How to calm an anxious dog down
There are plenty of things that can give our dogs the jitters. From the clear-cut ones like travelling, thunderstorms, fireworks or the hoover, to other triggers like a new environment or unfamiliar people or pets.
It’s important to understand what’s causing the anxiety before you try to treat it – once you pinpoint the reason for it, you can then begin to help your faithful friend. It’s a good idea to take them to the vet in case there are any medical issues that are responsible for your dog’s anxiety.
How do dogs show signs of anxiety?
There are a number of signs that may show that your dog is stressed, which include:
- Excessive panting
- Cowering or hiding
- Whimpering, whining, howling or barking
- Tucking their tail between their legs
- Flattening their ears back against their head
- Lip licking or drooling
- Paw raises
- Destructive or hostile behaviour
How to calm your anxious dog
Giving your dog plenty of physical and mental stimulation is a vital part of treating lots of behavioural problems.
Exercise your dog
Exercise produces endorphins which relieve stress. Plus if your dog’s pooped they’ll be more likely to nap – so tire them out!
If your pooch has a lot of pent-up energy and they’re still not tired out after a few long walks, try incorporating hilly terrain or a swim into your route. You can get more mileage out of a good game of fetch using a ball launcher or frisbee.
Keep them mentally stimulated
Our pooches are super smart! Give them lots of opportunities to explore interesting places, learn new things, and solve problems.
- Explore new routes when you go for walkies – dogs interpret the world around them through smell so let them have a good old sniff around
- Learning commands and new tricks can keep them engaged and boosts confidence
- Take them to work with you once in a while if you can
- Find a fun new hobby that requires focus, like agility classes or scentwork
- Play to their appetite – hide food around the house or give them treats in a food-dispensing toy
- Rotate their toys and introduce new ones – puzzle toys are especially good for antsy dogs
Give them affection
Is your pooch looking a bit tense? They used to say that stroking your pet when they’re anxious could make them more afraid, but that’s just a myth. As long as you calmly reassure them it’s fine. So go ahead and snuggle up on the couch or bust out the brush for a gentle pamper sesh.
Music & TV background noise
Leaving the radio on with some soothing classical or instrumental music can mask distracting noises and might help your buddy settle down. If they’re more into the telly, nature shows are usually a winner so line up a series of Planet Earth and let David Attenborough’s soft and raspy voice do the rest!
White noise can also work wonders for nervous doggies. Free apps like YouTube have hours of plopping rain, thundering waterfalls, beating hearts and whirring fan sounds to choose from. Play it either on its own or alongside the TV or radio.
Dogs benefit from weighted blankets as much as we do. They mimic that feeling of being hugged, which releases serotonin and calms their nerves – who doesn’t like a good squeeze?
If your dog’s having an anxious moment, try distracting them with something they’re obsessed with, like their favourite squeaky toy or a game of fetch. You could also ask them to show you that trick they’ve been practicing.
Shifting their focus can help them ignore the thing that’s stressing them out.
A safe space or den
Your dog might need some alone time – don’t we all? Having a cosy, safe space of their own to retreat to will provide them with a sense of security and stability which in turn will help their confidence.
Whether you want to throw a blanket over their crate or make a little den for them under a table, make sure their very own area is a comfortable and quiet little sanctuary for them.
Give your dog a herbal helping hand with some calming supplements. These supplements support natural calming pathways to help give stress a swift kick in the parts!
If these tips don’t manage to show your dog that things aren’t as scary as they seem, speak to your vet for more advice.