If you have ever had a panic attack, you may be aware of how unnerving it can be when bouts of anxiety come your way. In the same way, our canine companions are no different in their feelings. From fireworks to thunderstorms, that extreme feeling of fear can be grueling.
Attempting to calm down a dog is a daunting task for anyone, especially when not equipped with the knowledge of what is actually aggravating them. The fact that it is altogether daunting, does not mean it is impossible. With a few tested and tried methods, you can easily become a dog whisperer overnight. Here are some essential tips to help calm down an anxious dog.
This first method works on dogs and human beings alike, and altogether, it is a sure way to alleviate anxiety, fear, and stress. In stressful situations, it is highly recommended that you cuddle your pet or simply stay close to them for reassurance. If a dog feels disconnected from his/her owner, it is highly likely that they will experience high levels of anxiety and stress in the long run. Even in situations where they are hurt badly and cannot be held, just your physical presence alone is enough to take some of that pain away.
It’s also vital to know your dog, understand how they want to be touched and what type of contact they find soothing. This way, you won’t cause them any more aggravation when they are obviously distressed.
Nevertheless, be sure to gauge and judge each situation aptly, in some cases, petting and comforting your pup can be misinterpreted as a reward for being anxious altogether. As such, you may be setting yourself up by training your dog to be extremely fearful in the future. It is highly advisable that you choose the moments where you make use of this method so as not to give your dog the wrong impression and ultimately cause him/her to be fearful throughout life.
Use Dog Accessories
Apart from actually touching your dog, you can also employ the use of a Thundershirt. These dog accessories go a long way for comfort and can be used in many situations, not only during thunderstorms or fireworks. They may not be as glam as you want them to be, but the results do not lie.
Thundershirt works by swaddling your pet and applying gentle and continuous pressure. By doing this, it gives them the same feeling babies have when they are swaddled. So, in the case that you are not always around to give out hugs and cuddles, this wrap will do all the work.
Have you ever gone for a jog to clear your mind or simply to calm you down? Well, there is a reason that it works so well. In some cases, anxiety can produce a whole lot of uncontrollable energy, and this also goes for our canine friends. One of the best ways to channel all that pent-up energy is to engage in exercise. Your dog’s tension can simply melt away if they engage in activities such as walking, running and playing (be it in your backyard or at the park).
Not only will the strenuous nature of exercise succeed in tiring him/her out, but it will also calm them down enough for you to deal with the root cause of the anxiety. Let’s face it, no one wants to deal with a manic dog, and after they blow some of that steam off, you definitely will not have to.
Another aspect of exercise that makes it perfect for relieving anxiety is the fact that it is an avenue for you to spend some quality time with your pet and that can make all the difference in the world.
Of course, there are limitations to this method altogether, for instance, if your vet strongly advises against exercise, or if an illness/ injury makes it physically impossible for them to exert themselves physically. Otherwise, any form of exercise can be exactly what the doctor prescribes.
Develop a Predictable Routine
Before looking outwards for solutions to your pet’s anxiety, it is highly recommended to look inwards to determine if something else can be done to calm your pet down. Who knows? Some day to day activities with your pet can be adjusted to manage and improve their anxiety as a whole.
Giving your pet’s life some well-needed structure is a sure way to firstly figure out the root of their anxiety then get to the bottom of it. Admit it, the fear of the unknown is a real thing and sometimes, just knowing exactly what comes next can create a sense of control and stability. This happens with humans too, sometimes people are scared to walk into situations that are out of their comfort zones, and it affects all aspects of their lives.
Getting out of a comfort zone is great, but it is not pertinent, especially when it can affect the quality of your pup’s life negatively. Based on all that, having a well laid out daily routine enables your dog to know when he/she needs to do normal things like eating, bathing, playing and so on. Once they get the hang of it, the routine helps to make them feel more grounded, confident and of course, less nervous. This is a great route to take especially if your canine friend’s anxiety stems from separation.
All in all, this method allows both dogs and humans to feel safer and more in control of their days. With this, they can gradually begin to feel more relaxed and less anxious while simply living out their lives.
Never has it been advisable to further escalate an already charged situation and for this reason, it is expected that you maintain a calm façade when your pup is battling with anxiety. Truth be told, pets can sense when something is off, they pick up on human emotions and as such, your aggravation can pay off badly.
If you are tense or even elated when they are experiencing anxiety, based on this alone, they can become even more upset. It will then just become one giant cycle of stress and anxiety that cannot be broken until someone completely calms down. Since you are the pet parent, the responsibility of taking charge of the situation lies in your hands, so you need to curb whatever urges you break down at that moment and patiently lead your pup out of that dark place.
Simply take a step back from the situation, take deep breaths and proceed to speak in a soothing and low voice. You can also offer up treats and affection to further diffuse the situation. You are the best means for your dog to cope with something out of the norm. This is because he/she trusts you and loves you enough to follow you when you take the lead.
Keep it at the back of your mind that this is not one of those situations where your pet is purposely acting out and as such, it would be incredibly unwise to punish him/her for being scared or anxious. Endeavor to be as patient as can be and before you know it, the whole ordeal will be over.
