and puppies of an anxious dog won’t necessarily inherit this temperament trait. More often, anxiety occurs due to environmental factors.
Traumatic experiences can have lasting effects on a dog’s behavior. A golden retriever puppy that was once confident and sociable may become anxious overnight.
For example, after a puppy is attacked by another dog, it may develop social anxiety. Or, after a puppy was abused by the breeder, it may be afraid of all people resembling its abuser.
Remember that something doesn’t need to be dangerous to cause trauma to a dog. Sometimes, dogs develop anxiety because they hear a sudden noise or see something unfamiliar yet harmless.
Lack of socialization is another common cause of canine anxiety. Simply put, socialization refers to educating a dog about the world. It should be done in puppyhood to prepare the dog for encounters with environmental triggers.
Responsible breeders put effort into socializing their puppies – they invite guests over, let puppies play with older dogs, and walk with them outdoors.
Puppies that grow sheltered away from people and other animals may be anxious about everything new in adulthood.
People are no different – the older one gets, the more difficult learning and accepting something new becomes. Sometimes, anxiety occurs because of physical pain.
The first step to treating golden retriever anxiety is determining its cause. If a puppy has always been anxious about new environments and people, it likely lacks socialization.
If a puppy or rescue dog is afraid of a specific category of people, objects, or situations, it may have been abused in the past.
But if a dog has become anxious suddenly, think about whether it has been recently exposed to something potentially traumatic.
Either way, the first step in dealing with golden retriever anxiety is comforting the dog. Provide it with a quiet, cozy resting place away from people and other animals.
Stay calm and talk to your dog in a comforting voice. You may try to pet your dog, but don’t force it if your dog appears uncomfortable. Calming products like pills and plug-in pheromones can also help calm an anxious dog.
For long-term treatment, consult a vet. They will evaluate the anxiety causes and your dog’s peculiarities to create an effective treatment plan. Typically, dogs need behavioral therapy and medications to overcome fears.
Punishment is the most common mistake in dealing with canine anxiety. Your dog doesn’t destroy your home out of spite, but because it doesn’t feel well, so be understanding to avoid worsening the situation.
Unless a dog has generalized anxiety, preventing anxiety attacks is easier than comforting a dog amidst one. To prevent anxiety attacks while your dog is undergoing behavioral therapy, reduce exposure to anxiety triggers.
For example, if your dog is afraid of other dogs, don’t walk in public parks but choose wild meadows or your backyard. Or, if your dog becomes anxious on car trips, don’t drive it anywhere unless necessary.
Some owners use an outdated training technique known as flooding, which involves exposing a dog to anxiety triggers for long periods, hoping it will eventually get used to the stimulus. This technique doesn’t work and may only worsen the situation.
If your dog is anxious because of under-stimulation, ensure that its exercise needs are met. For a dog suffering from separation anxiety, provide as much environmental enrichment as possible to entertain it while you’re away.