Here is an introduction to our list of 11 questions and answers to help you on how to calm dog anxiety naturally.
There has been so much media coverage and talk about COVID-19 and the effects across all parts of human life, death, illness as well as loss of employment, inability to pay rent and mortgages, relationship breakdowns, disruption to education, effects on mental health and many more.
here has needed to be that serious coverage and talk as the effects on human life as we knew it, pre-COVID-19 have been so serious that we may only see something like this once in our lifetimes.
However, have you ever thought about how our animals; in particular our dogs also can pick up on our moods and feelings. This can translate into anxiety for them but there are many other factors that can also impact on our dog’s anxiety levels.
Here at The Natural Petshop we get a lot of feedback from our customers; not just on our products and our existing database of educational Blogs, but also from people wanting more education and information relating to dog ownership and behavior.
A dog’s mental state of mind is such an important area, so while we are happy to write Blogs on various hints, etc. it should always be remembered that you should see your local Veterinarian for professional help where needed.
The sort of questions we have been receiving lately regarding anxiety in dogs is mainly due to dog owners concern for their dog’s welfare and what they can do to help.
Much of those welfare questions have been about what can be done in a natural way wherever possible.
In many respects are looking at those natural methods in much the same way as there has been an emphasis on natural health and wellbeing in the human population.
These are a list of commonly asked questions that we have received relating to dog anxiety:
- causes of dog anxiety.
- how can you tell if your dog is anxious?
- what is the best way to treat dog anxiety?
- how to calm dog anxiety naturally.
- why is my dog anxious?
- dog massage for anxiety.
- how to massage a dog’s neck.
- is there any training to help get rid of anxiety?
- what natural medications can be used for dog anxiety?
- dog anxiety prevention.
- is there a special diet to help counter dog anxiety?
Based on our experience, here are some words from us on each of the above questions, that we hope will help you and your dog.
11 steps on dog anxiety – from what is it, signs and symptoms and things than can show you how to calm your dog naturally
Step 1 – Causes of dog anxiety
The first thing to know is that like humans, dogs also can suffer from anxiety. Rather than panic, be aware that anxiety is a health and normal behavior in dogs.
It is not a breed specific condition; all dog breeds can experience it; although individual dogs can be affected differently.
Some of the most common causes of dog anxiety are:
As many dogs age they can have a decline in functions such as learning new skills, memory, awareness, perception and physical decline with walking, along with hip displacement in many breeds.
Dogs have a far greater sense of hearing than humans and as a result if they are anxious the dog can react more quickly to strange or loud sounds.
Fear can also affect dog’s anxiety levels due to new visual objects, being taken in the car, that trip to the Veterinarian clinic, new environments and even changes in walking surfaces.
It has been suggested that around 15% of dogs suffer from separation anxiety.
Personally, I think it may be even higher than that based on my neighborhood. Out of 3 near neighbors, there are 4 dogs that howl and/or bark for up to 45 minutes each time the owners go out.
I don’t think those situations are a breed issue, as the 4 dogs are a Weimaraner, Australian Cattle Dog, Fox Terrier and a Miniature Greyhound.
Dogs with separation anxiety can be quite destructive around the home and garden; chewing furniture, shoes, clothing, digging holes, and going to the toilet inside the home, all on top of the barking.
It has also been suggested frequently than dogs can sense human emotions, such as stress and anxiety, without it actually having any long-term effect on the dog.
However, although the dog can sense and react to our emotions, it is also well known that the physical presence of a dog can that also help reduce human stress and blood pressure, etc.
Step 2 – How can you tell if your dog is anxious?
We listed some of these above under the “Separation” section. However here is a greater list of potential signs that your dog is suffering from anxiety:
- Aggression (it can be fear driven)
- Compulsive or repetitive behavior
- Constant barking
- Destructive behavior
- Drooling and dribbling
- Pacing backwards and forwards or in circles
Step 3 – What is the best way to treat dog anxiety?
