Every pet owner worries when they realise their pet suffers from certain anxieties. If you are a dog owner sometimes those anxieties can be debilitating for your pet. Here are 6 top tips to help you manage your anxious dog and help you and your pet lead a less stressful life.
How to manage your anxious dog
If you have an anxious dog – whether that’s a puppy that’s not fully settled in your home yet, a rescue dog you’ve recently adopted or an older dog that has shown more signs of anxiety with age – bedtime can be tricky.
Often anxious dogs will have separation anxiety – this means they will become stressed – and potentially therefore misbehave, when not around you. This tends to happen when you leave the house but it can also happen when they are left alone at bedtime.
The worst thing you can do is tell them off or just shut them in a crate and ignore them while hoping they will settle and just go to sleep. Neither will help resolve the issue and could actually just make it worse and prolong it.
Strategies to help your anxious dog
So, what do you do? Here are a few things to include in the bedtime routine that will help to calm your anxious dog:
Calming activity ahead of bedtime
As the clock ticks towards bedtime, try to sit quietly with them. Help them to feel calm and relaxed. Rub them behind the ears, for example to relax them. Do something that will soothe them, ready for a peaceful night’s sleep. What you don’t want to do is to get their adrenaline going just before you plan to leave them alone. So be careful the games you play just before bed.
A comfortable bed to sleep in
A safe, warm and cosy place to sleep is vital. These snuggle beds are perfect for anxious dogs – as they are designed to comfort them, in both senses of the word. The high sides and soft material will help them to feel safe and comfortable. It also folds over which can be very beneficial for dogs with anxiety.
A tasty treat before bed
Choose a treat that is reserved for bedtime. Therefore, when your dog is given this, they know what it means and it will help them to settle down. A treat is also something that they can look forward to receiving at bedtime. The treat is up to you, it could be their favourite one but you’ll also find treats that have been specifically designed to calm anxious dogs.
Leave your scent with them
While you aren’t physically there, leaving something that smells of you can help to comfort your dog. This could be an item of clothing you have been wearing or a blanket you were wrapped up in.
Don’t make a fuss before leaving the room
It’s very tempting to make a fuss of an anxious dog before leaving them alone. However, while you feel like you’re improving the situation by cuddling them and saying not to worry because you’ll be back soon, you may make it worse. It’s actually far better for them if you make as little fuss as possible. Put them in bed with their treat and then turn the light off. Then shut the door without saying anything at all.
Routine is key for an anxious dog
Routine is the key word in this. Dog’s thrive on it and many can start to feel anxious when what you are doing is different to what they are used to. So, make sure you have a bedtime routine and stick to it. Whatever you choose to do – from the time they go to bed, to the treat they have before going to sleep – keep consistent.
If you are currently losing sleep yourself because your dog becomes anxious at bedtime and perhaps are finding yourself checking on them throughout the night – try changing up your routine. Incorporate the above into it and you’ll both be enjoying a peaceful night’s sleep before you know it.