How To Calm An Anxious Dog
Mental Health & Your Dog
Mental health is now in the media more than ever. It is not only humans that can suffer from these illnesses, pets can suffer from it as well.
Anxiety is a very common mental issue and one that can also have a detrimental effect on your pet dog.
Dogs are not just pets, they are family members and as a loving dog owner you want to do everything you can to stop them suffering.
Are you struggling to help your stressed and anxious dog calm themselves down?
The good news is that pet owners can treat dog anxiety, it can usually either be totally cured or at least effectively managed.
Signs of Anxiety in Dogs
From whining and barking to destructive and sometimes vicious behavior, canine anxiety can manifest itself in a number of ways.
If left untreated your dog may become withdrawn and suffer from loss of appetite.
Causes of Canine Anxiousness
The triggers that may leave your dog feeling anxious generally fall into the following categories.
So for dog owners, finding the things that upset them can be really helpful:
Fear - Meeting new or strange people can leave your dog feeling anxious.
Alternatively, the cause of fear can be visual stimuli from things such as hats or umbrellas.
Unfamiliar environments or situations can also leave you with an anxious and stressed adult dog or puppy.
For instance, a bad experience at the vets or an extended car journey causing travel anxiety.
Fear and dog anxiety can also be brought about if your dog has a noise sensitivity issue.
Loud noises such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or parties can bring about a great deal of anxiety for your pet.
Separation - Dog separation anxiety is estimated to affect 14% of all dogs.
Separation anxiety in dogs describes a condition in which a dog exhibits distress and behavioral problems when separated from its handler.
For dogs with separation anxiety, the anxiety usually manifests itself within minutes of the departure of the owner/handler.
Ageing- Cognitive decline in older dogs can bring about confusion which in turn results in your dog feeling anxious.
The best way to treat your canine companion is to identify the root cause of the stress.
Pinpointing this will be key to implementing effective anxiety relief techniques and being able to calm your anxious dog.
Your dog's veterinarian may refer you to a trainer or veterinary behaviorist to evaluate stress-related issues and to help identify the causes.
Note - If you are really worried about your dog or young puppy, always please take them to see a veterinarian.
10 Proven Ways to Calm Your Anxious Pet Dog
So, what are the various techniques on offer to soothe and calm your pets and how can you calm your dog's anxiety naturally?
- Physical contact - There is probably nothing more soothing to an anxious pet than its owner's touch. Dogs love to be petted therefore, try to identify when your dog is getting anxious and nip it in the bud by offering a long cuddle or picking them up.
- Music/sound therapy - Proven to be both beneficial to humans and canines, the power of music can be immense in terms of the relief from anxiety it can offer. Research shows that dogs tend to prefer the classical type of music. Soothing gentle music can calm dogs that suffer from fear of certain loud noises as it masks these sounds. Playing white noise in the background is also highly effective in masking any loud fear-inducing noises and combating the negative effects of noise phobias.
- Increased exercise- Exercise is one good way to combat anxiety for humans and pets alike. It stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain that work to reduce anxiety.
- Massage- An effective way to treat dogs' anxiety is by giving them a massage. As with humans, the body can become tense and muscles can ache when stressed. Start at the neck and work downward with long strokes. In time you may be able to identify areas of tension build up in your pet.
- Time out- Anxiety isn't bad behavior per se, but sometimes it can help to give your pet time out to calm them down or to take them away from the anxiety-inducing stimulus. Time out works well when your dog is isolated in a safe space, perhaps with some soft lighting and gentle music playing just a generally quiet and calm setting.
- Calming coats- Calming coats and t-shirts work by applying mild, constant pressure to a dog’s torso, surrounding a dog in a similar way to a swaddling cloth on a baby. These are suggested for dogs with anxiety induced by travel anxiety, stranger anxiety, noise anxiety, or indeed are very good at the treatment of dog's separation anxiety.