If you are recognizing undiagnosed signs and symptoms in what we have listed so far, then it would be wise to book a consultation with your Veterinarian for a professional opinion.
If diagnosed, the Veterinarian can then put together a treatment plan for you.
Step 4 – How to calm dog anxiety naturally
If your dog is frightened of noise then think of the sort of noises you are like to encounter and build in ways to counter this around the home. Ways of how to calm dog anxiety naturally could include:
- If a new born baby is due to join your family, start introducing your dog to the baby’s smell on clothing before they get home. You could also play a recording of the baby crying over and over to help desensitize the crying noise.
- If an electrical storm, fireworks or a local party are likely to make your dog anxious then create a safe place for them inside and hide a few treats around for them to find.
- Your dog will respond to being in a safe environment; work on ways of making that situation for them.
- We love to get positive reinforcement for a job well done and dogs are no different. Treats or toys in moderation are a great reinforcement when they have done something well.
- Use the right sort of love with your dog. They need to know you are boss; and avoid overusing hugs as this can increase anxiety for dogs. They will gain more out of being rewarded for obedience and knowing that the rewards for that come from you.
Step 5 – Why is my dog anxious?
We get stressed at times and so too do our dogs. Here are 10 signs that could indicate that your dog is anxious:
- Changed body posture, such as a scared dog tucking their tail in or cowering.
- A stressed dog will often shed more of their coat.
- Changed eyes such as dilated pupils and increased blinking. They also may pin back their ears.
- A stressed dog may yawn, drool and lick a lot more than usual.
- Pacing or shaking.
- A stressed dog may bark or whine to gain your attention.
- Panting; when the temperature or low physical activity would make this seem unusual.
- Toilet time can tell you a lot. They will often urinate after meeting another dog as a way of marking territory. Stress factors can also include reduced appetite and increased bowel functions.
- You may have noticed that sometimes your dog will avoid eye contact or behave as if they are ignoring you or another nearby dog. This can indicate they are stressed.
- A timid or stressed dog may hide behind you rather that be in a confronting situation with another dog.
Step 6 – Dog massage for anxiety
I love how relaxing a good massage can be; especially with nice essential oils etc. A stressed dog can also gain from a dog massage for anxiety.
You can help soothe them with a mood improving massage.
They also respond well to you using herbs such as skullcap, chamomile, valerian and passion flower.
If you are massaging your own dog then they will already be used to your touch.
They are touch sensitive, so begin the massage with gentle, slow moving strokes using just one hand, while you hold her gently with your other hand.
It is good to get into the habit of taking a big breath in as you stroke the dog’s coat, and then exhaling as you lift up your hand before the next stroke.
Be conscious to avoid pushing too deep; keep things slow and gentle and work your way around their body.
When your dog has had enough, they will end the massage.
If that is the case don’t try and continue the message to when you think it should have ended.
An anxious dog can also be a distrusting dog.
However, you will find that they start to taking a large breath each time that you do. They will also associate your touch as being something positive.
Step 7 – How to massage a dog’s neck
This can be great technique to use when your dog has a stiff and sore neck.
The causes can include falls, pulling too hard on their collar or lead, or being chained up over long periods.
- Find a place at home where your dog is comfortable and this is where you will do the massage.
- Remove their collar so that you can massage the area without obstructions.
- Check over their neck for any sore spots.
- You can help support their head by holding them still with one hand under their head for support.
- Starting at your dog’s neck, then starting behind the ears, move to the shoulder, then around the front of the neck.
- Avoid massaging the very front of their neck over the windpipe.
If you dog appears to have had any form of neck injury discuss this with your Veterinarian before commencing any massage.
Step 8 – Is there any training to help get rid of anxiety?
One training technique that can bring some positive results is called desensitization.
This is a technique that uses repetition and reward at its core.
You start by slowly introducing your dog to a source of anxiety in such a way that is of lesser intensity than normal and in small doses.
You reward them after each positive result and repeat the process over time as the anxiety levels drop as the dog becomes desensitized to the source.
