It is normal for both dogs and humans to experience occasional bouts of anxiety. However, some dogs experience it to disproportionate levels. This is more likely if the dogs have been abused or neglected, but other dogs develop separation anxiety or fear of loud noises for seemingly no reason. Age can make a dog more prone to anxiety.
Your dog's anxiety should be addressed, especially if it is at a disproportionate level. It could develop into an anxiety disorder if left unchecked. Here are some tips for calming an anxious dog.
A dog's love for his favorite human is pure and unconditional, so one of the best ways to calm him when he is anxious is with physical affection. If your dog is small enough, you can pick him up and hold him. Otherwise, you can pet him for an extended period or allow him up on the couch for a cuddle session. This technique is most effective when you can recognize the symptoms of anxiety early and intervene before they have the chance to escalate. Symptoms of anxiety in dogs include:
Restlessness or pacing
Excessive barking or panting
Defecating or urinating inside the house
Massage and Aromatherapy
While physical contact alone may be enough to calm your dog, massage is a specific form of physical contact proven to work just as well at relaxing canines as it does on human beings. Perfecting the proper massage technique for your dog may take some practice. As with humans, some dogs carry their tension in a particular area of the body. If you find that one area is particularly tense, you may want to concentrate your efforts on it. Otherwise, you can use long strokes over your dog's body with one hand while the other stays in one place.
As with human beings, aromatherapy can enhance the effects of massage. Certain botanical extracts have calming effects on both dogs and people. You can spray these on your dog prior to the massage session or rub some balm on your hands and before the massage, rubbing it into her back and neck.
Chances are that a situation that stresses out your dog may also direct your attention elsewhere. It may be that you are not available to keep physical contact with your dog to calm his anxiety because you are occupied with something else. If that's the case, a good alternative is a calming coat or T-shirt designed to wrap snugly around your dog's body. This technique may not work in every situation, but if his anxiety stems from noise, separation, travel, or strangers, it may be effective.
It is believed that dogs are calmed by the mild, constant pressure applied to their bodies, similar to the way that babies are soothed by swaddling. The shirts and coats are soft and flexible to allow freedom of movement, eating, and drinking. There are sizes available for both large and small breeds, and it is important to get the right fit.
The old saying about music soothing savage beasts is a misquote, yet there is still some truth to it. Listening to music can help calm canine anxiety in several different ways. First, if your dog is stressed by loud or unfamiliar noises, music can help to block them out or cover them up. Furthermore, research has shown that music helps to relieve anxiety in dogs even if the source is something other than noise.
For music to be most effective as a means of relieving canine anxiety, you may have to cater to your dog's taste instead of your own. Research shows that dogs show the greatest response to classical music, with harp pieces being the most effective. This type of music is so soothing that it has even been used as a natural sedative in hospice settings.
Pheromones are chemicals released by the body, similar to hormones in some respects. The difference is that while hormones are intended to produce certain effects inside the body, pheromones affect other members of the same species in predictable ways. For example, after a mother dog gives birth, her body gives off pheromones that cause her puppies to feel calm and relaxed.
Products such as Adaptil use a synthetically created analog of the pheromone to produce the same effect in adult dogs. It is available as a diffuser to spread the scent in the air throughout the house. Other options include a travel spray and a collar infused with the pheromone analog.
Exercise is an effective and trustworthy method of relieving your dog's anxiety. For one thing, a nice long walk or a vigorous game of catch can tire him out so that he no longer has the energy to dwell on his problems. However, that is not the only reason that exercise has a calming effect.
Endorphins are chemicals produced in the brains of dogs and humans in response to physical activity. They attach to certain neurons similarly to the way that narcotic pain relievers do. Like narcotics, endorphins relieve pain, elevate mood, and promote relaxation, but without the harmful side effects. Exercising with your dog may release your endorphins as well as hers, so that you both feel happy and calm afterward. Of course, exercise also has other physical health benefits for both you and your dog.
While you do not want your dog to suffer unnecessarily, there are other reasons why you should take his anxiety seriously and look for ways to relieve it. Dogs that are under stress can sometimes become aggressive toward other animals or humans.