Many dogs suffer with anxiety for many reasons. A dog may be anxious due to situational circumstances, personality traits or a combination of the two. Anxiety in dogs can manifest as a wide variety of fears and/or phobias, which may be expressed through destructive behavior, excessive grooming and licking, nipping, aggression or “accidents” in the house. In this article, we discuss anxiety issues in dogs and provide sound advice on dealing with them. Read on to learn more.
What Can You Do About Anxiety In Dogs?
Behavioral conditioning and training can be very helpful in addressing many of the fears and phobias that plague dogs. For example, separation anxiety is a very common problem for dogs. They become uncontrollably anxious when they are left alone. Training sessions focused on gradual conditioning and the use of positive reinforcement can make a big difference in the way a dog perceives being left alone and behaves when left alone.
Some dogs are innately anxious. Dogs who are just born with an anxious disposition may not benefit as much from behavioral conditioning as dogs whose anxiety is caused by environmental factors. For these dogs, attaining a state of calm is necessary before training can begin. Luckily, there are quite a few natural solutions to dealing with dog anxiety.
How Do You Figure Out Why Your Dog Is Anxious?
You must begin by identifying what makes your dog anxious. Some common causes are:
If your dog’s fear begins when he sees you getting ready to leave, you can reasonably suspect fear of confinement and/or being left alone. If he is afraid in the car, travel and change are likely culprits. Loud noises are usually frightening to dogs, so dogs should be shielded against them as much as possible.
Sometimes the source of fear isn’t obvious. For example, dogs may have fears of specific people, objects or situations. This is especially true of rescue dogs who may have suffered abuse. An object may remind them of something that hurt them (e.g. a spatula looks a lot like a flyswatter). A person wearing a hat may remind them of the person who hurt them. A basement apartment may remind them of having been locked in a basement, and so on.
The dog’s fear is very real, but you may have no way of figuring it out. When this is the case, you must exercise a great deal of patience and work carefully with your dog to determine what, precisely, is causing the fear response. Then you must carefully desensitize him to the current person, place or thing.
How Can You Calm A Dog Down?
There are a lot of natural things you can do to calm your dog down, and these methods can be used in preparation for behavioral training or (when appropriate) as the total solution to the problem.
Here are some of the best choices:
- 1Exercise is just as beneficial for dogs as it is for people. When you take your dog for a walk or play a game of fetch with him, he burns off excess energy and increases his levels of the feel-good hormone, serotonin. As an added bonus, the same thing happens for you!
- 2Give your dog a massage. Brushing or simply stroking your dog can calm him down. There is also a very specific dog massage technique called TTouch, which makes use of focused circular motions. As an added bonus, just as exercising your dog is also beneficial to you, petting or massaging your dog will also calm your nerves and lower your blood pressure.
- 3Redirection can take your dog’s mind off the scary thing. If your dog is afraid of loud noises, thunderstorms and such, getting him involved in an activity like licking the peanut butter out of a Kong toy or chewing on an especially engaging chew toy can be helpful.
- 4Practicing old tricks is another form of redirection. Teach your dog how to do things (e.g. play dead, speak, shake hands, roll over, etc.) Knowing how to do these things will help him to feel more confident. Practicing them in frightening situations will help him feel more in control. Be sure to praise success generously.
- 5Use Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) therapy to calm your dog. DAP is a synthetic chemical that is formulated to mimic a hormone that is produced by lactating mother dogs. The purpose of the hormone is to increase bonding between the pups and the mom and to keep the puppies calm. It’s easy to administer this therapy through the use of a diffuser that you simply plug into an outlet. Your dog will benefit from it continuously, but you will not be able to smell it, and it won’t have any effect on you.
- 6Play quiet music or leave a radio on when you are out. Dogs with separation anxiety are often calmed by quiet sounds when they are alone.
- 7Get your dog a Thundershirt. This innovation is a closely fitting garment that is supposed to help dogs feel protected and comforted during frightening experiences such as thunderstorms. Although there isn’t a lot of scientific information supporting this theory, there is a great deal of anecdotal information that does. The bottom line is, a Thundershirt won’t hurt your dog, and it may help.
- 8Try cannabinoid (CBD) oil. This natural substance derived from medicinal hemp (not marijuana) works with the endocannabinoid system in dogs and other mammals to bring the body and mind into balance. Use of CBD oil can have positive benefits on a wide variety of problems, including:
CBD drops are easy to mix in with favorite foods and treats.
Do These Natural Remedies For Dog Anxiety Really Work?
All of the ideas presented here have been shown to have some positive effect on dog anxiety. For the most effective results, it’s important to take the time to understand exactly what is going on with your dog. For example, if he’s experiencing separation anxiety, a Thundershirt may not do him any good. If he’s destructive or making messes in the house, quiet music without any training may not be helpful.
Figure out what’s causing your dog’s fear and then work with him, your vet and possibly a dog trainer to come up with the right solution to reduce your dog’s anxiety.
Take a holistic approach. One very good thing about the solutions we’ve presented here is that they can be used in combination with no fear of causing harm. Used together, all of these solutions are mutually enhancing.