Just like humans, dogs can experience anxiety in everyday situations. For some pups, however, they can develop anxiety disorder which can have an impact on their health and behaviour, and it can be challenging for pet parents.
We are dedicating this month’s blog to support anxious dogs and their owners. With the first national Dogs In Yellow day taking place next week (20th March), we’ve been speaking to its creator and owner of yellow space awareness products My Anxious Dog, Sarah Jones. Sarah created the products after realising her cocker spaniel Bella was suffering from anxiety as a puppy.
“If a dog is wearing yellow they need space” - Sarah’s story
“Bella was always very shy and didn’t want to play with other dogs. She had a bad experience where another dog attacked her during a flyball session and left her terrified. When people wanted to stroke her she would flinch and react as she had developed a behaviour issue from the pain from the attack. I knew I had to try to do something so that people and dogs would give her that all important space.
“I did some research and learnt about the “Yellow Dog Project” which was to tie a yellow ribbon on your lead to show that your dog is anxious. I knew I had to do more. So I started with a community campaign, telling people about anxiety in dogs and that if a dog was in yellow they needed space. Either fear from other dogs or people, and sometimes because they are recovering from illness or just elderly. Quite startlingly, more than 70% of dogs suffer from anxiety or fear according to a study by University Helsinki.
“I designed yellow accessories for Bella with Anxious and Keep Away on. It was because I had to spell it out as an approach from a “friendly” off-lead dog that can undo weeks and months of desensitisation training, which feels very frustrating.
“Most of us with reactive dogs do work very hard to train and rehabilitate our dogs, however this is made much easier for other dog owners to give us the space we need and put their dog on a lead just for a few moments when they see a dog in yellow. We use yellow because it is the official warning colour for caution. It is the most luminous of all the colours of the spectrum and the human eye processes yellow first so it can be easily seen in the distance.
“I set up national #DogsinYellow day to help other owners of anxious dogs and let them know they don’t have to be alone, or feel the only option is to walk their dogs in the middle of the night.
Rosewood Pet has also spoke to Isabel Panter, who is a devoted dog mum to cockapoo Maggie, who she has had since she was a puppy.
“We are unsure how Maggie was treated during her first weeks” - Isabel Panter
“We found Maggie through Pets4Homes and were already familiar with the breed. We were drawn to her colour and that she was a small litter. When we met her for the first time she was with the litter and the mum, who was a little bit nervous at the start but soon warmed up to us and was very friendly. When we returned for a second visit a few weeks later there was just Maggie left, and this was the case when we brought her home following our third visit.
“When we took her home, we noticed Maggie had a broken tail – nothing that caused her pain or has ever caused her pain, but it had a very noticeable kink in it. A few weeks later we were talking to a friend that had recently got a miniature poodle and described the exact same house the same lady and our experience of coming to find Maggie was the same. We became very worried that Maggie had been bred in a puppy farm set up. We managed to contact the vets on her card and were reassured to find that Maggie had received all of her vaccinations. I reported the lady I’d bought Maggie from and the stud dogs. Unfortunately we are not entirely sure, even now how Maggie was treated during her first few weeks.
“Maggie does have a number of behavioural issues which we noticed from an early age, and helped recognise her as an anxious dog. She is anxious around strangers; she is clearly fearful but she will often back away and barks or chases the backs of their legs. Walking her can be challenging as she is reactive around other dogs, and being on a lead can make her act worse as she feels unable to pull herself away.
“Maggie struggles to gain weight despite eating more than her recommended feeding guide. Since the day we brought her home, Maggie wants to eat her own poop - it’s likely this was learnt behaviour as a puppy but we’ve come to understand this can be a signal of anxiety and stress.
“Maggie’s anxiety is something we try and manage on a daily basis - we’ve tried natural remedies such as Vet’s Best Comfort Calm, calming collars, pet corrector and bark collars, aroma dog toys. She has also had a full health health check and bloods taken at the vet’s to rule out anything medical and a behavioural assessment.
“I think it’s great that awareness is being raised to support anxious dogs and the space they need to feel less scared of the world. I will be joining a yellow army of proud pet owners to celebrate all the wonderful dogs like Maggie on Dogs in Yellow Day.
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