Calming An Anxious Dog

Like humans, dogs can be nervous and anxious.  Sometimes a given situation merits an anxious behavior (going to visit the vet for example) while on other occasions a dog may seem stressed for no apparent reason.

Anxiety, in itself, is a normal and healthy reaction.

It is something every dog will experience from time to time. Still, it is when anxiety levels are disproportionate to a situation, and persist for a prolonged period of time, that a dog can develop an anxiety disorder.

If the underlying anxiety issues are left untreated, your dog’s anxiety can lead to behavioral issues down the road.

If you suspect that your dog suffers from anxiety, you have come to the right place.

In this post, I will lay out some of the most common causes, symptoms and how to ultimately treat or even better prevent an anxiety disorder in your pet.

How Does Anxiety In A Dog Present Itself

Anxiety can present itself in a wide variety of ways. Excessive barking, whining, shivering, incontinence are some of the most prevalent symptoms in canine anxiety.

In more severe cases, dogs can become destructive or overly aggressive when anxious.

When anxiety remains high and is left untreated, over time, a dog may start to lose appetite and completely withdraw himself from social situations and life altogether.

Common anxiety symptoms in Dogs:

  • Frequent lip licking
  • Heavy panting
  • Restlessness
  • Trembling
  • Drooling
  • Urination
  • Defecating
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Barking
  • Digging and/or scratiching
  • Aggression
  • Avoidance (of specific situations)

How To Help An Anxious Dog

Most of the anxiety symptoms listed above can be the result of “occasional” day to day anxiety. It is, however, if any of these turn into a repetitive trait, that it becomes a more serious issue.

Anxiety can be difficult to treat effectively. Hence it is paramount that if you recognize any symptoms that hint that your dog might be suffering from severe anxiety, you get in touch with your vet or a qualified trainer. There you will get the best advice and solutions for your dog’s wellbeing and his specific situation.

A dog that is experiencing severe anxiety will have a difficult time functioning properly on a day to day basis and can be very hard to deal with. – You and your pet deserve the best possible treatment for this debilitating condition.

In light cases, the best way to help your pet is first to recognize the trigger(s) and causes.

If you know what to look for, more often than not, anxiety is easily identified. 

Observe the situations at which your dog shows symptoms and identify the causes. From there, you can start working on treating the underlying anxiety and help your pet cope with its stress.

Tips On Calming An Anxious Dog

Exercise:

Anxiety and its symptoms are the bodies response to stress. Stress hormones are circulating through the body, which in return trigger anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety can create vast amounts of energy that have no way to be controlled.

One of the most effective ways for your dog to find some anxiety relief from all that built-up tension is by exercise.

Exercise is a perfect outlet for all the stress hormones in your pet’s system.

Even better than that, endorphins (happiness hormone) are released during physical activity, which will boost your pup’s mood and naturally rebalances hormone levels.

Unless your vet said no to exercise, or illness and age make it impossible, exercise will benefit both of you.

It is a perfect way to take care of your dogs and your mental and physical wellbeing while spending some quality bonding time together.

Put yourself in a happy state first:

Did you ever feel like the state of the people around you have a direct impact on your mental state? Yes? Well, this is a well-known phenomenon called mirroring.

Fact is that dogs will often mimic the emotions of its owner.

So, if your dog shows signs of social anxiety, is sensitive to touch, smells or noise, it can very well be that you suffer from the same ailments.

In this case, the most effective solution is to treat the human first, and the dog will follow.

The emotional impact your behavior has on your pet is very real.

If you are going through trauma, turbulent times and have to cope with a lot of stress, then your dog might be going through the same emotional roller coaster.

Start restructuring your day, deal with conflicts, construct a balanced lifestyle and be kind to yourself. Make yourself a priority! Set time aside that is fully dedicated to your own wellbeing. Commit to regular exercise, relaxation, social life and a healthy diet.


Your furry pal will inevitably mirror the positive changes on your mental state.

Strengthen your dog’s confidence:

Dogs don’t only mirror their owners but can learn far more and way quicker from fellow dogs.
If your dog is anxious, it can be a wise decision to arrange a playdate with other dogs that are confident, outgoing and well socialized.

