Anxiety is a problem that is seen in more and more people in this busy modern world, but did you know it’s become more common in our canine friends as well? Just as with their human counterparts, different dogs show anxiety in different ways. It can be very subtle signs, such as licking their lips continually, drooling excessively, or pulling their ears back. On the other hand the signs can be very obvious, and destructive. Like, urinating and defecating in the house, destroying furniture, barking continually, and even becoming aggressive. An anxious dog is a very stressful experience for the owner, and for the dog itself, however there are some things that you can do to help, and even cure their anxiety.
Get Your Dog A Health Check
The first, and most important thing to do, is to take your dog to the vet for a health check. Any change in your dog’s behavior should be checked by a professional. There could be a reason for the anxiety, such as being in pain, that needs a vet’s help to sort out. Once they have been given a clean bill of health, the vet can recommend behaviour therapy or medication, or even a combination of the two to really help get your dog back on track.
Make Your Dog A Safe Place
At home, it is important for your dog to feel safe. They should have at least one, if not two or more places in the house when your dog can go to feel less stressed, and protected. It’s a good idea to provide your dog with a bed that can help to keep your dog calm. Calming dog beds, such as the doughnut shaped ones, provide your dog with somewhere to go that they can snuggle in to. The raised sides on these types of beds can help them to feel protected on all sides.
A crate is often a great idea, providing your dog with a den-like environment that they can go to to hide, or feel secure. A crate replicates the type of den that a wild dog would have, and it is within a dog’s instinct to have somewhere like this to go to when they feel a bit overwhelmed. A crate should have a comfortable bed in it, such as a calming dog bed, or an orthopaedic mattress, which helps take the pressure off of the joints in an older or larger dog.
Make Sure Your Dog Is Getting Enough Exercise
As with people, if a dog is not receiving enough exercise, all the pent up energy they have can manifest itself into anxiety. So make sure your dog is getting enough exercise everyday. However, if you have an older dog, or a dog with known joint pain, it can cause them anxiety if they are over exercised, as the resulting joint pain can make them feel very stressed. If your dog has separation anxiety, taking them on a long, playful walk can help them relax and wear them out so they sleep better, and as in humans, exercise produces feel good endorphins which produces the happy hormone, making them feel better.
Physical Contact With Your Dog
Again as with humans, physical contact with your dog can really help relieve some of their stress. Dogs love their owners more than anything else on earth, and your touch can really soothe them. It has even been known for a dog’s heart rate to slow down as their power strokes them. If your dog is feeling anxious it can really help to give them a stroke and reassurance. It can also help to massage your dog, there are plenty of tutorials out there showing you how to massage your dog. As with us, a dog’s muscles tense when they get stressed, so a massage, especially from their favourite person – you – can really help to relieve tension.
Music is an excellent stress reliever, so much so that there are playlists and CDs made for dogs specifically, to help them with their anxiety. Music can be calming, but it can also help to block out noises that cause anxiety like traffic, or fireworks for example. Classical music has been proven to help reduce anxiety and provide a calming environment, but more recently it has been found that reggae and even soft rock can also be just as calming. Some dogs like talk radio, this is especially effective when a dog suffers with separation anxiety, as it replicates the sounds of people being in the house.
The most commonly known brand of compression shirt is called the ThunderShirt, and it works by exerting constant, gentle pressure to the dog’s torso. These shirts are shown to be calming, and were originally intended for use during fireworks, or thunder as the name suggests. However, it has been shown that these work in a whole variety of situations that make your dog feel anxious.
What Else Can You Do To Help?
There are other ways you can try and help your dog feel less anxious. Pheromones are one way of doing that. These are products that give of a pheromone smell that is calming to your dog, however humans cannot smell it. These are available as plugins, sprays, collars and wipes, and have been proven to be very effective in dogs with anxieties. There are some herbal remedies, similar to those that humans use, that help to reduce stress, usually involving only applying a couple of drops per day to help. Some people choose to use CBD oil to help reduce a dog’s anxiety. There is no scientific evidence to say that this works, but many owners say it has helped their dog. If you are going to give your dog any medication, always check with your vet first, to make sure it’s not going to interfere with any medication they are already on.
If your dog has anxiety, hopefully this article has given you some tips on how to help. There is no quick fix, but it is worth it for both you and your dog if you take some time to help them. Remember to always seek a vet’s advice first.
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