E128: Anxiety in Dogs

Drs. Jennifer Summerfield and Jessica Hekman both join me to talk about anxiety in dogs -- we talk about the cause, effect, and treatment of anxiety in dogs!

 Transcription

Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods.

For this episode, I've got Drs. Jessica Hekman and Jennifer Summerfield on the podcast to talk about anxiety — digging into where it comes from and what we can do about it.

Welcome to the podcast, ladies! You've both been on before, but to start us out, can you each just state your name, so folks can get a sense of whose voice is whose, and tell us a little bit about you? Jen, do you want to start?

Jennifer Summerfield: Sure. I'm Jennifer Summerfield. I am a veterinarian and professional dog trainer based in Huntington, West Virginia, and excited to talk about all things anxiety on the podcast today, because that's an interesting topic and probably a pretty large percentage of the behavior cases I see fall under that category.

As far as my own dogs, I have three Shelties at home that do lots of different things. I would say that our main dog sport at the moment is agility, but they have done in the past or currently dabble in obedience and rally and herding and conformation and all kinds of random things.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Jessica?

Jessica Hekman: I am also a veterinarian, but I am a veterinary researcher, and my particular area of interest is in the genetics of anxiety and the mechanisms of what goes on in the brain that's different with a dog that's anxious versus a dog that's not anxious. I study other related stuff as well, but that's sort of what gets me out of bed in the morning.

I'm just going to say I'm based in Massachusetts, in New England, because I'm currently in Massachusetts, but I'm hopefully going to be in New Hampshire by the time this airs. This will actually air while I'm closing on my new house, so that will be cool.

I have two dogs. My sport dog is Dash, who is an English Shepherd. We are doing nosework right now, and we are in physical therapy trying to overcome orthopedic issues to see if we can get cleared to go back to agility. But if we don't, then there's plenty of other stuff that we are interested in.

My older dog is Jenny, who is an anxious dog and provides me lots of material to talk about on a podcast like this one. We are not training for any particular sports, but she very much enjoys learning whatever Dash is learning at the time, sometimes modified for her particular interests, so she has a smidgeon of this and that under her belt.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. I want to start by talking about WHAT anxiety actually is and what it looks like. What symptoms are we talking about? Jen, do you want to start us off again?

Jennifer Summerfield: Sure. I think that's definitely a good question to start with. It's not as straightforward as people might assume. Anxiety is actually a little bit of a slippery concept, so I'm interested to hear, when it's Jessica's turn, if she has any differences in her definition or if she wants to expand on this at all. But a good working definition, I would say, is probably something like apprehension or uneasiness about some kind of anticipated threat.

It's different from fear, although sometimes we tend to use those words a little bit interchangeably, and so the terminology can get a little confusing there. But a fear response, usually when we're talking about that, we're talking about something that's happening in the moment in response to something that's actually happening, and then once the threat is gone, it's over. That's not really the case so much with anxiety.

In humans, when mental health professionals talk about anxiety, a big point of emphasis is that it involves worrying excessively about things that might happen or anticipating bad things that the person believes are going to happen.

Obviously, this gets a little bit tricky when we try to apply this stuff to dogs, because when we talk about dogs, we can't really know what they're thinking internally. But I would argue that if you've ever lived with an anxious dog, or if you work with anxious dogs, it sure looks like they're worrying about things or that they're uncomfortable because they're anticipating that something scary is about to happen.

As far as what that actually looks like, we know that anxious dogs have a lot of physiological changes like increased heart rate and respiratory rate, dilated pupils, all that other stuff that comes along with adrenalin and increased levels of stress hormones. Behaviorally this might look like trembling or pacing, circling, hyper-vigilance, hiding or trying to escape the area, or sometimes whining or other types of vocalization.

