The feeling of stress or anxiety is not fun for anyone, nor is it good for overall health and wellbeing. As a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to make sure your furry friend feels safe, comfortable and happy.
If you’ve noticed your dog feeling stressed or anxious, there are various ways to provide comfort and help ease their worries. From creating a soothing environment to considering calming care supplements, in this article we detail how to calm an anxious dog.
Recognising signs of anxiety in your dog
Pets, much like humans, can experience anxiety due to various reasons such as separation, loud noises, changes in routine, or even past traumatic experiences.
Recognising the signs of anxiety is the initial step in addressing the issue. Common signs include excessive barking, trembling, pacing, hiding, loss of appetite, or destructive behaviour.
Some common causes of anxiety in dogs include:
- Moving house: a complete change of environment translates into unfamiliar scents and unfamiliar surroundings (and ‘safe zones’). The stress of moving might cause dogs to become clingy or withdrawn.
- A visit to the vet: it goes without saying that the interaction a Vet may have with a pet can cause distress. The smells, sounds, and the association of the clinic with past uncomfortable experiences (like vaccinations or examinations) can be a sensory overload and potentially cause stress.
- A new pet entering the home: whether it’s a new addition to the family or a visiting fur friend, it’s important to watch closely for any signs of apprehension from either animal. The uncertainty of the interaction can cause them to become anxious and therefore act out.
- Sharp, loud noises: While they’re a form of celebration for us, fireworks on new years eve, Christmas crackers and even party poppers can be terrifying for pets. Even the loud noise of the vacuum, thunderstorms or nearby construction can cause them to bark excessively or even try to escape.
Five ways to help calm an anxious dog
Create a calm environment
Dogs are creatures of habit, so familiar surroundings and routine will always be a good place to start when trying to calm an anxious dog. Predictability helps to offer your dog a sense of security, so aim to stick to a regular feeding schedule, playtime, and walks.
Designate a cosy spot for your pet where they feel safe and secure. This could be a corner with their bed, blankets, or toys. Make it a quiet and comfortable space they can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. Consider also utilising white noise machines or calming music, or close windows and curtains to minimise external sounds.
Exercise and mental stimulation
Physical activity and mental engagement are vital for reducing anxiety in pets. Regular walks, interactive toys, or puzzle feeders not only tire them out physically but also provide mental stimulation, diverting their attention away from potential stressors.
Supplements that help calm an anxious dog
Supplements formulated specifically for anxiety in pets, like Purina Pro Plan Calming Care probiotic, can help assist in maintaining calm behaviour.
Containing bifidobacterium longum (BL999), a probiotic strain shown to help blunt cortisol response to anxious events, and support a healthy immune system. Results can be seen within a 6 week period, with improvement in anxious behaviours (such as pacing). In a Purina study, 90% of dogs showed an improvement in displaying anxious behaviours such as excessive vocalisation, jumping, pacing and spinning*.
What’s best about Pro Plan Veterinary Calming Care Probiotic for dogs is that it’s so easy to administer. Simply sprinkle a pre-portioned sachet onto their meal. It’s as simple as that!
There are also natural remedies such as chamomile, valerian root and lavender that can have calming effects on pets. Where you’re looking for a natural remedy, we advise consulting your veterinarian before using any herbal supplements to ensure they’re safe for your pet and won’t interact negatively with any existing medications.
Behavioural training and comforting techniques
Consider some proven training techniques such as positive reinforcement – rewarding calm behaviour with treats or praise – and desensitisation, where you gradually expose your pet to triggers that cause anxiety in a controlled environment. For instance, if they fear car rides, start with short, pleasant drives and gradually increase the duration.
Other ways to help comfort your pet include massages (yes, they help melt away stress in pets too!), gentle grooming, specifically designed calming dog beds, and weighted blankets for dogs.
Consultation with a professional
Research any dog trainers in your area that may specialise in anxious pets. You can even request a Meet & Greet before booking their services, to see if this option is right for you and your pet.
If your pet’s anxiety persists or worsens, seeking advice from a veterinarian or a certified animal behaviourist is strongly recommended. They can provide tailored strategies and any additional treatments or therapies suited to your pet’s specific needs.
Helping an anxious pet requires patience, understanding, and a multi-faceted approach. Creating a secure environment, providing mental stimulation, considering supplements like Pro Plan Calming Care, and implementing positive reinforcement techniques can significantly aid in alleviating anxiety.
Remember though – every pet is unique, so finding the right combination of strategies may take time. Always prioritise your pet’s well-being and consult with professionals for the best possible care.
*Truselle-Schwarz McGowan, R. Tapping into those ‘gut feelings’: impact of BL999 (Bifidobacterium longum) on anxiety in dogs. ACVB Symposium 2018.