Although anxiety stems from different experiences and situations, many dogs show anxious tendencies. Just as you can combat other behaviors in your pup (e.g., chewing, biting), you can manage anxiety and help your dog maintain a happy life. Knowing what you can do to help an anxious dog feel calmer makes all the difference when your four-legged friend is having a particularly rough day or night.
Common Explanations for Anxiety in Dogs
Anxiety presents itself in different ways in each dog, just as it does for humans. Additionally, there are several explanations for anxiety in dogs. While it might not be the case for your pup specifically, abandonment is the most common cause of worry or fear. Other causes include a fear of being home alone, difficulty traveling, unfamiliar people or animals, loud noises like thunder, and previous abuse or neglect.
Believe it or not, you can manage your dog’s anxiety without professional help in many cases. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to get support when you need it. No matter what the cause is for your pup, discovering signs of anxiety is essential for improving their health and happiness.
Anxious Tendencies in Dogs
Unfortunately, many dog owners mistake the signs of anxiety for a case of bad behavior. These anxious tendencies won’t stop with basic discipline methods, and your pup needs a little more love and attention to get through it and calm down. Be on the lookout for these signs your dog has anxiety.
- Noises. Many dogs will bark or howl when left alone, even if you’re just in the next room.
- Chewing. An anxious dog might chew and destroy furniture, shoes, or other things beyond toys.
- Self-harm. Your dog might display excessive licking or chew on their own fur or paws.
- Running or digging. Your pup might be anxious if they frequently run away from home or dig excessively in the yard.
What You Can Do To Help
If your dog displays any of the common anxious tendencies above, consider adding some of the following tactics into their daily routine. Remember, positive reinforcement is an excellent way to reduce recurring bouts of anxiety.
Engage in Plenty of Physical Activity
It’s no secret that dogs become antsy when they don’t get enough exercise, and it can lead to increased anxiety levels. The best way to combat antsiness is to provide more opportunities for physical activity. Whether you go for a walk, play fetch, take a hike, or spend time at the dog park, additional exercise might be the end of your pup’s fears and worries.
Offer Physical Contact
For a dog, there’s nothing more comforting and soothing than its owner’s touch. Extra love and attention can help fear and worry subside within your four-legged friend in a stressful or anxiety-filled moment. Comfort your pup with cuddles on the couch, a massage, or by running a brush through their fur.
Providing warmth and comfort to your dog during their time of need is a way to show them you’re there to support them. Also, physical contact with your dog is an excellent way to bond and become closer to each other.
Play Some Music
Just as music is often calming for humans, it can also work to reduce anxiety in dogs. Turning on some relaxing, soothing music for your pup works wonders, especially if they don’t like being home alone. Introduce music as a solution for hyperactivity, loneliness, noise sensitivity, boredom, etc.
Interestingly, many dogs seem to prefer classical or harp music to calm them down. The power of music is unmatched, and it can solve many problems for people and animals.
Provide Comfort Toys
Providing your dog with comforting toys is a great way to combat anxiety. When dogs are bored or don’t have an outlet for their energy, they become antsy and are more likely to become anxious. Therefore, chew and ball toys are excellent options to occupy your dog and keep their minds off stressors.
Furthermore, dog puzzles give your four-legged friend an outlet for physical and mental energy. Typically, the puzzles make the dog work to find a treat, and it provides the perfect amount of stimulation to distract them from the stress’s root cause for long periods of time.
Create a Safe Space
A comfortable bed or soft-sided dog kennel can be a safe space for your pup. This safe space provides a sense of security and comfort even when you’re not there to support your dog during their anxious episode.
For dogs who express aggression or excessive chewing when left alone, putting them in their crate while you’re away from home protects them and your belongings until your return. Consider placing a bed or blanket inside your dog’s crate for extra comfort.
Utilize Anxiety Jackets and Vests
Anxiety jackets and vests are effective tools for combating anxiety in many dogs. The tight-fitting design is comparable to swaddling a baby, and the consistent pressure around them is comforting. In fact, these garments work similarly to physical contact.
While wearing the jacket or vest, many dogs feel like their owner is hugging them tightly. This garment might be a good option for a dog that fears thunderstorms. For instance, you can put it on them when you know a storm is coming, and the pressure of the jacket should comfort them even if you’re not home.
When To Seek Professional Help
Although many of the previously mentioned methods work for several dogs, severe cases may require professional help. If your pup’s anxiety diminishes their or your own quality of life, it’s probably time to seek help.
If you’re unsure where to start, your veterinarian can provide you with the names of local certified trainers and behaviorists. These professionals will assess your situation and provide additional steps to get your pup’s anxiety under control.
Dogs aren’t that much different from people, and they require plenty of love and support to combat anxiety. Understanding what you can do to help an anxious dog feel calmer is an excellent first step to providing adequate support for your anxiety-ridden pup. Rather than getting upset at your dog’s anxious tendencies, it’s essential to provide comfort and opportunities to distract them from their fears and emotions.