The last thing that's probably important to note definition-wise is that anxiety can be situational, meaning that the dog is maybe only anxious at the vet's office or only anxious during thunderstorms or when they're left alone. Or it can be generalized, meaning that there certainly are dogs that are pretty anxious all the time about life, without any noticeable stimulus or reason. We normally consider it an anxiety disorder, meaning an actual pathological problem that we probably should treat in some way, if it's severe enough that it's impacting the dog's quality of life or if it's interfering with their ability to function normally in their typical daily environment.

Melissa Breau: Jessica, is there anything you would add to that? Do you have a slightly different definition? How would you define what anxiety is?

Jessica Hekman: I think Jennifer did a fantastic job. She said a lot of what I would have said. I have just a couple things to add. One is that I feel like one really nice way of thinking about the difference between normal fear and anxiety would be this idea that if you're in the same room as a lion, you'd be afraid that it might eat you, and that would be totally normal. But if you had no reason to think that there was a lion around the corner, and yet you sat there obsessing about, "Is it there?" and "Maybe it's going to be there, I just don't know," that would be anxiety.

It's not that being afraid of things is always bad. It's totally normal to be afraid of some things, and in fact we might say that some dogs who aren't afraid of anything have no sense of self-preservation, and that goes a little bit off in the other direction. But it's just that this idea of getting yourself all worked up over it when it's not likely to actually happen.

My dog Jenny, who is very shy, she's afraid of strangers. It would be normal for her to be afraid of someone who is actually threatening her, but she's afraid of people who are not even threatening her. So that would be where I draw that line of what's normal and what's not normal.

I came across this very cool term in the human literature recently, so exactly what Jennifer was talking about, that they sit and obsess and think about it — I definitely see this in my shy dog. She's like, "I think Dad is going to come home." She doesn't like when he comes home through the door, and she'll spend an hour before he comes home worrying that it's going to happen and working herself up.

In the human literature they call this "rumination," which I love, this idea of sitting and thinking about something that makes you feel bad, and just turning it over and over and over in your mind. That's a new term for me, but I feel like it applies to anxious dogs really nicely.

Melissa Breau: I like that. I like that phrase. I think it …

Jessica Hekman: Yeah, totally.

Melissa Breau: It does really fit. What do we know about what actually causes anxiety? Jessica, I know you can get into some of the genetics on this, so do you want to talk about that?

Jessica Hekman: It's definitely a combination of genetics and then experience, environment, whatever you want to call it. The way I like to think of it is that genetics gives you some measure of risk for developing anxiety, so that a dog is born with low risk of developing it or high risk of developing it. Pretty much any dog could end up having such traumatic experiences early on that they ended up being an anxious dog. It would be pretty hard to breed a dog who is so resilient that they would stand up to just anything, any sort of horrible early environment.

On the other hand, there could be dogs who are born with a much higher risk of developing anxiety, but if they had a really, really ideal early environment, they might turn out to be fine.

So it's all about risk interacting with how their environment rolls out. And when we talk about environment as well, people tend to think about it as did I mess up while I was socializing the dog, or was there a thing that happened that was traumatic. Sometimes that's the case, and it's nice when there's an easy thing that you can point your finger at, but there's a lot more detailed stuff that goes on in the environment that we don't even perceive, starting when the dog is still in the uterus. That's part of their environment, and how the mom's stress is being passed on to the puppy, the fetus, while it's still in the uterus can certainly affect how the animal grows up to be as an adult. Very early on in the nest, what the interactions with the other siblings are, what the interactions are with people at the breeder's, then there's how the dog is socialized, and just all kinds of things even there that you might yourself not be able to perceive something that the dog perceives. When we talk about the environment, it's such a richer, more complex, interesting thing than we tend to think about.

Melissa Breau: And it certainly seems to span a longer timespan than most people tend to think about, if you're talking about in utero as the start.

Jessica Hekman: Exactly. When we're talking about the genetics of it, we don't actually know really specific genes that promote either risk or resilience, but we do know a lot about how those various systems that the genes themselves affect work. So we know a lot about how the brain works, and how the brain works differently in an anxious animal, and we know a lot about how the endocrine system works, the hormone levels, and we know a lot about how those are different in anxious animals. There's still a lot to learn, but there's a lot that we understand there too.

