Any pet parent will tell you that watching their dog suffer from anxiety and stress leaves them feeling helpless and frustrated; after all, it’s not as though our furry friends can articulate their feelings to us.
So, when we come home to find destroyed possessions strewn across the house or see our dogs behaving frantically or erratically, it can leave us struggling with knowing what to do to alleviate their fear.
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Most of us would automatically head for online forums or websites to try and figure out what to do to help our fearful friends. However, the vast amounts of information out there can leave us sifting through a lot of useless information before we find anything remotely helpful. As a result, this leaves most dog parents asking, are there any methods that work for learning how to calm a dog down?
Dog Anxiety Explained
The first step to calming your dog down is understanding the root cause of their somewhat negative behavior. Like humans, dogs display anxiety in a number of ways that are unique to them. No two dogs are the same and will have different ways of communicating their stress and fear.
Dogs are super sensitive to their surroundings and the factors that affect their immediate vicinity. For example, fireworks, loud noises, and even loneliness can all contribute to a dog’s stress. These factors then lead to the negative behaviors we as owners see in our dogs. This could be displayed by incessant barking or destroying furniture when left alone. Alternatively, it could also be a visible reaction such as shaking, hiding and even running away.
Chances are you already know what anxiety looks like in your dog but sometimes busy human parents can miss other subtle clues. Below is a list of how fear can manifest in our loyal doggie friends.
Common Signs of Anxiety
- Incessant barking
- Running away
- Tucked in tail
- Constant grooming/paw licking and nibbling
As pet parents learning to identify the signs of anxiety in our dogs is imperative to counteracting the triggers that bring on an anxiety episode. But even more crucial is understanding what triggers cause their stress and how to manage their seemly unfounded fears.
Common Triggers of Anxiety in Dogs
- Separation anxiety
Often seen in rescue dogs, the fear of abandonment is genuine to certain dogs.
- Fireworks / loud noises / Thunderstorms
Unpredictable loud noises can be terrifying, especially for the super-sensitive hearing of dogs.
Travel sickness can affect our canine friends causing nausea and disorientation. If your dog doesn’t often travel in the car, they may be confused or worried about what is happening, triggering anxiety.
- Vet Visits
Previous negative experiences visiting the vet can trigger anxiety episodes when heading off for a routine check-up.
Other anxiety triggers could simply be down to age. Older dogs tend to be more anxious and less tolerant of factors affecting their environment than their younger counterparts. In addition, pheromones or the scent of other animals can also cause stress in dogs.
Identifying these triggers in your dog is the key to learning how to calm your dog down.
Natural Remedies for Anxiety
Many pet parents resort to medication for calming their dogs down, but there are a variety of natural remedies that can be used with equal effectiveness.
The soothing sounds of classical music have long been used to relieve the stress felt by humans, but they can also reduce anxiety in dogs. For example, some pet parents use classical music as a stress reliever during fireworks or thunderstorms. In contrast, others use classical music as part of their dog’s everyday routine to reduce separation anxiety.
Aromatherapy for Dogs
Essential oils such as lavender or chamomile are known for their relaxation properties. Plug-in diffusers containing essential oils are an excellent way of promoting a relaxing atmosphere in your home.
Naturally, increasing your dog’s serotonin levels (stress coping hormone) with positive activities during periods of stress can train your dog out of anxiety behaviors. For example, petting, playing, going for a walk or a tasty doggie treat can help calm your dog down.
Even dogs enjoy a good massage! In fact, massage is one of the most effective stress relievers for our canine friends. However, it also improves circulation (perfect for older dogs), decreases blood pressure, and improves immunity. Start by gently massaging the limbs, chest, and belly, working your way up to the throat and head.
Diet plays a crucial role in a dog’s health, immunity, and anxiety levels. Certain foods can have a calming effect on their stress levels. For example, incorporating oily fish such as salmon into their diet is an excellent way to boost their L-tryptophan levels, leading to better sleep and less anxiety.
No pet parent likes to medicate their dog, but sometimes natural remedies are ineffective in managing anxiety. If you feel natural remedies are not working, consult your vet for a complete evaluation and sound advice on the best medication for your dog.
Usually, they will perform a physical examination and require a detailed description of your dog’s anxiety symptoms. Use a diary to log your dog’s anxiety symptoms so you can provide enough information to your vet.
There are a variety of medications on the market, including Sertraline, Paroxetine, Amitriptyline, and Clomipramine, which all have a calming effect on certain negative behaviors and anxiety levels. There are also natural calming treats that work wonders for pets that you can try out!
It can take some time to find a medication that suits your dog, as not all dogs respond to these medications in the same way. However, your vet will work with you to find the proper medication to help calm your dog down.
As pet parents, we all want happy, content dogs; after all, they are an integral part of the family. If you are struggling with a stressed-out dog, don’t despair; there are many effective methods to resolve their anxious behavior.
Whether you choose medications or natural remedies will depend on how your dog responds to each approach. Remember, each dog is unique and will respond differently; what works for some doesn’t work for others. Lastly, always speak to a professional when deciding which anti-anxiety route to take.