As every new petowner knows when you first bring your dog home you are never quite sure if they are going to be an anxious dog or a super relaxed. It can be a worry if they are nervous and have a hard time settling down. Here are seven top tips to help you manage and calm you anxious pet.
7 Tips on calming an anxious dog
An anxious pup can be frustrating, disheartening and upsetting for owners who believe that they are doing all that they can to provide a safe and loving environment – and there is nothing wrong with you feeling this way.
However, anxiety in dogs is fairly common with a number of things that can affect how they perceive the world and your actions. Plus, with the effects of 2020, those of us who have worked from home this year may find ourselves with anxious dogs when we do return to the office, as they have become dependent and accustomed to us being at home all day.
When you recognise that your dog is feeling anxious, here are some tips for calming them down and making them feel safe and secure, so they can get back to playing, snoozing and making you happy like usual.
Signs of anxiety in dogs
According to Battersea Rescue, these are the signs of anxiety in dogs:
- Excessive panting
- Their tail between their legs
- Lip licking
- Pinned back ears
- Excessive yawning
- Raising their paw often
Barking and howling – especially when you aren’t around – can also be signs of anxiety, especially if they seem to bark at the slightest sound. Destructive behaviour is another sign, typically occurring when you aren’t at home.
Combat the signs of anxiety with these tips:
1. Understand what is causing the anxiety
Some dogs are simply nervous, but there is always something that triggers their anxiety. Separation anxiety is common in dogs if their owners aren’t around often. Boredom and frustration lead to unwanted and destructive behaviour while you’re gone. Or they may have experienced something negative that results in anxious behaviour if something similar occurs.
2. Ensure your dog is getting plenty of exercise
Exercise leads to a tired out pooch, which means they’re more likely to nap and relax than fret about their situation. For smaller dogs, the recommended amount of walking time is 30 minutes, medium size dogs require at least an hour and larger breeds should be walked for two hours each day.
Of course, you can split this time over the course of the day – a brisk lunchtime walk will be beneficial for both you and your dog – or you can trim down the time by introducing energy exerting activities such as chasing after a ball or meeting with a friend who also has a dog that enjoys playing.
3. Try some training techniques for barking
If excessive barking is a sign of your dog’s anxiety, there are ways to tackle this to make life a little better for both of you. There are products that can help you train your dog to stop barking during an anxious episode, these emit a high pitched sound that distracts them from whatever has triggered the barking and over time they’ll learn that they don’t need to make noise.
4. Keep them occupied while you’re away
If you leaving the house makes them anxious, then leave them with puzzles or toys to distract them while you’re gone. A few small treats in a Kong toy should keep them occupied, wear out their brains and distract them until they need a nap.
5. Give them something that smells like you
Whether you’re leaving the house or putting them to bed at night, leave them with an old t-shirt or tatty pair of socks that they can keep in their bed to have your scent close by. Dogs lean on their sense of smell, so something that reminds them of you close by can keep them calm and reduce anxiety.
6. Always greet them calmly
We know it’s great when we see our dogs are excited to see us but if your pup is anxious it’s best to be as calm as possible when you re-enter the room or return home. This tells them that you leaving isn’t anything to worry about. Acknowledge them but speak calmly and stroke them gently.
7. Play calming music or sounds
Background noise, whether it’s the radio or white noise, can distract dogs from other sounds and fear-inducing noises. There are playlists dedicated to calming dogs on Spotify or choose a radio station that features lots of talking so that they feel like someone is still with them.
We hope that these tips for calming an anxious dog help. Take it one day at a time, work out what triggers them and let them know that you are the calm and consistent force in their life that they can rely on and you’ll have a friend for life!