Give Them Some Space
Sometimes, no amount of cuddling, petting or soothing can calm down an anxious dog. In this case, they may just need a quiet space, void of any sensory stimulation where they can gather their wits. If your pup is crate trained, then this may be the time for him/her to spend some time in their space; but be sure to leave the door open so that it does not feel like confinement.
It does not have to be a crate, just make sure your pet is inside the house or in a room that you consider being the most soundproof in your home. At times, there may already be a space that your dog considers a haven; it could be under a table, in your room, in the bathtub or in a closet. Just let them go there until they feel safe enough to emerge.
In the case that your dog is experiencing physical pain, then a little bit of rest may be all he/she needs to feel better. Try to be empathetic and imagine what it is you would like while taking some time for yourself, especially when you are under a whole lot of stress. This will enable you to properly relate to them altogether.
This is not the only way to tackle with anxiety though, so if your pup does want to be close to you, then let them be. At this point, all roads should lead to a place where your pet feels safe and calm. Keep it at the back of your mind that this is not a punishment, so do not be harsh or impatient. You can even give them a treat so as to further reassure them that you care, and they are not being reprimanded.
Get Professional Help
Anxiety is a tricky thing; it has the ability to completely alter the way your dog acts on a normal day. In some cases, it always has a trigger and once you know what it is, you can adequately deal with the situation. Nevertheless, when your pet begins to get more anxious on a frequent basis, it may be time for you to consult someone with more knowledge on the issue, i.e. a vet or an applied animal behaviorist.
Finding the actual source of anxiety is the best way to know how to properly manage it. There is no point trying to work around the situation or patching it up because this is not a teachable moment. Your dog is highly unlikely to learn to live with whatever is making him/her act out.
Before going to see the professional, be sure to note how frequent the bouts of anxiety have become, the times and situations involved when your pet has been most anxious, so you can arm the vet with enough information to make an educated diagnosis. This will help you put together a proper plan to alter your pet’s underlying emotional response completely.
In some cases, you may already be aware of what is causing the anxiety, but seeking professional help is still recommended. Not only will you have a fresh pair of eyes examining the situation, but there might also be something that the vet can spot which your untrained eyes could not notice at first.
Use Chew Toys
Coming home to a pair of chewed up shoes may just be your dog being a dog, but in some cases, it’s the destructive actions of a stressed-out dog. Truth be told, a dog’s strongest suit is not the ability to channel emotional energy; when they are happy, they are all over the place and the same goes when they are stressed out. All they know how to do for sure is act out in order to show you that something is not quite right.
Anyone who has seen a distressed dog before knows all the signs; they pace, they get anxious and more often than not, they take it out on any object that is near them at the moment. This can equally happen even though they have been trained to refrain from such behavior. In moments of high stress, all those lessons fly out the window and you are left to deal with some raw canine emotions.
Rather than having to deal with a chewed-up shoe, a good way out is to distract your pet with some of their favorite toys; even a good old chew toy will suffice. Engaging them in the activity of chewing and playing altogether will not only give them a healthy outlet, but it will also ensure that your house does not get trashed and your belongings chewed to naught.
Having some chew toys around them at such junctures can give your pet a more viable and acceptable means to alleviate some of the stress they are feeling. Also, if your pet begins to associate moments of high stress with fun and toys, over time, their anxiety should begin to lessen.
When all else fails, do not hesitate to medicate. Of course, this should be with the approval of your vet, so refrain from giving your pet unprescribed drugs. Nevertheless, if your dog has been displaying high levels of anxiety for extended periods of time, then it may be time for you to take the bold step of considering pheromones or anti-anxiety medication.
It is understandable that most pet owners are highly reluctant to go down this route, it is indeed a big decision, but when nothing else seems to be working this may just be the saving grace. Prescription medication can cause a serious and significant improvement in the way your pup deals with anxiety and stress as a whole, especially when they come face to face with stress-inducing noises like thunderstorms or firecrackers.
On making the decision to medicate your pet, educate yourself thoroughly and then discuss the available and preferred options with your vet. It is only by doing this that you will be able to determine if medication is the best route to take in the long run. One great thing to know if you are considering this option is that these meds are not designed to suppress your pet’s personality and sedate them. All you will notice is that they will seem a lot less anxious, and as such, will have an improved quality of life. Combine the meds with constant consultations and visits to a veterinary specialist in behavioral medicine and you are highly likely to get your pet right out of the trenches.
Examine Your State of Mind
In a whole range of cases, feelings and moods are communicable; one rotten egg can truly spoil the bunch. If you find yourself constantly reacting to your pet’s anxiety with that of your own, this may just escalate the whole situation further. The truth is, a blind man is highly unlikely to be able to lead another blind man and as such, you also need some so there as a solid support system for your pet.
As their owner, you need to be able to step up in times of high stress and take control of the situation aptly. In order for you to successfully pull that off, you need to actually possess the ability to remain calm altogether.
So, if you find that you are even more nervous than your dog at times, you should seek professional help and become the shoulder that your pet can adequately lean on.
With the above tips, you will find that both your pet and yourself will have longer periods of calm around the house with less bouts of dog-related anxiety.