If you think this may need further assistance rather than doing it yourself, you can always talk it over with a local professional dog trainer.
Another training strategy that gets great results is called counter conditioning.
With this technique you try and get your dog to focus their attention on you, or by sitting calmly by you rather than on their aggressive or anxious behavior that has been a concern for you.
Step 9 – What natural medications can be used for dog anxiety?
We will answer that question as we progress through this Step, because in the interests of fairness and completeness we should also answer what sort of commercial medications are available to treat anxiety in dogs.
Commercial medications for dog anxiety
This something that should be discussed with your Veterinarian especially where your dog has a severe anxiety disorder, and this occasionally means an anti-depressant may be considered. Medications may also be prescribed in cases such as severe fear from noises such as electrical storms or fireworks. Aging dogs that have become seriously anxious may also be prescribed medications to make them calmer.
CBD Oil used where legal overseas
There have been some anecdotal reports of dog owners overseas who believe that CBD Oil has had positive effects on their dog’s anxiety. We have included this information here in the interests of fairness and completeness but this is a topic best left for a discussion between dog owners and their Veterinarian for their professional input.
Natural methods used for dog anxiety
There have been anecdotal reports overseas that suggest natural medications and therapies have provided some success as natural medications can be used for dog anxiety.
In addition, the reports also suggest that a combination of commercial medication and natural therapies can also be effective with questioning how to calm dog anxiety naturally.
Pheromones and aromatherapy are often used in many natural therapies to reduce anxiety. This is a topic best left for a discussion between dog owners and their Veterinarian for their professional input.
Step 10 – Dog anxiety prevention
It is not always easy to determine what has triggered anxiety in your dog. However, these are a few things you can use that may help:
- Body language can show you a lot. Observe signs that show you that your dog is scared or uncomfortable. It will also show you when your dog is reaching that aggressive anxiety behavior stage.
- Obedience training can work wonders. Socialization is better with a trained dog than one without any training and because it is often in a controlled environment this also helps their anxiety levels to reduce.
- Nutrition and exercise matter as they are important for their health. Nutrition gives them the right ‘fuel’ and a well exercised dog can stimulate then and their overall well-being.
- Avoid negative situations. A good example is for an anxious and timid dog it would probably be best to avoid places such as busy dog parks. Sometimes you cannot predict how many dogs you are like to encounter, so be well prepared for your dog with quality collars, leads, harness, muzzles etc.
Step 11 – Is there a special diet to help counter dog anxiety?
Once again there is more than one school of thought out there regarding special diets.
Some experts suggest that because dogs have so few taste receptors on their tongues when compared to humans that dogs are not as sensitive to things such as salt or sharp-tasting foods.
However, our own experience as dog owners and the massive amounts of feedback and traffic to our site tells us that the majority of dog owners like to vary the diet of their dogs.
This varied diet and treat combination is particularly evident to us in the success of our two earlier posts; ‘The 10 Best Balanced Homemade Dog Food Recipes’ and ‘The Top 10 – Homemade Dog Treats Recipes Vet Approved Australia’.
What we would stress again though is never feed your dog foods such as Onions, Garlic or Chocolate as they are toxic to dogs.
Summary of our 11 suggestions how to calm dog anxiety naturally
An anxious dog is having its quality of life compromised by whatever factors are causing their anxiety.
However, from our Blog you will see that there are many different causes of anxiety and also many different ways that you can make a positive difference to their anxiety and general health and well-being.
The purpose of this blog was to answer the various customer questions so that a comprehensive number of questions and answers on dog anxiety and suggestions how to calm dog anxiety naturally could be covered in one blog.
You may also need to book a consultation with your local Veterinarian if your dog has what may appear to be undiagnosed anxiety.
You may also need their professional input for any suitable medication if needed.
There are many ways that you can help your dog; including with lots of positive reinforcement, rewards and repetition as well as good nutrition, diet, exercise and even massage.
Best wishes with addressing your dog’s anxiety issues. We would love to hear your feedback on how you got on.