Melissa Breau: Would you be up for getting into that just a little bit? Like what do you mean by differences? You kind of just stuck it out there.

Jessica Hekman: Differences in how the brain works, for example. There's one particular region of the brain that called the hippocampus, and we know that it's really important in learning and memory and in things like, "Do I feel safe in this particular situation and not safe in this other situation?" or the situation might be, "I'm safe at home. I'm not safe when I'm going for a walk," or "I'm not safe at the training facility," or "I'm not safe out in the open," or differences like that.

We know that the hippocampus has a lot to do with where the dog perceives attaching the anxiety to. We know that in humans, particularly, and rodents — and I'm not sure this has been done in dogs, but it may have — that you'll actually see that the hippocampus is a different size in people who have particular behavioral disorders. Somebody who is depressed or anxious a lot will tend to have a smaller hippocampus, and someone who is very resilient would tend to have a larger hippocampus.

Another brain region, the amygdala, is the one that's associated with our emotional response to events, and that would tend to be larger in someone who has anger problems or anxiety problems. It tends to attach negative emotions to events. So we know there that there's differences in those different brain regions.

And then hormones — I think most people have heard about cortisol, which we refer to as the stress hormone, and that's just the end of a very long series of what we call a cascade of hormones: this one triggers that one triggers that one. How all that interacts together also is very different in animals who are very anxious compared to animals who are resilient and calm.

Melissa Breau: Interesting. So really on a biological level looking at it. Jen, do you have anything you want to talk to about what we know about what causes anxiety?

Jennifer Summerfield: Super-interesting. I think Jessica definitely did a pretty comprehensive job of summing that up, which makes sense. I know that's what you do, right? You're the big expert on those things.

I know with my clients, when we talk about these things, because people that I see clinically for behavioral problems, anxiety problems with their dogs, do tend to want to know why does this happen. Usually the 30-second summary that I try to give people is there are lots of different things that can contribute to why a particular dog might develop an anxiety disorder.

Probably the big four factors would be genetics, perinatal stress or other issues around that, like things that happen in utero or during that neonatal period, lack of appropriate socialization during that really narrow window of time in puppies when they're primed to be learning about what's safe in the world, and then negative experiences. Probably the big four things.

Again, as Jessica was saying that there is a lot of research, I know in humans, but it sounds like also in some other species as well — Jessica would know this part better than I do — that there is a lot of evidence that she was saying that it's really multi-factorial.

It's not like, "Which of these things did it?" It's kind of all of the above in a lot of cases, and in the way they interact, that genetics can increase the risk or susceptibility of an individual to develop anxiety issues, but then the environment and that individual's experiences are going to act on that genetic blueprint, and that's what ultimately influences whether or not a problem develops. So pretty complex thing but pretty fascinating. I think that's a fascinating area of research.

Melissa Breau: To pull that apart a little bit more, some of those factors are obviously things that happen right away, like genetics. It's there from the get-go. Is anxiety something that we'll see start to develop even in a really young puppy? Or is it something we're more likely to see come out as the dog gets a little bit older? What's typical? How does it usually present, and Jen, if you want to start.

Jennifer Summerfield: I would say could be either-or, depending on the specific situation. We can absolutely see puppies who have obvious anxiety issues from a pretty young age. Sometimes puppies who come into our vet clinic, and it's an 8-week-old puppy, and instead of coming up to me and happily eating string cheese out of my hand and then checking out the room, it's hiding under the owner's chair and it growls when you try to touch it. That's not normal for an 8-week-old puppy.

We know that if we see that in a really young dog, that's a pretty strong indication that this dog is going to be at a high risk to have some pretty significant anxiety issues as it grows and develops. But we also see other dogs who can develop issues later in life as a result of having some bad experiences or sometimes medical issues or other factors.

So, in general, I would say that the majority of dogs that have serious anxiety issues are showing pretty clear signs of a problem by the time they hit social maturity, so around 1-and-a-half to 2 years old. Pretty rare, in my experience, to see problems pop up completely out of the blue after that, although we can certainly see some dogs that have mild problems when they're younger that can get worse with age.

