Dogs, like humans, suffer from anxiety and stress. Anxiety affects all breeds, and may be developed through time when the dog has been exposed to a certain anxiety trigger. How to calm an anxious dog? It really depends on your dog and how they react. First, know the signs and possible triggers of dog anxiety.
Signs of anxiety in dogs:
Elimination – urination and/or defecation
Destruction – chewing of furniture, walls, or anything they can reach
Excessive barking or crying
Withdrawal – running or hiding
Hyperactivity or pacing
There are many reasons why dogs become anxious.
Here are some common causes of anxiety:
Separation or death of someone they’re familiar with
Dogs may also develop anxiety due to a traumatic experience from their past. That is why many shelter or rescued dogs exhibit signs of anxiety which may be due to abusive experiences.
Separation anxiety may also have developed because of their history of being abandoned or having been re-homed multiple times.
Most anxieties develop at the onset of social maturity, from 12 to 36 months of age.
When dogs get stressed, they may find a place to hide, such as under the bed or table, in the bathroom, or in a corner to feel safer. Some dogs run away. This is why more pets get lost on July 4th than any other day of the year.
Other dogs become aggressive or destructive, especially when they’re left alone in the house and start destroying things. Sometimes they hurt themselves when chewing on hard surfaces or objects like their crates.
When you see these signs, take these 5 easy steps to help keep them calm.
How to Calm an Anxious Dog: 5 Easy Steps
So how do you help calm a dog when anxiety has been triggered? How do you make them feel that everything is going to be alright when they can’t understand words?
1. Stay calm yourself
You may not know it but you may be doing more harm than good. Dogs can sense your vibe. Situations can become worse if you also show signs of nervousness and anxiety at the same time your dog is experiencing fear or panic. You also do not want to be on the other extreme where you reward your dog for its anxious behavior. Try not to show your dog that you’re making a big deal out of the situation.
If you have to leave the house, do so calmly. Make sure that your dog is calm and not in an aggressive state before leaving. It helps to leave them with their favorite toy or give them a treat before stepping out. You may also leave him your used clothes.
2. Don’t punish
In the same way, don’t punish your dog if they display any sign of anxiety. This may worsen the situation they will deal with both their anxiousness and you scolding them.
Again, do not make a big deal out of it. Show them that there is nothing to be afraid of and do not make them feel worse by raising your voice or locking them out. Distract your dogs instead. Play with them with their favorite toy or play classical music.
3. Desensitization and Counter-conditioning
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are most effective if the fear, phobia, or anxiety is treated early.
Counter-conditioning is training the dog to perform a positive behavior in place of the negative behavior (i.e. fear or anxiety).
Desensitization is the repeated, controlled exposure to the stimulus that usually causes his anxious response in a way that he does not respond negatively. In repetition, you aim to decrease the dog's negative response to the cause.
For example, teach your dog to sit and stay, and when your dog performs you can reward him appropriately.
4. Start early
Puppies that are deprived of social and environmental exposure until 14 weeks of age may develop fear as this is their formative time. This can be avoided with a little exposure.
Let your dogs socialize and let them to explore different environments while they are young (util they are 14 weeks of age) to decrease development of fearful behavior. Start them young!
5. Use herbal medicines
Give your dog a calming supplement that will help them cope with stress and relieve anxiety. Look for products that are natural to avoid adverse reactions from synthetic drugs. Most of all, choose one that works for your dog.
Chamomile, Passion Flower, Ginger root and L-Tryptophan are some of nature’s helpers in relieving stress and anxiety in dogs.
Complete Calm Dog Supplement contains these natural ingredients that work in conjunction to calm nerves, reduce anxiety, alleviate GI disturbances such as nausea and motion sickness, improve mood, and increase stress resistance.
They are easy to give alone or crumble on top of your dog’s food and dogs love them.
For picky eaters, slab on the chews a little bit of peanut butter, gravy, soft cheese, or any other food that your dog loves.
Some dogs may need a higher dose than the recommended amount to become calmer.
Anxiety is difficult to deal with. It can be emotionally draining and physically exhausting for dogs. When our dogs suffer, don’t we feel their pain double?
We want to do anything just to take away what is causing them pain or discomfort. If only we can find the mute button for fireworks, thunderstorm or any other noise that triggers their stress and anxiety.
The best thing you can do to help calm an anxious dog is to simply be there. Your presence alone will give them comfort and show them that they can count on you to protect them when they feel vulnerable.
When you need some emotional support, weren’t they the first ones you can rely on without even asking? Be the best friend your anxious dog needs. Give them the best care you can offer.
How do you keep your dogs calm? Please share your tips in the comment section below.