Throughout our lives, we have all suffered from feeling a little anxious at times. Whether you are performing in front of a large crowd, meeting someone for a first date, or interviewing for the job of your dreams, everyone has most likely felt feelings of anxiousness at some point throughout their lives. Dogs are no different, they experience stressful situations the same way we do.
While it is common for dogs to feel anxious from time to time, some dogs feel it more than others, or they simply don’t deal with it as well. The cause of this anxiousness could come down to a variety of different things.
- Unfamiliar humans in or outside the house
- Being uncomfortable around other dogs
- Home alone for long periods of time
- Loud and sudden noises
- Locked up in a pen or crate
- Traveling in the car
Those are just a few scenarios that may cause a dog to feel anxious, but the list could go on and on depending on the dog. If your dog is feeling anxious, their body language will show signs that they are feeling this way. Your dog may bark, growl, pant loudly, blink excessively, pace back and forth, or even avoid eye contact with you if they are feeling anxious. If you see these signs, your dog is definitely stressed out.
The best way to calm an anxious dog is to make them feel safe and secure. Dogs feet off your emotions. if you are in a panic, your dog will be in a panic as well. Talk to your dog in a gentle and soft tone of voice, slowly pet them and let them know everything is going to be ok. This may take some time, but eventually they will calm down.
Once your dog begins to calm down, here are our top 10 things you can do to make your dog feel safe and secure.These will turn your nervous dog will turn into a calm and happy pooch in no time.
10 Methods to Calm Your Anxious Dog
Create a Safe Zone
Creating a safe zone for your dog to make them feel comfortable and entertained is a great first step to relieve anxiety. First thing you will need to do is pick a spot for them. It could be a mat, a crate or pen, Or even a whole room if you have space. Making sure it’s a quiet, comfortable spot they can feel cozy and secure is the most critical aspect of this method.
Similar to a teenager retreating to their room when they want to be alone, this “Safe Zone” can act as a getaway or hideout for your dog when they are feeling anxious. Always give them lots of treats and love when securing them in their safe zone so they are encouraged to go there.
Treats and Toys
Treats and toys are great options for calming an anxious dog. They will take your dogs’ mind off of things and get their attention onto you. When your dog is getting stressed or worked up, get a treat out for them and slowly calm them down. When they are finally relaxed and calmed down, give them the treat as their reward.
There are many toys out there that will help with your dogs anxiousness. Simple bones and chew toys can relieve stress for dogs that like the chew. There are also toys that allow you to fill them up with peanut butter or other sweets that will keep your dog occupied for long periods of time.
Lots of Exercises
Exercise can sometimes act as a “Cure-All” for a lot of problems and issues that come along with raising a dog. Being cooped up in a house or apartment for long periods of time can be stressful for anyone. Get them outside and running around. Take them for long walks and throw a ball for them. By tiring them out, you can get a lot of the stress and energy out of your dog.
Training goes hand in hand with exercise. Challenging their mind and just spending time with them can go a long way towards tiring them out. When they feel exhausted physically and mentally, they will be in a much more calm and relaxed state.
Reward Their Calmness
Next time the FedEx person comes knocking at your door causing your dog to lose it and go off, take steps to calm them down and get them in a relaxed state. Once they get there, take them for a walk or give them a treat.
Speak encouraging words to them and let them know they did a great job. Do this any time your dog is feeling anxious towards something. Consistency with the process will pay off when your dog comes looking for you when someone is knocking on the door.
Pet and Comfort Your Dog
When it comes to calming your anxious dog, sometimes the obvious choice is the best. Petting and comforting them is always an excellent method for getting them calm and relaxed. If the thunderstorm outside is seriously stressing your dog out, hold them and speak to them in a really calm and relaxed tone. Your dog will always appreciate being loved and held by you, so when all else fails, this is a great option to fall back on.
Distract Your Dog
A very effective method for soothing your anxious pup is the great art of distraction. Some folks like to keep their dogs’ safe zone close to the television. Just by having some background noise, your dog won’t be focused on every little sound they hear around them. Music is another option for having some background noise.
