Excessive barking. Accidents. Destructive behavior. These are just some of the symptoms of dog anxiety, and it can make dog ownership incredibly stressful.
Not only that, but you’re most likely feeling guilty and concerned that your pup is feeling anxiety at all. Whether the symptoms stem from being alone during the day or a disruption in your pup’s daily routine, it’s important to get to the bottom of the behavior and then find a solution to reduce, and hopefully eliminate it, altogether.
We took a deep dive into the research to identify 11 ways to solve the problem of dog anxiety once and for all.
1. Healthy Exercise
If your dog is left alone for large gaps during the day or evening, they’re bound to have pent-up energy, which can exacerbate anxiety.
Engaging your pup in physical activity such as long walks, jogging, fetch, or trips to the dog park can release that energy and allow your dog to feel more relaxed and at ease when you’re at work or trying to get things done around the house.
And, just like exercise increases endorphins (happy hormones) in humans, the same is true for dogs. You can adjust exercise levels and activities based on your dog’s age, breed, temperament, and overall health. For most dogs, just getting out of the house a few times a day is a major treat, so make sure you give your “best friend” this gift.
2. Anti-Anxiety Dog Bed
Most dogs have a preferred place in your house where they enjoy hanging out, so why not make that area a safe haven? Instead of a run-of-the-mill dog bed, we recommend treating your pup to a scientifically-backed anti-anxiety dog bed.
Recommended by veterinarians, dog trainers, and behavioral experts, the NurtureBed features a unique and proprietary faux fur material that mimics mom’s fur. It also has a supportive donut edge that gives your dog something to lean into, making them feel cuddled and protected.
There are a lot of dog beds out there, and you’ve probably tried several, but there is nothing like the NurtureBed. You and your pup are going to fall in love. Guaranteed.
Available in four colors and multiple sizes, NurtureBed is something that you and your dog will love having in the house.
3. Compression Wraps
You’ve probably heard of weighted blankets helping humans with everything from insomnia to depression, and there’s a weighted blanket equivalent that can help your furry friend. Compression wraps, sold under brand names like ThunderShirt, work to give your dog a comforting squeeze.
The concept is similar to swaddling a baby to help them fall asleep and get some rest without mom being attached at the hip (or the nip).
4. Music Therapy
If you’ve done any searching on the topic of dog anxiety, you’ve probably found all sorts of playlists and videos designed to calm your pup.
Not all dogs will respond to this method, but even if your pup doesn’t start bopping to Beethoven, there’s a practical advantage to putting a playlist on repeat or playing dog videos on your television. The background noise can help block external sound from the street and neighbors, which are common sources of stress.
There are professionally curated playlists available, but you can easily find some free playlists on YouTube that you can even connect to your Smart TV to add a visual component.
5. CBD Oils and Treats
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence about the miracles of CBD treats and oils to calm nervous dogs, and there isn’t consistent information about whether CBD works for all dogs.
One of the issues with CBD is that because it isn’t regulated, there is a wide range of quality and purity across brands. As more CBD products get introduced to the stores, online, and in veterinary clinics, it can be difficult to narrow down which one is best for your dog. Our suggestion is to check with your veterinarian to get a recommendation before investing your hard-earned money.
Just Launched: We recently developed a line of top-quality, standardized CBD products for your pooch. Get yours at NurtureChews.com
Along the same lines as CBD are supplements that reduce anxiety. Look for ingredients like:
- Passionflower powder
- Ginger root powder (to ease digestion and help with upset tummies)
You can purchase the supplements directly and add them to food, or buy “functional” treats that include ample doses of calming ingredients.
Want to know our top picks in this arena? Click here for details.
As you already know, dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and some scents actually work to reduce anxiety. Even better is that the pheromones that your dog is likely to respond to are odorless to humans. Talk about a win-win!
From a practical standpoint, there are a few different ways to implement aromatherapy. Perhaps the most simple and straightforward is to rub essential oils into your dog’s coat. The essential oils that are most helpful are lavender, chamomile, orange, lemon, and sandalwood. If you follow Young Living, their Valor and Valor II have received rave reviews from dog owners for their relaxing properties.