Melissa Breau: Jessica, do you have anything you want to add to that, or maybe a little bit from Jenny's history you want to share?

Jessica Hekman: Jennifer covered it great there. Definitely these behavioral problems often appear as dogs are reaching maturity and as they're changing the way they interact with the world and starting to see themselves as adults and to take more responsibility for how they interact with the world. But absolutely it can show up in very young puppies.

Jenny's case — I got her when she was 13 months old. She had been born on a farm as an "oops" litter, or I like to say, "Well, the dogs just do that sometimes" litter, because I don't think they had taken any real steps to prevent it. She had been born on this farm and lived on the farm and never left it until she was taken to the shelter at age 10 months, and the owners didn't realize that she was an anxious dog until they brought her in. That suggests to me that it was very much a failure of socialization, that she would have done much better if she had ever gotten off that property during her socialization period.

But for sure then as well there's going to be some amount of genetic risk. She was severely anxious when I got her. It took me several weeks to be able to touch her without her peeing, and I tried to touch her as little as possible, obviously. So she was a real mess when I got her, and I think a lot of dogs would have managed the situation that they found themselves in better, so there probably was some amount of elevated risk genetically, and then she was dealt a very poor hand environmentally as well.

But it's been interesting to see that with medication and management and behavioral modification over the nine years that I've had her, she has continued gradually to improve. I kept assuming she would plateau at some point, but she has kept gradually improving. She's better today than she was a year ago, and she's massively better than she was nine years ago. So that's been hopeful for me to know that the dogs aren't stuck just because you get them as adults.

Melissa Breau: And that's quite a story of hope for folks out there if somebody else is dealing with it and they want to dedicate time and effort to working on it. There's a chance.

Jessica Hekman: Yes, there is.

Melissa Breau: Things will get better.

Jessica Hekman: She was a massive amount of work when I first got her, which of course was while I was in my clinical year of vet school. So my husband, who she was scared of, had to manage her a fair amount when I couldn't be at home. There would be times he'd call me up, and I'd be on clinics and couldn't leave. He'd say, "I let her out to pee, and now she won't come back in because we had a stranger in the house earlier today and she's afraid that they're still there. They're not still there." So there's a perfect case of rumination.

So "She won't come back in," and this was January in New England, and "I can't just leave the door open for her and I don't want to just leave her outside, but I have to leave now because I have a job interview, so what am I supposed to do?" I don't remember what we did in that particular one, but I was like, "I'm on ER; I can't come home and get her." So there were definitely cases of him leaving the door open in January in New England and walking out deep into the back yard to get behind her and then she would go into the house, and stuff like that.

She was a lot of work at first, but she's massively better now.

Melissa Breau: If we have a dog like Jenny, or somebody else's dog, is it possible to pull apart the cause of anxiety for that particular dog? I know you talked a little bit about you think that in her case it was probably a little bit of the lack of socialization at least. Can we pull it apart? Is it even worth pulling it apart? Jessica?

Jessica Hekman: Asking whether it's worth pulling it apart is a really good question because in most cases I don't think it is worth pulling it apart. This is the dog you have in front of you, and you just try to deal with it now. Obviously, if there's a current environmental issue, then it's very important to figure that out so you can change it.

But if we're talking about stuff that's going on in the past, you hear a lot of people saying things like, "Oh well, it's genetic, so it can't be fixed." I think that's very much not true. There certainly can be a genetic risk for it developing, but that doesn't mean it can't be fixed as well.

When I say that, sometimes there are dogs that we work with really hard, and it comes to be clear after some amount of time that we're not going to be able to make that dog able to fit into this environment, and the dog does have to be either rehomed or euthanized, and that's really hard.

I'm not saying those people are wrong to make that decision. What I am saying is deciding that the anxiety is genetic and therefore it's not even worth trying I think is a mistake. I think that genes will point the dog in a particular direction maybe. But that doesn't mean we can't turn the dog around and point it in another direction.

