Just like with other unwanted behaviors like aggression, barking, biting, chewing, and howling, anxiety in your dog can be treatable. And, while sometimes the best you can do is manage it, in many cases it can actually be completely cured!
If you’ve got an anxious dog, one that’s suffering from separation anxiety, or simply a dog that’s highly strung, these tips to calm and destress might just work.
Putting a coat or t-shirt on your dog so it applies a constant, mild pressure to their torso can help them feel safe and calm. So-called “Thundershirts’ help dogs feel calmer during thunder and fireworks, you can also use them in other situations.
This method follows the same logic as swaddling a baby, and is a great recourse for animals that struggle with noise, separation, strangers, and travel.
Certain foods are stimulants, and others have a calming influence. By selecting or cooking particular meals over others and paying more attention to your dog’s diet, you can go a long way towards managing their stress-levels and how they respond to anxiety.
For example, beef is one of nature’s best antidepressants. The B vitamins in it regulate stress and work wonders to bring anxiety levels down. It allows the body to produce anti-stress hormones in the adrenal gland, which controls how much cortisol (the stress hormone) is being released. And increased pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, reduces cortisol, which lowers the physical response to stress.
Diets rich in whole foods also work wonders, and blueberries pack a powerhouse of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that are great for your dog when they are dealing with stress. Wild blueberries are even better, since they have higher amounts of polyphenols than cultivated ones do. Add a few to your furry friend’s feeding bowl daily or mix them up with some goat’s milk yogurt for an extra-special treat.
Diets rich in the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish can suppress the production of adrenaline. This hormone is the one responsible for hyperarousal, and too much of it can cause anxiety and aggression.
Slow down your pet’s acute stress response by giving them food chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids like mackerel, sardines, tuna, and wild salmon. What all fatty fish have in common is the presence of vitamins A and D, both of which battle stress. And salmon is that much more special because it contains L-tryptophan, another great weapon in the tension-tacking arsenal.
Excess energy can often cause anxiety, so playing with your dog, taking them on a long walk, or going for a run together is key to making them stress less. In the same way it does for us, exercise relieves stress in dogs by releasing endorphins, which reduce pain and increase pleasure receptors.
Massage calms and relaxes the most anxious people and does the very same for our canine companions! Anxiety causes muscles to tense, which increases stress levels, and massage therapy is a great way to break this vicious cycle.
Start at your dog’s neck and work your way downward with long, sweeping strokes. Do your best to keep one hand on the animal at all times, while the other works the muscles. Over time, you may even notice exactly where your pet holds its stress, and can zone in there right away for quicker relief.
It turns out that music therapy is also beneficial for our canine friends. And it’s perfect for noise sensitivity by working to block sounds that bother certain animals and cause stress. In fact, research has shown that dogs have a particular affinity for classical music, harp music especially!
There’s nothing more soothing to an anxious animal than its owner’s touch. When you see the signs of mounting stress in your pet, nip them in the bud as early as possible. Pick your dog up, cuddle them on the couch, or treat them to an extended petting session.
If you know, for example, that your dog becomes anxious around groups of other dogs, it’s probably a good idea to avoid the dog park at peak times! While avoidance shouldn’t put your life on hold, if you don’t have to do something, why not keep away?
In situations that you can’t steer clear of, there are preventative measures you could employ. Body harnesses, leashes, and even basket muzzles can help you prevent dangerous situations. Once you know what your dog’s triggers are, you can prepare for the situations before the time.
Although there is limited evidence that alternative products are beneficial to dogs who suffer from anxiety, most products can cause no harm and are non-invasive. This list includes chiropractic, acupuncture, herbology, holistic, and homeopathic measures, and you can use them in combination or alone. Rescue Remedy has a good reputation for helping dogs handle especially anxious circumstances, and an increasing number of people are using CBD oil or treats to help their pet stay calm.
If exploring any of these options, always err on the side of caution, and run your plans past your vet beforehand.
Although stress is obviously not a bad behavior, giving your dog a time-out when they’re struggling with anxiety could be very helpful. Isolating him or her in a quiet, safe space may be just what the doctor ordered for frayed nerves.
Several training strategies exist that you can use to treat anxiety in your dog. One popular example is counterconditioning, wherein you change your animal’s response to whatever’s causing the stress. This works by replacing anxious behavior with more desirable conduct, like sitting and staying, or focusing on you, the owner.
Another often-used strategy is desensitization. Here you will slowly introduce your dog to whatever causes it to become anxious, but in smaller doses and at a lower intensity. Repeated exposure and rewarding positive behavior could see your animal reaching a calm state far more easily over time.
A relaxed dog is a happy dog. Thankfully, anxiety is one of those conditions that come with many different treatment plans. If your dog is feeling stressed, help them chill out!