Your dog can feed off the positive energy of more confident dogs.

The positive energy will reflect on your dog’s mental state, and over time it will be able to learn to be less anxious in general.

Physical contact

You mean the world to your dog. You are the centre of his life, and really everything is about you.

Hence, there is probably nothing more soothing to your pet than your touch.

Touch and close contact with a loved one will release endorphins and in return relieves anxiety, fear and stress.

Massages:

Speaking of close contact, did you know that massages work wonder when it comes to relaxing the most anxious dog.

Stress and anxiety is an emergency response to stress.

In an anxious state, your dogs muscles tense up, which can amplify discomfort. Massage is a great way to alleviate some of the aches in your dog’s body, ultimately making your pet feel more at ease.

Start with the neck and work your way your dog’s body with long and smooth strokes. Keeping one hand still on the dog will make your dog feel secure and content.

With some practice, you might even be able to recognize where your dog carries all his worries and can quickly come to the rescue.

Plan out your days and set up a schedule:

Having a structured day will give your dog a sense of security.

This doesn’t mean that your entire day has to be set in stone and you aren’t allowed to deviate from said schedule.

However, certain core elements of your dogs day should be fairly predictable.

Walks, feeding, rest and playtimes should be on a schedule, as this will help your dog know what to expect in any given day and eliminates natural anxiety of the unknown.

Also, assure that your pup has a fairly regular sleep schedule and a dedicated dog bed he can retreat for some well-deserved rest.

Toys:

Something that is prevalent in dogs with separation issues is destructive behavior. 

They become overly anxious once you leave the house and do not have an outlet for all that pent up energy –  and so they start their rampage in your home.

A good dog chew toy might be the answer as it will give your dog something to distract itself and keep him away from your furniture 😊

Distraction:

On some occasions, a dogs anxiety will be set off by a particular trigger. With the help of a well-implemented distraction method, you can successfully divert your dog’s attention from the trigger to something else.

Bringing out your dogs favourite toy is one way, at a quick cuddling session or a soothing talk are great ways to shift your pets focus to something more pleasant.
Subtle distraction will enable it to accustom itself to the trigger (another dog, guests, pets,  etc.) or the trigger will just pass without letting your dog’s anxiety levels go into overdrive.

Face the triggers:

Anxiety always has something or someone that sets it off. 

If the trigger is identified, you can slowly desensitize your god by exposing it to the very thing it fears but at a very low-intensity level. Once the dog has shown to be accepting of the situation, you can slowly increase the exposure until it no longer triggers a fear response.

Canine behaviorist pair this technique with something called counter conditioning.  Here you will pair the exposure to the trigger with something pleasurable (like his favourite treat).  These treats will not only distract and calm the dog but will actually make him enjoy the situation. The brain will create a connection between the situation and the reward.

Let your dog be a dog:

Dogs with general anxiety can be suffering for most of the day from this debilitating feeling.

This makes it even more important that your furry friend experiences positive and fulfilling moments.

Let him roam around in the woods or park, sniff what he wants to sniff, meet other dogs and chase whatever he wants to chase.

If you manage to do this regularly and are able to string along plenty of “positive” days, eventually your dog will have more great thoughts than negative ones.

Over time this can completely rewire your dog’s brain and set it in an overall happy mood.

Conclusion

All dogs will experience anxiety from time to time, but not all dogs will suffer from an anxiety disorder.

It is crucial that you are well aware of the signs and symptoms of anxiety and can step in early to help your dog find some relief. The earlier you get onto what is going on, the faster your dog will be able to rebalance his life.

It is essential to understand that not all forms of anxiety can be relieved in full, naturally.

Severe cases may require a combination of medicinal and natural treatment approaches.

If you believe that your dog might be suffering from severe anxiety, it is best to go to your trusted vet or seek out a specialized dog trainer.

Tristan Schneiders is the blogger and co-owner of Shuozo, a blog and store dedicated to accessories, such as dog and cat beddings, pet toys etc. On the Shuozo blog he shares useful insights on pet ownership and hopes to encourage others to keep their pets healthy, happy and really treasure their time together.

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