(Picture Credit: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
If your dog has a ton of fur, look for areas where you can get closer contact to the skin for maximum results. The belly and inner thighs tend to be good candidates. You can also diffuse essential oils meant to help with anxiety in a diffuser.
You might have heard that some essential oils can be harmful to dogs and cats, and you’re right, so be sure to exercise caution.
The essential oils that are known to be toxic and should be avoided at all costs include eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, citrus, peppermint, cinnamon, pine, and peppermint. Before using any essential oils, make sure to do some additional research to ensure that they’re safe.
8. Desensitization or Counterconditioning Training
If there are certain triggers that induce anxiety in your dog, your best bet is to reduce or eliminate their effect. As a result, you’ll have a calm, well-adjusted dog. They’ll be happier and more relaxed, and so will you.
Here the first step is to identify what causes the anxiety. Most likely, you already know. It could be one or more of the following:
- Trains or sirens
- Surfaces in your home (like a wood floor)
- Cognitive decline
- Impaired vision or hearing
Depending on what is causing your pup’s anxiety and what the symptoms of the anxiety are, there are varying training measures to consider:
Counterconditioning: This training seeks to change how your dog responds to a certain stimulus by redirecting the behavior in a certain way. For example, you could re-focus the dog’s attention to you as the owner, by asking them to sit (treats optional).
There are a lot of variables to consider in this area, so we recommend working with a professional trainer to develop a systematic training regiment.
- Desensitization: In this training, you will introduce your dog to the stimulus in small, unthreatening doses. Repeating the exposure and incentivizing calmness with treats can work wonders. Again, make sure you work with a professional here. Well-meaning dog moms and dads can sometimes derail the process without experience in this area.
Just like humans, dogs might feel nervous and insecure if they’ve never had a chance to interact with others. In cases like these, any unfamiliar situation can make your dog feel nervous and insecure.
Socialize your dog early and often. Playdates, going to new places, and meeting other people and dogs can help expand your dog’s world and make them feel more confident, no matter how much noise the Amazon guy makes when he drops off a package.
10. Rule out Health Issues
Wouldn’t it be nice if our dogs could talk to us and tell us in plain English what they’re feeling? Until Google or Tesla or Apple develops that technology, we have to rely on intuition, veterinary expertise, and past knowledge we’ve obtained by having our dog(s) as a member of the family.
Sometimes, a marked change in behavior can indicate that a health issue is happening. For example, if your dog never had any accidents and is now all of a sudden peeing the instant you step outside the door, there could be more going on than meets the eye.
Dogs (in general) are not retaliatory creatures, so it’s not like they’re trying to punish you or exact revenge by peeing on the furniture, chewing your favorite shoes, or deafening the neighbors. Instead, these symptoms are often the result of anxiety, and if it appears all of a sudden, a health issue could be the root cause.
For example, joint pain could make your dog more on edge. If your dog is losing his hearing or vision, he may feel more threatened when he’s alone. Or, if your dog is confused by a condition called cognitive dysfunction syndrome (similar to Alzheimer’s Disease), he could be feeling incredibly anxious about his surrounding. A visit to the vet is warranted to rule out or confirm these potential culprits.
Your veterinarian may prescribe antidepressants and other medications on either an as-needed basis or for continuous use, depending on the situation.
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We think medication should be the last result, especially given all of the alternative options we mentioned above. However, we are not veterinarians, so please make sure you speak with your vet to determine whether medication is a viable option.
The Bottom Line
No one wants their dog to feel anxious or exhibit bad behavior in response to being left alone or confronted with a “scary” situation.
The good news is that there are a lot of options to explore in reducing your pup’s anxiety. Every dog is different, but we think that being able to find a practical solution without accumulating hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in vet bills is always the preferable choice.
Since developing NurtureBed, more than 10,000 happy dogs have tried this scientifically proven anti-anxiety bed and given it two paws up. Before resorting to extreme or drastic measures, give NurtureBed a try, and don’t forget to let us know what you think!