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Eugene, Oregon 97405

Behavioral Modification for Dogs with Anxiety

When your dog has anxiety, he may resort to destructive behaviors to get your attention. If your dog is chewing, scratching, howling, whining, urinating and defecating where he shouldn’t, shedding, hiding, or acting aggressive, it may be because he is stressed out or anxious. You and your veterinarian can work together to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s anxiety. Your veterinarian may recommend medication, environmental changes, obedience training, or one of these behavioral modification therapies. 


Desensitization uses controlled, repeated exposure to a trigger or stimulus to help your dog get used to it and overcome his anxiety. This technique should only be done in a closed, safe environment–preferably your home. For instance, if your dog is anxious about loud noises, you could start by playing a loud noise in his presence, distracting him with a command like “sit” or “quiet,” and then rewarding him with a treat. By exposing your dog to low levels of the stimulus in a safe and controlled environment, you can give him the confidence he needs to face his fears. 


Counterconditioning using positive reinforcement will encourage positive behavior rather than negative behavior. Distracting your dog helps him find ways to avoid focusing on the stimulus or trigger. When your dog displays fear, anxiety, or destructive behavior, refocus his attention by giving him a toy, treat, or other reward. Eventually, he will associate the trigger with something positive instead of something negative. 

Veterinary & Training Assistance

If you aren’t able to make progress with your dog on your own, you should seek veterinary or training assistance. Visit your veterinarian to find out if there is an underlying medical or biological reason for your dog’s behavior. A veterinarian can determine if supplements or prescription anti-anxiety medications are necessary. You should also consult a dog trainer or enroll your dog in obedience training.

Call your veterinarian today if your dog has anxiety or fear, or is engaging in destructive behavior that you can’t modify or remedy.