Think about your furry friend for a second. The one who sits pretty, rolls overs, and gives you a good shake…with treats, of course. The one who never misses a chance to greet you after a long day at work. Tail wagging, ears flapping – and all before you can even get your key into the front door.
Just as your pup comforts you when you need it most, it is equally as important for you to do the same for them when they feel stressed out. Anything from being left alone to taking a trip to the vet can have your four-legged friend feeling nervous, which can leave you wondering how to calm an anxious dog.
The good news is that there are several different ways to address the anxiety and provide natural solutions for calming dogs. And in this article, we’ll go over the possible reasons your dog may be anxious, the signs to look out for, and the tricks for managing anxiety that get our paw of approval.
Why is My Dog Anxious All of a Sudden?
Dogs are known to be creatures of habit, so switching up their activity, environment, and routine could potentially result in stress. The type of anxiety your dog may feel can also manifest itself in many forms. So, if you notice an unusual change in their behavior, it could be related to one or more of the following triggers.
- Environmental anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors. Some common ones include a fear of leaving the house, going to specific places like the vet clinic, and loud noises from alarms, fireworks, sirens, or thunder.
- Generalized anxiety doesn’t have any known causes or triggers. It’s hard to pinpoint why it happens and often has pet owners asking how to calm down a hyper dog when their pup starts panting or pacing around without warning.
- Separation anxiety occurs when dogs become overwhelmingly stressed if apart from their owner or left by themselves for too long. A few ways on how to tell if your dog has separation anxiety is if you notice they have chewed up any furniture or urinated inside while you were out. If an indoor accident does transpire, a good pet stain and odor remover will do just the trick to get stubborn smells and urine stains out.
- Social anxiety takes place if a dog has not been properly socialized as a puppy. You’ll notice this in your furry companion if they exhibit signs of nervousness around new or unfamiliar people and other dogs.
How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Anxiety?
The best way to know if your dog is feeling anxious is by observing their body language. This could be anything as subtle as an overreaction around people or as apparent as refusing to eat. What causes anxiety in dogs is different for every canine, so understanding what signs to look for is key. Below are some of the typical behaviors you might see in a distressed pup.
- Aggression: This can include destructive behavior such as scratching up or chewing furniture.
- Avoidance: Attempts to “escape” interaction could mean hiding behind the owner, sniffing the ground, or simply turning away.
- Pacing or trembling: An agitated dog might restlessly walk back and forth or “shake off” stress.
- Panting: This usually happens when dogs are excited or want to cool down, but it can also mean they are anxious.
- Licking and yawning: Keep an eye out for any excessive licking or a more prolonged yawn.
- Urinating or defecating: The unfortunate deed of going #1 and #2 can happen to even the best of house-trained pups, so always be prepared with a reliable collection of cleaning products.
- Whining or barking: It’s normal for dogs to be vocal, but it may become more intense in uncomfortable situations.
What Can You Give a Dog for Anxiety?
Before giving anything to your dog, it’s always a good idea to schedule a visit to the one that knows best…the vet! They can help identify the root cause of the anxiety and rule out other medical conditions that could be affecting your pup. In addition to providing a diagnosis, the vet can work with you to determine the right treatment going forward.
Now, medication might be the first option that comes to mind when thinking about anxiety relief for dogs, but it’s not the only one on the table. If you’re in search of a solution without the side effects, these natural and calming remedies for dogs suffering from anxiety might help in the moment.
- Massages and cuddles: Nothing beats a little extra TLC every now and then. So when your pup feels anxious, a nice ear massage, belly rub, or cuddle session in bed can work like a charm.
- Music therapy: Let the (relaxing) beat drop. Whenever your canine friend shows signs of feeling antsy, try putting on some soothing classical music to calm them down.
- Safe spaces: This one is especially important for dog owners who want to know how to calm an anxious dog during a thunderstorm, large gathering, or fireworks show. When setting up a spot, be sure to use and reward calm behavior on the same blanket or mat. The idea is to have your dog associate that item with de-stressing, regardless of where they are. For more tips on how to reduce anxiety in dogs in loud environments, check out this survival guide.
- Toys and treats: Take your pup’s mind off the stress by giving them something tasty, healthy, and engaging. A food puzzle toy stuffed with some all-natural peanut butter, for instance, is one way you can help your furry friend relax.
How to Reduce Anxiety in Dogs: Long-Term Fixes
Managing anxiety in dogs is an ongoing process. Although there isn’t a magical squeaky toy that will cure your dog’s distress with a squeak, there are techniques out there that address how to calm dog anxiety naturally in the long run. And when combined with the tips above for defusing situations your dog finds stressful, you’ll be on your way to keeping that anxiety under control. Let’s take a closer look.
- Counter conditioning: This strategy involves some training and positive reinforcement. You want your dog to gradually associate their stressors and triggers with something more favorable, such as treats, being pet, or focusing on you.
- Essential oils and supplements: If you’re thinking, “What can I give my dog to relax when stressed?”, then this might be something to try in addition to training. Just know that results can vary from dog to dog – some may experience stress relief while others won’t. You can read up on the do’s and don’ts of essential oils for more information. Oh, and one more thing…always consult the vet for professional advice and instruction on safely administering these products!
- Professional training: A certified trainer specialized in helping dogs with stress and anxiety can sometimes make all the difference. They’ll use their expertise to find an approach for overcoming anxiety that works best with your pup.
Think back to your furry friend again. They’ll have the good days when their happy-go-lucky spirit shines through in every step. They’ll also have those days that won’t be all rainbows and butterflies. And that’s ok – because naturally calming dogs with anxiety takes time. But with a little patience, dedication, and these newly acquired tips under your belt, you can help your canine companion get back into the routine of things without the stress – the outdoor adventures, chasing squirrels, and above all, being with you.
Contributing Writer: Samantha Lee