Obviously, treats are another great way to distract an anxious dog. My dog will pretty much drop anything he is doing if you dangle a piece of food out for him. Taking your dogs’ mind off something that is stressing him out with a tasty snack can help him through any situation.
If you find that your dog is pacing back and forth in the house, or just can’t seem to get comfortable, try taking them for a quick walk to get their minds off things. Most of the time you will find them much more comfortable and relaxed when you get back.
This one is the opposite of the one mentioned above. Sometimes trying to distract your dog with more TV, play time, or treats can cause even more stress.
If your distraction techniques aren’t working, your dog might just need some quiet time to themselves. If they are crate trained this would be the perfect time to put them in their crate. If they aren’t crate trained, you can bring their bed to a quiet place and let them relax for a few minutes on their bed until they calm down.
Dogs are great at reading our emotions. If we are stressed, tense, and feeling anxious, there’s a great chance your dog will feel the same. Think back to when you were a child, if you saw one of your parents stressing out, it would cause you to stress out as well. The same is true with our dogs.
Turn on The Music
This is a great method if your dog has separation anxiety when you leave the house. Dogs are pack animals which means some don’t like being alone. When you turn on the music before you leave, it will make your dog feel like others are around which can help with the anxiety.
Lavender Essential Oil
There’s been a number of breakthroughs in the field of aroma therapy in the past decade. It’s been shown to help humans with depression, insomnia, lack of energy, and so on.
Turns out lavender essential oil can help your K9 friend as well. The best way to use essential oils with your stressed and anxious dog is through the diffuser. Simply place it in the same room as your dog and allow the scent to help calm them down.
Signs You Have an Anxious Dog
Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between anxiety/stress vs. a lot of built up energy. The best way to decipher the difference is through reading body language.
Here are some of the top signs of anxiety in a dog
- Constant licking of lips
- Frequent Yawning
- Not eating
Any of these can be a sign of anxiety. If they are coupled with a tucked tail or pinned back ears, you most likely have an anxious dog on your hands.
What Caused The Anxiety?
We have already covered a number of methods to help ease the anxiety your dog might be feeling. Once you’ve calmed down your dog, the best thing you can do is figure out what caused the anxiety in the first place, that way it won’t happen again.
Unfortunately there’s an innumerable amount of things that could have caused the anxiety…but we do know that humans and dogs tend to experience anxiety for similar reasons. We will go over the most common below. See if any of these apply to your dog.
A Sudden Startle
We typically think of cats as the “scared” animal while dogs are the “brave” animals, but truth is dogs fear just as many things as cats. Whether that be a loud noise, a thunder and lightning storm, or something unexpectedly popping out at them. This can cause them to stay in the hyper-anxious state for a couple hours.
If you’ve recently adopted an adult dog and aren’t sure of their past, this could be one of the reasons they seem to be constantly anxious. Dogs have great memories and associate certain objects with past abuse. For example, if they were abused by someone in the past who wore a hat, they might become nervous around anyone who wears a hat because in their mind the hat means pain.
The good news is that as time goes on and trust begins to build, they’ll slowly heal from the past trauma and the anxiety will go away.
This is common in dogs, especially if they have a history of being abandoned. The good news is separation anxiety is easy to diagnose. If your dog seems to make a mess each time a family member leaves the house, they are expressing their anxiety. As mentioned above, the best way to help your dog in this situation is to distract them while you’re gone. This means you can leave the TV or radio on. It would also be a good idea to have your lavender essential oil diffusing while you’re away.
Should You Consider Medication?
At the end of the day, there are many ways to calm an anxious dog. If you find that the methods above are not working and you just can’t seem to get your poor dog relaxed, you may have to look into a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist. A professional will most likely have the secret sauce or wizardry that can help train your dog to keep their cool.
If that still doesn’t work, then you should talk to your vet about anxiety medication. Anti-anxiety medication should always be the last option as some of them do have pretty nasty side effects. With that said, in moderation they can be very beneficial.
As always, seek the advice of your vet before deciding whether medication is the right choice for your dog.
Keeping your anxious dog calm can be a challenge. But with a good amount of training and exercise, a safe place to call home, and lots of treats, your furry friend will feel calm and collected.
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