Again, I think Jenny's anxiety probably was in large part her genetics added to a total lack of socialization attempts, from what I can tell. But I'm sure genetics contributed to that. But that didn't mean that she couldn't improve. It just meant that it was work to get her from where she was.

Melissa Breau: Jen, anything you want to add to that?

Jennifer Summerfield: I would tend to agree with just about everything there. Jessica put it really well. It's interesting to talk about why a particular dog might be the way that they are. I think it's natural for us as humans to wonder about that. Clients often are interested in talking about that, and I don't think it's necessarily harmful to at least talk a little bit about what do we know or are there any educated guesses we could make.

But I would totally agree with Jessica that at the end of the day it doesn't matter all that much, and that we should not confuse thinking we have an explanation with locking us into anything as far as our expectations for the dog.

There are definitely times with client dogs when we can make a pretty good educated guess about why they might be the way that they are, and then other times it's a mystery. It is harder for us because we can't do talk therapy with dogs the way that a psychologist or a therapist could do with a human patient. They can't tell us about their past. They can't tell us if they have bad dreams about things, what they worry about. So it's a little bit harder.

But sometimes there are some pretty definite clues. Sometimes the owner is aware of a specific incident that seemed to be the starting point of the problem, or we might know that a particular anxious dog, like Jenny, didn't get much socialization as a puppy, so we could plausibly infer that that's probably a contributing factor there. Or we might know that this puppy's parents or littermates also have anxiety issues, so that it's likely the problem has some genetic component to it.

But there are an awful lot of cases, especially in dogs that maybe the current owner has gotten as an adult and doesn't know much about their history, and the dog just is the way it is, that we don't know. Which is also fine, because the good news is, I always tell my clients it really doesn't impact our treatment plan. We're going to treat the situation the same way, regardless of what we think the underlying causes might have been.

So at the end of the day it doesn't matter all that much. But I do agree that in cases where we're able to figure it out, it can definitely be interesting.

Melissa Breau: I was actually thinking that as you were talking. I was wondering if, or how much, understanding the cause or where something comes from might impact the plan you create going forward. So let's get into that. Let's say we have a dog, they're showing signs of anxiety, what are those next steps? Jes, maybe you want to start on this one, and then we'll have Jen talk about it.

Jessica Hekman: From my perspective as a researcher, I tend to immediately defer to the people who are actually in practice about exactly what to do about it.

What I talked about with Jenny was medication — which with a dog who's having real issues dealing with their world, medication is definitely something to consider, management in the sense of keeping them away from whatever is making them anxious as much as possible, and then behavioral modification — teaching them to be less anxious about that thing.

The exact way to go about doing that — I would suggest to someone that they find someone very competent to help them and not try to go it alone. I would point them either to a behavior consultant — IAABC is a great place — International … Applied …

Jennifer Summerfield: Animal Behavior Consultants, I think. Acronyms are hard!

Editor's note: IAABC stands for International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

Jessica Hekman: IAABC.org can help you find a behavior consultant. They will not be able to prescribe meds for your dog, but they can … hopefully most of them would be great at working up a really good behavior modification plan and help you figure out how to manage the dog, stuff like that.

Veterinary behaviorists obviously are also a great option, often working hand-in-hand with the behavioral consultant. A veterinary behaviorist would be someone who would be able to provide medication for your dog. In general, I would warn against going to someone who doesn't specialize in behavior, so either someone who is a Boarded behaviorist, or someone like Jennifer, who really cares about it and has done a lot of thinking about it, and a lot of self-education about it, would also be a fabulous option. But your regular primary care veterinarian tends not to be the best option. They tend to only know Prozac as a medication and not recognize that there are others that are more appropriate for certain diagnoses, and they tend not to have the training chops that are really required for something like this.

