Anyone who lives with an anxious dog knows that certain situations can be very stressful. Anxiety in dogs can be an ongoing thing, or just something that pops up when the weather takes a turn, when a car ride is in order, or when fireworks are on the menu.
Whatever the case may be for your dog, there are plenty of ways to help an overexcited or anxious pup find calm. And no, we don’t mean turning to pharmaceutical solutions.
So, how can you tell if your dog is stressed or anxious, and how can you help them cope?
What Does Canine Anxiety Look Like?
You know your dog best, and for many pet parents it’s easy to see when a pet is stressed or anxious. Behaviour can change in an instant in a stressful situation, and it’s usually pretty easy to spot.
That said, it can also be more subtle, and you may have to pay extra close attention to spot it. These are some of the most common signs of anxiety in dogs:
- Whining, barking or crying
- Restlessness, pacing
- Chewing or destructive behavior
- Hiding away
- Excessive licking/over-grooming
- Shaking or trembling
- Loss of appetite, refusal to eat
- Excessive panting
Ok, so you’ve identified the anxiety, now what do you do about it?
Natural Relief for Anxiety in Dogs
Some veterinarians will recommend drugs to ease your pup’s anxiety. And yes, in some extreme situations this may be the only way to go. However, there are often other very effective ways to help them relax without pills.
These are some of the most popular ways pet parents relieve anxiety in dogs naturally.
Most of us know that exercise provides great relief for humans, and the same goes for our dogs. A tired dog is a happy dog.
Exercise can help in a couple different ways. First, it stimulates the natural production of serotonin, the happy hormone, which acts as a mood stabilizer. It also helps with sleep, appetite, and digestion. Second, it helps get rid of all that excess energy that builds up, along with the tension that can increase anxiety. Sometimes getting them outside of the house to play and exercise is the best remedy for anxiety. Go for a long walk or hike with your dog before a normally stressful situation. Even just a good round of fetch will do the trick. Anything that wears them out can help reduce feelings of anxiousness when the time comes.
2. CBD Oil
Thanks to its many benefits, CBD oil has become incredibly popular for humans and animals alike. It helps with pain management, seizures … and even cancer. It also shows great results when it comes to anxiety in dogs. It works by interacting with your dog’s endocannabinoid system. This system sends signals throughout the body when something is amiss. And that includes anxiety. CBD works by increasing the body’s ability to product serotonin, that happy hormone we mentioned earlier.
CBD is reached for often because it works fairly quickly. If you know anxiety is likely to occur, thanks to something like a gathering at home, a thunderstorm, or fireworks, just give your dog a dose 30-60 minutes beforehand. All dogs react differently, but it’s worth a try if your pup’s anxiety is negatively impacting her quality of life.
We may not be keen on the phrase “music soothes the savage beast” (our dogs aren’t savage beasts, after all) but there is truth in that statement. A 2017 study from the University of Glasgow showed that music helped dogs who were kenneled chill out for a while. While the music didn’t significantly stop dogs from barking, they did spend more time lying down than running around. Which music has the most soothing effects? You’d think jazz or classical, but in fact it was soft rock and reggae.
But, don’t become dependant on it and play it every day. The same research shows that dogs get used to background noise after about 7 days and begin to show more anxiety and stress. So, keep it in your back pocket for those days you know your pup will be stressed.
If you’ve ever had a massage you know how relaxing it can be. Many dogs also find the same relaxing effects from a good massage.
Spending quality time brushing and massaging your pup can melt away stress and be a solid bonding activity. Massaging the top of your dog’s head, feet, and ears are great for stress relief as these are natural pressure points. Just 10-15 minutes a day can have a huge impact on your dog’s anxiety.
5. Flower Essences
Flower essences are liquids infused with a flower’s energy. They’re also called flower remedies. They were created by Edward Bach, a British physician, in the 1930s. According to Bach, the energy of flowers can balance your emotions. He believed that this can bring about mental, physical, and spiritual wellness.
Bach Rescue Remedy is a popular supplement for anxiety in dogs. It’s a blend of natural herb and flower extracts that can help with anxiety. A few drops before a stressful event can often work wonders!
6. Anti-anxiety Clothing
Have you heard about the beneficial effects of weighted blankets for humans? Anti-anxiety clothing for pets kind of works the same way. Products like The ThunderShirt are designed to apply gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear and over excitement due to environmental triggers, especially weather-related anxiety. It gives them that feeling of security, just like swaddling a newborn baby.
Like with music though, try not to overuse this wrap. Instead of letting an anxious pup wear it all day, every day, limit its use to high-anxiety times. Using it too frequently can make it less effective.
7. A Safe Space
If your dog tends to hide away when anxious, that’s ok. Give them the safe space they’re looking for.
Having a space to escape to can help a dog feel more secure and relaxed, and it gives them peace from a stressful situation. This might be a crate tucked away in a corner, made cozy with blankets and pillows, and covered to block offending sights or sounds. It could be a closet that you clear a space in for a tucked away spot. It can also be a blanket fort put up when that storm hits. Whatever the case may be, a spot to tuck away might be just what your pup needs to chill out.
8. Mental Stimulation
If your dog’s anxiety is tied to certain situations, like a thunderstorm or being in crowd of people, consider some way of distracting your dog. Helping them to focus on something other than the anxiety causing environment can have the same calming effect as exercise. Try working on new tricks, or ones you’ve already perfected. Try a game of hide and seek, either with yourself as the hidden object, or a favoured toy. Spending one-on-one time with your dog can often be exactly what’s needed. Many dogs develop stress behaviors because they are not getting enough stimulation.
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!