Dogs have anxiety attacks, too. This doesn't make them a bad dog.
Teeny Tiny Turner. His given name is Turner. But if you are a dog person, you know your dog has more than one name for more than one reason. Teeny. Tiny. T-man. TT. For a dog of eleven pounds, he had one hundred pounds of name. He also had anxiety. He was a puppy mill puppy. A mill up in North Carolina. Back in a wooded twenty acres, cages on stilts held pairs of little dogs who's only job was to make more little dogs. Turner ended up in a pop-up pet store in a half-filled strip mall two miles from our apartment in Clearwater, Florida.
Turner's DNA, his birth, and his too short few weeks with mother created a host of baggage in his little head. Our daughter saw only the cutest teacup on the planet. And she had her first professional paycheck. Turner showed up the day she picked him up at that pop up.
There's little difference between why humans suffer from anxiety and why dogs suffer from anxiety. Dogs carry stress forward to bundle it with fear and loathing, just like humans. Yes, dogs possess trigger points to anxiety and depression. This doesn't make them a bad dog. And it doesn't make you a bad dog parent.
Dogs can have panic attacks. And like a human inside the event, your dog is no longer thinking clearly, if at all. Flight or fight kicks in against their will. Just as in humans.
- Dogs that wet the floor, hide, make themselves small as possible, cringe, shake, drool, and cower are in the throes of that emotional mudslide.
- Dogs that lash out, fight, bark, scream, yelp, and attack blindly can also be inside that emotional mudslide. Their instinct chose fight rather than flight.
This doesn't make them a disobedient dog. This makes them a mentally vulnerable animal.
Other signs your dog is struggling with anxiety.
- Bouts of running away
- Freezing in place
- Quivering and shaking
- Pained whimpering
- Urinating or dribbling on the floor
- Pupil dilation,
- are but a few, and your dog will present his own versions of same.
Turner was a great little dog. A broken little teacup Yorkshire Terrier. He loved his humans. He loved his roommate, Bruiser. He loved little bones and naps under the bed. Before we found what he loved, we learned quickly what triggered and terrified him. We teased this information out as a good therapist would. Gentle introductions to allow reactions and conversations. Turner was a mentally vulnerable, wonderful dog. He needed skills to learn how to cope with all that baggage in his head. Just like a human would.
Anxiety, fear, loathing, depression, sadness, loss of hope. When we know a person dealing with these emotions, we don't replace the person; we help them. When they have a bad day and lash out, we empathize and give them space. When a friend needs comforting and a safe place to vent, we sit quietly and let them. When we struggle ourselves, we shut down and take a hot minute to try to recenter. Mentally vulnerable dogs need the same level of focus. They aren't bad dogs; they are good dogs who need help to understand.
Dogs ground themselves naturally. Which is why a dog can be a best friend. But some dogs can become lost. Which is why a dog needs a best friend, too.
Our daughter gifted Turner on Mother's Day. She realized within a few months of bringing Turner home that a dog wasn't a fashion accessory. Turner and I, we were already best friends. But after Mother's Day, he no longer disappeared to travel in a purse. He became my sidekick. Which is why he has so many names.
Each name was an emotional support grounding.
- Teeny meant it was time to eat.
- Tiny meant it was time to feel safe for a nap.
- T-man meant he was the center of attention.
- Turner LaFollett meant stop chewing on my pillow, chew on this toy.
- TT meant let's run around the apartment for fun!
- Turner meant the day was going along perfectly.
He realized there was no such thing as a bad day anymore. We spoke the same language of love. Love is a language, it's empathy in action. Anxiety is not a language. It's fear in action.
We should give our dog best friends the focus and understanding we give our human best friends when it comes to anxiety. With a little help if necessary. I recommend the ThunderShirt or Platinum ThunderShirt (if you've got a hunting dog). And Solid Gold offers an impressive chill pill treat that tastes like bacon.