Anxiety – Not only do we humans suffer from it but sadly our dogs can too. A lot of dogs can have anxiety issues which mostly stems from being abandoned by their previous owners and being kept in a shelter environment until finding their forever homes.
The good news is anxiety can be treated, just like with other unhealthy behaviours in our pets, but unfortunately anxiety cannot be totally cured and will need to be managed.
If your pet suffers from anxiety, this post is a must-read. We will outline several proven methods for supporting your anxious dog and help you to promote a happy and healthy life.
Firstly, what can cause your pet’s anxiety and what are the most common proven ways to calm an anxious pet? It can present itself in multiple ways, from whining and barking to shivering and whimpering. You may also find that your dog becomes destructive or aggressive when in an anxious state. If the anxiety is not addressed they may lose their appetite and become totally withdrawn.
The most common reasons for anxiety in a dog are abandonment, loud noises, fear of being left at home alone, being around strangers, children, travelling or even other pets. Sadly anxiety is prevalent in dogs that have been abused or neglected.
The best way to treat your pet is to establish the root cause. Anxiety is usually evident and very easily determined. Once you have established the reason for their anxiety you can begin the initial treatment and find a way to manage it thereafter.
Proven Ways to Reduce Anxiety in your Dog
- Exercise – if your dog has separation anxiety the simple answer is to never leave them alone but this is just not realistic or practical for most pet owners, so using exercise as both a bonding time and to tire them out is often a very easy fix. As anxiety can cause an excess of energy, if you take your dog out to play ball or go for a long walk before leaving the house it can help to calm and relax them. Giving them plenty of physical contact and talking to them while walking is also very beneficial. Like us, exercise helps to relieve stress by producing those lovely happy endorphins.
- Physical Contact – we believe that there is probably nothing more soothing to an anxious dog than its owner’s touch. If you can identify the early signs of anxiety in your dog and nip them in the bud by picking them up, grooming them, cuddling on the couch or giving them a good long petting session this can help to alleviate their anxiety.
- Massage – fancy a massage – I do – imagine how it could relax and calm even the most anxious person. Did you realise that it also works wonders with dogs? Anxiety often causes tensing of the muscles and massage therapy is a way to relieve this tension. Our suggestion is to start at the neck and work downward with long strokes. Try keeping one hand on the dog while the other works to massage. Over repeated sessions you may even be able to pinpoint where your dog holds its stress and you can concentrate on that particular area.
- Music – music therapy is proven to be beneficial for humans and pets (including cats). Music can be calming and relaxing while you are at home, in the car or away from your pet. It also eases their noise sensitivity by blocking out any street or other scary sounds that causes them grief and creates anxiety. Research shows that many dogs prefer classical music and even harp music which can be a natural sedative.
- Time-Out – give your dog some time-out when they are acting out, you could try isolating them in a safe and quiet space, perhaps with some quiet soothing music, dim lighting and/or include some pet safe aromatherapy.
- Calming Coats/T-Shirts – calming coats or t-shirts apply mild, constant pressure to a dog’s torso, very much like a swaddling cloth does on a baby. It is recommended for dogs with any type of travel separation, noise or stranger induced anxiety.
- Alternate Therapies – there is limited evidence that alternative products can be of benefit to dogs suffering anxiety. The products are non-invasive and will cause no harm. Some therapies can be used alone or combined with the ideas above to be more effective. Before trying alternative therapies please do comprehensive research and also consult with your vet.