Just as their human companions can sometimes have anxiety, dogs can also be plagued with anxiety. Dogs that have anxiety can sometimes be difficult to calm down, as their brains are physically not letting them rest.
However, with patience and practice, you can come up with ways to keep your dog calm, despite its anxious tendencies.
You just have to know how to calm a dog that has anxiety. Thankfully, there are more than a few ways to get this done.
What Causes Anxiety?
Before you can begin calming your dog down, you will first have to figure out why your dog is anxious.
Some dogs, unfortunately, are just anxious creatures and anything can set them off. Other dogs have specific triggers that you can learn and help your dog avoid. Other dogs get anxiety in certain situations, but cannot be removed from those situations so you have to teach your dog how to cope with the anxiety.
For dogs that have specific triggers, the most common trigger is usually sensitivity to noise.
Usually, the most anxiety-inducing noise is going to be fireworks, followed closely by thunder. While it might not apply to you, gunshots are usually tied with thunder when it comes to noises that scare dogs.
Other dogs are bothered by situations that they cannot escape.
These situations are usually changes in the household, such as a loss or introduction of a family member or a pet. It could also be a sickness that is causing your dog pain, or it could even be because the owner is not home with them.
Learning what makes your dog anxious is going to be key when it comes to figuring out how to calm down a dog with anxiety.
What Does Anxiety Look Like?
The next step in learning how to keep your dog calm is learning what the anxiety looks like in your dog. This will help you know when it is time to either calm your dog down or remove your dog from the situation.
Usually, when dogs are anxious, it will begin panting and pacing. It can begin whining, crying, barking, and if stressed enough, begin urinating or defecating. These are the most obvious signs, and your dog will often show them when it is incredibly on edge.
There are also more subtle signs of anxiety that you can look for before your dog becomes far too anxious. These signs will include excessive licking of the lips, yawning for seemingly no reason, or not caring about the surroundings. In a way, you could consider these precursors to a full-blown anxiety attack in your dog.
Now that you understand what to look for when you need to calm down an anxious dog, you can begin to learn about some of the different methods that people use to calm down their dogs that have anxiety.
You Should Remove Your Dog From the Situation
Depending on what your dog’s trigger for anxiety is, you can sometimes remove the dog from the situation to quell the anxiety.
For example, if your dog fears the sound of gunshots, you should probably make sure that you do not go anywhere near a gun range. The same applies to fireworks, except that you shouldn’t take your dog out on a night where people would commonly set off fireworks.
However, there are also times when you can’t really remove your dog from a situation. For instance, it isn’t practical to get your dog into the car and drive away from a thunderstorm, simply because your dog cannot handle the sound of thunder. In these cases, you should do what you can to reduce the effects of those sounds.
A solution you could try for dogs who have sound-based triggers is getting your dog a form of ear plugs. Ear plugs can take the edge of the loudness of the sound, which in turn, will make it a little bit less anxiety inducing for your dog.
If you know that a thunderstorm is coming, or if you know that it is a holiday where people tend to release fireworks, you should prepare yourself and your dog accordingly.
You Should Be There for Your Dog
When you cannot really remove your dog from the situation and ear plugs are enough or aren’t suitable for your dog’s anxiety, the most that you can do for your dog is to be with them.
Dogs depend on their humans for just about everything, and it becomes one of the cruxes of companionship between dogs and humans. When your dog is scared and anxious, your dog will want to depend on you to make that horrible feeling go away.
While you cannot physically remove the feeling of anxiety, you can, however, physically be there for your dog. Cuddling close to your dog, letting it know that you are there and that you will keep the dog safe can do wonders for an anxious dog.
To maximize the effect of doing this, you should make sure to speak in a calm tone of voice, so that your dog can hear that you are not panicked in any way.
If your dog sees that you, the alpha of the house, are not scared, it might come to realize that there is nothing to fear. This can help your dog calm down just a little bit more.
In addition to being close to the dog, you should also be sure to pet the dog in a comforting manner. If you know that your dog has a favorite spot to be pet, consider petting your dog in that spot.
This can bring a sense of familiarity to your dog, helping to calm it even further. Keep in mind that some dogs might not always want to be pet when they are anxious.
If your dog has a comfort blanket or toy, you should bring that to your dog. Just as babies love their security blankets, a dog will love its comfort blanket or toy. Having this with them can help your dog calm down just a little bit more and realize that the world is not quite ending.
If your dog is up for it, you can even play with your dog, if it has a favorite toy.
Most dog owners have a few spare dog treats for their dogs. If your dog has the appetite or interest for it, you should also give your dog a dog treat to help it feel calmer.
While the treat itself doesn’t calm the dog, having something that it likes can bring a sense of normalcy to a world that feels very unnatural and anxiety inducing.
Also, there are thousands of different specialized dog anxiety shirts available for your dog. These shirts are designed to apply a light pressure to your dog, providing an effect similar to swaddling an infant.
Or, if you want to think about it in another way, it could be compared to giving your dog a hug, but constantly. This pressure has been shown to help relieve anxiety in some dogs.
You Can Consider Using Medication
Similar to the way that humans with anxiety sometimes get medications from the pharmacy, you can also obtain pharmaceutical drugs for your dog’s anxiety as well.
In fact, the same medications that are used in humans work well in dogs. It will just be the dosage that is different, as most dogs shouldn’t be taking nearly the same amount of these medicines as humans do.
With that being said, you will definitely need to consult a veterinarian about getting your dog pharmaceutical medications before you can actually obtain the medicine.
Most vets will also recommend working with an animal behaviorist to maximize the effects of anti-anxiety medications.
Of course, not everyone feels comfortable feeding their dog medicine that is meant for humans. Some people would feel more comfortable taking an alternative approach to their dog’s anxiety medicine, and thankfully, there are plenty of options for your dog.
There are also special hormones, called pheromones, that affect the behavior of animals who smell them. There are all sorts of different ways to apply pheromones, whether you want to spray it in the air, put it in a diffuser, or put it in your dog’s collar.
The pheromones can mimic the effect that mother dogs have that makes puppies feel safe and secure.
Another type of alternative medication you could consider is supplements. There are countless varieties of different supplements that you could go through, meaning that there will surely be a few that you could try giving to your dog to help with its anxiety.
Even with supplements, it is still recommended that you talk to a vet before you make your dog ingest anything. You never know what could go wrong, and a vet can also provide assistance with figuring out the proper dosage for the supplements.
Anxiety is something that can even plague dogs, unfortunately. This means that it is up to you, as the human, to take charge and find a solution.
You could try medication, both alternative and pharmaceutical, although you will need to talk to your vet before you make your dog ingest or wear anything.
If medication isn’t the way to go, you can reduce and minimize how often your dog is in an anxiety-inducing situation.
When all else fails, you can make sure that you are there for your dog, able to provide comfort with your presence and treats.