- Supplements- Rather than using hardcore prescription medications from your veterinarian, try some natural dog treat products which are readily available from the pet store that contain helpful supplements proven to calm, soothe treat anxiety. Generally, these treats contain calming ingredients of melatonin, thiamin, chamomile, L-Theanine or L-tryptophan. Some also contain ginger to help with sensitive stomachs. Recommended for general and travel anxiety. A veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist can help you find the best supplement for your dog that will offer effective behavior modification, with no side effects.
- Use a Calming Dog Bed- One of the most effective ways to treat all types of anxiety in dogs is to provide them with their own safe haven, a comfortable bed. Getting a good quality night's sleep has great bearing on anxiety levels that build up in your dog. There are many dog beds available on the market today at various different price points and levels of quality. One of the very best pet anxiety beds to purchase is those that are called Calming Dog Beds. These beds are made with very specific materials and particular construction methods that make them perfect for calming your dog. They are highly effective for times when dogs feel separated from their owner as they mimic the fur and feeling of cuddling their mother from the time they were puppies, offering a great sense of security. Able to burrow and nestle into these beds your dog will feel calm, enclosed and protected during times of stress.
- Aromatherapy- A great anxiety reliever for humans is the use of calming scents. The same is true for many animals particularly our dogs. Try using essential oils of lavender and chamomile to create a calm atmosphere and reduce nervousness particularly come bedtime. These scent orientated remedies are becoming more commonplace nowadays. It is important not to go too heavy on the use of a particular scent as dogs' sense of smell is many times better than our own. You may therefore purchase a diffuser that is specifically designed with your dog in mind.
- Snuggle toy- Purchase your dog a new toy that is specifically used for times when they need to calm themselves down, particularly at bedtime. Try to get soft materials, no squeakers, something that your pet can cuddle up to at times of stress. You can even put some drops of your dog's favorite calming scent on the toy for an added calming effect.
NOTE - Something as simple as giving your puppy or adult dog a kong toy stuffed with peanut butter can help distract them from whatever is upsetting them.
The Importance of Tackling Canine stress
As your veterinarian will tell you, it is highly important to seek out a remedy for your dog's stress (even more so for a young puppy).
This is because of the many knock-on effects of struggling with this type of condition (dog anxiety) can have on your pet's health and overall well-being.
As previously touched upon, some extreme cases of anxiousness in a dog can lead to appetite problems and a multitude of other health conditions can also be the result of stress.
Depression and repetitive or compulsive behaviors can develop from the dog if the problem is left unchecked.
General restlessness, pacing and even destructive behavior can result. A calm and happy pup is generally a healthy pup!
NOTE - Dog's are social creatures and if they are ok around other dogs, taking them to a dog park for some fun and playtime, can really give them a mental and emotional boost.
When learning how to calm an anxious dog, there are many holistic natural remedies for nerves available to pet owners nowadays.
From long walks in the fresh air to expel any negative energy from your pooch and boost serotonin.
To invest in new pet products, beds, toys, diffusers, and such like they can all help calm down you four legged friend.
The key is to first identify the trigger of the dog's anxiety in your dog and then to adopt the fitting strategy from the list above to help calm it.
However, this being said, most if not all of the aforementioned techniques we encourage to use in a preventative fashion.
They are all generally good for your pet's health and well being regardless of if they are exhibiting signs of stress.
For particularly stressed pups you can employ a combination of two or more of the listed tips in this article and see if they calm down.
For instance, the snuggle toy can be used in conjunction with the calming bed to help alleviate the stresses that have been built up throughout the day, at night time.
Again, the supplement treat is very good for use at night time before your dog goes to bed as it helps them to develop a routine (just a good routine can calm a dog).
Anxiety does tend to accumulate throughout the day and therefore can make it difficult for your dog to calm and settle down at night.
This again goes to highlight the importance of a proper calming dog bed when thinking about dog anxiety.
Comfort is key and if your pet is stressed they may miss out on the quality restorative type of sleep they require to bring their well-being back into balance.
This can turn in to a vicious circle whereby lack of sleep causes your anxious dog further distress causing more difficulty in getting to sleep.
If you enjoyed this post about dog anxiety, you might also enjoy this one - Why is My Dog Anxious?
And as always, if you are ever seriously concerned about your dog's anxiety please take them for a checkup with your veterinarian.
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