Jennifer Summerfield: That's a good summary in general of how we approach treatment for these guys. There is a lot that we can do to help them, which is good. I know in my webinar that's coming up, I am going to be talking a fair amount about treatment, but I can definitely give an overview of the main points here, just to give you guys a general idea of what that tends to look like.

With pretty much all behavior problems — I'm a veterinarian, so when I see behavior cases, I'm looking at it through that lens — we basically take a three-pronged approach, as Jessica was saying. We look at management, we look at behavior modification, and then we look at meds, if we think they're going to be useful for a particular case.

When we apply that scheme to anxiety disorders, management usually means avoiding situations that trigger the anxiety as much as possible, except when we're actively working on the problem.

If that's not possible, because sometimes it's not — like if you have a dog that's anxious about thunderstorms, sometimes it storms, so you have to do what you can — then we want to do whatever we can to make things easier and less stressful for the dog in that moment.

So, again, if we're talking about the example of a dog that gets anxious during thunderstorms, management might mean using a white-noise machine, or music, or noise from the TV to help mask the sound of thunder, and keeping your curtains closed to block out the flashes of lightning. And it could also mean something like providing a safe haven for the dog to hide in, if that makes him feel better, like a closet, or the bathtub, or a spot under the bed in your bedroom. Whatever you can do to either avoid the problem or make the dog as comfortable as possible if there are times when you can't avoid it.

With behavior modification, that is the part of the plan that a lot of people tend to think of as training, even though it's really not about training, per se, in the sense of teaching some kind of specific skill or behavior. Our goal is usually to try and change how the dog feels about the trigger.

The details of how we do that — obviously that can get complicated and could take up a whole podcast. But basically what we normally do is we try to set up some type of controlled exposure to whatever the dog is anxious about and pair that situation with stuff that the dog likes. A lot of times that might mean really tasty food treats, but it could also be play or petting or anything else that the dog really enjoys.

The goal, if you're doing everything correctly over time, is that the dog is going to learn to associate the trigger with good stuff and doesn't feel anxious about it anymore.

And then finally, Jessica is absolutely right: medication can be a game changer for a lot of these guys. We have a few different types to choose from. We have daily meds, we have situational meds, and different ones are going to be often a better choice for certain specific diagnoses. So it is good to know what options are available and be able to tailor that to the individual patient that you have. That is something that we're going to be talking a little bit about in the webinar, so definitely tune in if you're interested in that aspect.

Melissa Breau: Speaking of the webinar, that was the impetus for us chatting was the fact that you guys are going to do back-to-back webinars on anxiety on August 29. So I wanted to have you each just briefly share a little bit about what you'll be covering and who might want to tune in, if folks are debating if they should join us. Jen, since you already talked about it, do you want to start us off?

Jennifer Summerfield: Sure. In my webinar we're mostly going to be looking at the clinical side of things, so what does anxiety look like, how do we define it in our patients, and how can we help dogs who have anxiety disorders. I would say that certainly if you have a dog currently who has any anxiety issues, there should be some good practical information in there for you. It could also be helpful for trainers or behavior consultants who treat anxiety disorders, and even for regular dog owners who have nice, normal dogs at the moment, because you never know about the next dog. I will be talking a little bit about what you can do to help prevent your dog from having these issues in the first place, so that part should be relevant to just about everybody.

Melissa Breau: Is it something where maybe it's something good for dog trainers to understand?

Jennifer Summerfield: Yeah, absolutely. Particularly for dog trainers who maybe don't do a whole lot with anxiety stuff yet, but they'd like to get a little more involved in that. That could be a good starting point. Certainly people who already do a lot of anxiety work, a lot of it may be stuff they already know, but the medication discussion might still be a little bit helpful for them, if they're not coming from a veterinary background.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Jessica, do you want to talk about what you'll get into with your webinar?

