Valkyrie is a one year old female Doberman. Her owner called me to ask for help with the aggressiveness of her dog and the lack of response to her commands and corrections.
If your Doberman experiences anxiety, life can be miserable for both you and her pup. I myself spent 2 years battling extreme separation anxiety with my dog, and we successfully came out on the other side. In this article I will share some of the resources and strategies that worked for us.
There are many forms of anxiety that your Doberman may be suffering from. Typical causes of anxiety in Dobermans can be:
Do Dobermans calm down after neutering?
It is commonly thought that neutering your male Doberman will calm them down. There is much debate as to whether or not neutering a dog has much or no effect on behavior.
What spaying your Doberman will do is not just prevent her from reproducing. It will prevent them from producing testosterone. A neutered Doberman may show some subtle behavioral changes, but it won’t necessarily put them at ease.
Tips for canine anxiety
- Exercise your dog. A mentally stimulating walk, a good run, tug of war, a game of flirtation, or a wrestle with a dog friend is sure to drain excess energy. If you can’t walk your dog, try other ways to exercise him.
- Feed nutritious food. There is a belief that a healthy diet will improve a dog’s mood. Imagine children who have eaten a lot of junk food, sugar or soda, and then run around like little maniacs.
- Try behavior modification with candy. For noise phobias, try tossing your dog a favorite treat after every thunder and lightning strike. Food helps dogs focus and can work as a distraction to whatever is scaring them. Hopefully, your dog will learn to associate a scary noise with something positive. Keep in mind that some dogs are more motivated by food than others.
- Try to mask any sights or sounds that bother your dog. For example, close the curtains so he can’t see the lightning, or turn on the TV or music so he can’t hear the wind outside. Or close the blinds so he can’t see that stranger walking outside.
- Some dogs feel safer in their crate, while others crate makes them more nervous. Let your dog go to the place he likes. One of my Dobermans likes to bathe during thunderstorms (one theory is because that room has less static electricity).
- Try calming devices. These tools need more research, but some believe they work to help dogs be less nervous.
Anti-anxiety tools include calming pheromones for dogs, body wraps (like Thundershirt), calming caps, Storm Defender (a metallic-lined shirt), and Mutt Muffs. The appeasing pheromone for dogs is available as a collar or room spray. It works by emitting a synthetic version of pheromones naturally released during lactation. I tried this product because it was recommended by my vet for noise/thunder anxiety, but I did not notice any visible difference with my two Dobermans.
- Be calm yourself. If you look or feel tense and anxious, your dog will be too. Keep your body position relaxed, don’t look upset, scared, or agitated, and speak calmly. Your dog will pick up on these subtle cues. They look to you for guidance in stressful situations. Make your dog feel that he can trust you to protect him from scary things. (Note that standing or staring is considered threatening body language for dogs.)
- Get anti-anxiety medication from your vet. If your dog is very afraid, he needs relief. Medications can also help with desensitization training.
- Use a Kong Wobbler to distract your mind and help calm your dog down. Here’s a handy Kong filler guide.
- Music can help calm your Doberman. I suspected that classical music had a calming effect on dogs and have since learned that piano music is only one option for influencing a dog’s mood. A research study conducted by Dr. Deborah Wells, an animal behavior specialist, studied the effect of different styles of music on shelter dogs. While heavy metal music made the dogs bark and walk more, psychoacoustic classical music showed fewer stress behaviors in the dogs. (Pop music and conversation seemed to have no noticeable difference either way.) The relaxing solo piano seems to have a heart rate lowering effect due to the slow rhythms and simpler arrangements. For dogs with separation or noise anxiety, try playing this style of music 20 minutes before you leave the house. If you are expecting visitors and your dog is fussy, try calming him down with music to help him train obedience when the person arrives. If you plan to board your dog, maybe ask the kennel if they can play their soothing music for your dog.
I recommend the solo piano as an option to relieve stress for your dog. At home, I often play solo piano music from an Internet station, or you can buy music made especially for dogs like the Through a Dog’s Ear: Music to Calm Your Canine Companion CD. With my two Dobermans they seem to calm down and sometimes even go to sleep to the music. On another note, it’s also great for calming down humans!
Identifying Separation Anxiety
The symptoms of separation anxiety can actually start before you leave the house, when your Doberman realizes that you are getting ready to leave .
Behaviors that are indicative of separation anxiety include: