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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Helping an Anxious Dog: A Guide

African American girl holding dog

Nationwide — Anxiety is a far more common problem for dogs than you might think. When a dog whines, barks, or trembles, it is feeling anxious, but over time prolonged anxiety can manifest in more problematic ways. An anxious dog may become withdrawn, restless, destructive, or aggressive, and they may lose their appetite. The cause of a dog’s anxiety might be related to being separated from their owners, being alone, meeting unfamiliar people or animals, loud noises such as fireworks, and/or a traumatic experience in their past like abuse or neglect.

In most cases, the cause of anxiety in a dog is easy to identify (although there could be several contributing factors), and this is the first step to finding the right treatment for them. This guide outlines some tips and ideas which may help to calm an anxious dog and improve the quality of life for you both.

Exercise your dog regularly

Separation anxiety is one of the most common problems for dogs as most owners need to leave their dog alone for at least some of the day or evening. Anxiety and energy levels are connected, so the more you exercise you can do with your dog, the less likely they are to be anxious when you are away. Exercise may help them to take a nap while you are away and releases stress-relieving endorphins. Try going or an extra-long walk before you plan to leave home or schedule in some energetic playtime at home.

Give them lots of physical affection

Nothing will calm your dog like your touch, whether you pet them, pick them up, or cuddle them. If you see that your dog is becoming anxious or you know that there is potential for their anxiety to be triggered, reassure them that you are there and speak to them in soothing tones as soon as you can.

Try a doggy massage

Dogs can have tense muscles just like humans, and an anxious dog may be feeling uncomfortable for this reason. You can help to ease tension in their muscles with a gentle massage session. Find out more here.

Natural remedies for dogs

There are natural supplements and organic products which may help to reduce your dog’s anxieties. For example, hemp dog treats are organic, tasty, and include CBD oil, which is beneficial for anxiety in dogs (and humans). Other alternative therapies include homeopathic drops of flower oil, which can be added to drinking water and sprays, which can be used on toys and bedding. There are also plug-in diffusers that release pheromones, which imitate what a nursing mother would give off to her puppies but are odorless to humans.

Give them some downtime

If your dog is acting out in the home with destructive behaviors, barking, or being aggressive, it might be time to give them some alone time so they can relax. Some owners find that playing certain music and/or videos which are soothing for dogs who are home alone. Create a space in your home, which is just for them where you can play some relaxing music, have low light, and anxiety-busting toys, and/or some supplements, and let them relax. If they become more stressed when they are alone, set this up so that they can still see/hear you. Dog crates can be useful when creating a safe space for a dog.

Anxiety coat or t-shirt

There are lots of dog coats and t-shirts which have been designed to soothe anxious dogs. When the dog wears the garment, they feel reassuring pressure around their body, just like a baby being wrapped in swaddling cloth.