Jessica Hekman: As we discussed before this had started, I haven't actually started prepping this yet, so here's my current plan for what it will be is two-pronged. One, walking through different phases of the dog's life and what the risks and the issues are there. Obviously a lot of stuff going on earlier in the dog's life, less going on later in the dog's life, but talking a lot about the different phases of that early part of the dog's life and what to be particularly careful about there. And then separately also walk through what we know about the biology, and so just digging in, in more gory detail, to what goes on in the brain, what goes on with the hormones, and what we know. Maybe even a little bit of epigenetics, if people are interested in that, although that ends up being such a big topic that it can be tough to get into, but I'll try to cover it, particularly if people wanted to message me ahead of time and encourage me — that would make it easier for me to figure out what to put in. I'm thinking that who it would be appropriate for … I like to say that I'm not that practical person; I'm more the understanding what's going on person. So if you have an anxious dog and you want to understand a little bit more about what's going on inside their body, then I'm good for that. I'll tell you more than you ever think you wanted to know about that. People tend to come away from that feeling like it does provide some practical benefit for them, at least in understanding a little bit more what their dog's perspective is, and how it feels to be living in their dog's skin. But also for people who are thinking about getting their next sport prospect and who recognize that real importance of getting a dog who's super-resilient and can go into the ring and be like, "That's fine. I don't care that some strange dog is staring at me. I don't care that somebody else is barking. I don't care that this stranger just walked up to me and petted me right in the face without permission. That's fine. I'm ready to go do my run and focus on that, because I'm not ruminating about it." That's really important for sport dogs, and so if you want to maximize the possibility that you get a dog like that, obviously with biology there's no perfect ways of doing it. There's no way of having zero percent risk of having an anxious dog. So I also try to provide information for how to think through how to find your next dog and how to minimize that risk when you do that.

Melissa Breau: Despite what I said here in the episode, the ladies need to reschedule the webinar, so instead of August 29, they've been bumped back to October 31. So if you're listening to this and you want to attend them, you'll want to mark that date on your calendar instead. Jessica will present at 3:00 Pacific time on October 31, and Jennifer will present at 6 p.m. Pacific time on October 31. Thanks.

Melissa Breau: Alright, so I feel like we've covered a lot of ground here, ladies, but if you could each leave listeners with one big takeaway or tip when it comes to anxiety, what would you want folks to remember? Jessica, you want to start us off with this one?

Jessica Hekman: My biggest takeaway is that you should try to work on it. I talk to a surprising number of people, even people who I consider really, really high-level dog owners, who will say, "Well, that's just the way that dog is. Maybe I got her to do sports, and she's not going to do sports, and that's OK. She hangs out on the couch, and I have another dog who does sports, and that's fine." But the dog who's hanging out on the couch who's really afraid of the mailman or the visitor or too scared to go on a dog walk — think about what that dog's quality of life is, and don't take it for granted that the dog is always going to be that way. There's often stuff that you can do, so look into it. That's my biggest takeaway.

Jennifer Summerfield: Great minds think alike. My biggest takeaway as well is that I would love for people to know and keep in mind that this is often a really treatable problem. Like I said, I'm coming at this from a clinical perspective. This is what I spend a fair amount of my time doing is evaluating dogs who have anxiety issues and then putting together treatment plans for them. If we treat them, they get better, guys, they do. They may not get 100 percent to where your ideal social butterfly, super-resilient, not-afraid-of-anything dog might be, but there's a really good chance we can get them better than they are right now. So that would be the biggest thing I would try to emphasize is that if you have a dog that has anxiety sometimes, and it seems abnormal or excessive to you, then we definitely want to try to address that if we can. So if you do have that issue with your dog, it's absolutely worth getting in touch with some kind of behavior professional about what's going on who can help you, whether that's a veterinary behaviorist or an applied animal behaviorist or a trainer who has some experience and expertise dealing with anxiety issues. Definitely well worth it.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Thank you so much, ladies, for joining me.

Jennifer Summerfield: No problem. It's been fun.

Jessica Hekman: Thanks for having us. It's an important topic, so it's always a pleasure to get a chance to talk about it.

Melissa Breau: Well, thank you. And thank you to our listeners for tuning in.

We'll be back again next week. Don't miss it! If you haven't already, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. 

Credits

Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!

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