Plenty of our precious pooches wrestle with anxiety, fear or over-excitement at some point in their lives.
But while there are a few clinically-approved anxiety medications for dogs, some owners may prefer to treat these issues without prescription medications.
Below, we’ll share some of the most notable natural calming solutions for dogs, explain why some dogs suffer from anxiety, and identify a few of the signs that may signal your dog is anxious.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately, dog fear and anxiety is a multifaceted issue.
While many of these methods can help alleviate your dog’s immediate stress, it’s key to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s fear or anxiety and work with your veterinarian to curate a holistic approach.
14 Ways Ways To Calm Your Dog Naturally
Is Spot suffering from stress? Here are a couple of solutions that may help you bring your pooch some peace.
1. Calming Treats
Some treats and chews feature calming ingredients that might help reduce anxiety for pups. A few of the most common ingredients used in these kinds of treats include:
- Valerian root
- Colostrum calming complex
But there are scads of others used by different manufacturers (including CBD, which we discuss separately below).
It’s important to note that the use of some of these supplements is supported by a pretty substantial body of evidence while others aren’t supported by any empirical studies at all.
Accordingly, it is incumbent upon owners to research the specific ingredients used in these types of calming supplements for dogs and discuss the issue with your vet.
Chews with calming supplements are often very helpful for soothing frayed canine nerves.
But even “normal” chew treats such as bully sticks or beef tendons may calm your pooch, despite the fact that they don’t have specific calming supplements. Long-lasting chews give your pup something engaging to focus on, and chewing is a natural stress-reliever for dogs anyway.
Dog-friendly CBD oils and CBD-based supplements for dogs may help relax pets suffering from fear or anxiety.
CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol — one of the active ingredients found in cannabis plants. However, it is generally regarded as non-psychoactive, meaning that it won’t get your dog high.
CBD products are everywhere these days, so it isn’t hard to find them. That said, it’s key to use CBD designated specifically for dogs since CBD for humans may have inactive ingredients that are dangerous for your pet.
As with most supplements, you’ll still need to discuss CBD use thoroughly with your veterinarian to determine whether it’s a good fit for Fido. It’ll also be important to do this to determine the proper dosage.
Believe it or not, some dogs appear to like music.
And while evidence is understandably limited, the University of Glasgow found that music may even help reduce canine anxiety.
Of course, not all music works (that’s even true of humans), so you’ll need to pick your tunes deliberately. Soft rock and reggae were rated as the most effective, but your mutt may have unusual musical tastes, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Just be sure to keep the music volume at a reasonable level — loud noises of any kind are likely to stress your pup out. Additionally, dogs typically have more sensitive hearing than people in some respects.
4. A Secure Crate
People often find the notion of being in a relatively tight space to be anxiety-inducing, but dogs often have the opposite opinion. In fact, dogs typically appreciate having a small and secure place to call their own, so be sure your anxious pup has a high-quality dog crate.
You can make your dog’s crate even more comfortable by adding extra padding or bedding, high value treats, and a favorite toy or two. Your dog might also appreciate the extra privacy that comes from using a crate cover.
Just be sure to introduce your dog to the crate gradually, and avoid locking him inside for excessive periods of time.
Certain clothing, like the famous Thundershirt, may help alleviate anxiety by providing comforting pressure.
These garments are typically used during things like thunderstorms or fireworks, but other owners use them when their pup is feeling frightened or when leaving their anxiety-afflicted dogs alone.
It isn’t entirely clear why these kinds of garments work in some cases (to be clear, they do not work for all pups), but it’s likely somewhat similar to the way in which infants feel more secure when swaddled.
It’s no secret that dogs love pets! But you may be surprised to learn that your pooch might also enjoy a massage, and it may even help to relieve tension and anxiety.
There’s not a ton of empirical data supporting the positive results of massage for pets in relieving anxiety, but it’s a high-upside, low-downside tactic worth trying.
In a worst-case scenario, your dog doesn’t really care for it and you’re out a little bit of money, but in a best-case scenario, it helps soothe your dog’s frazzled nerves without the need for medication. You can even learn to massage your pet yourself, if you’d like to try it before shelling out some bucks.
Regular brushing is an important part of canine care for most dogs, but as it turns out, some dogs enjoy having their fur brushed and find the activity soothing. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise — some people enjoy having their hair brushed!
Just note that we’re talking about brushing your pet in a soothing manner, rather than the more intensive way you may brush him to remove tangles.
Just pick a soft-bristled brush or grooming gloves and give him some gentle strokes in the same direction his hair grows.
Dedicating time to brushing your fur baby every day is not only a great way to combat his stress, it also gives you an opportunity to check for wounds, mats, or anything out of the ordinary on his skin.
8. More Exercise
Dogs with pent up energy may be more likely to exhibit anxiety or fear.
So, make sure your dog is getting enough exercise to keep him feeling his best.
Just be sure to discuss your dog’s exercise needs with your vet to ensure you are getting him enough, without overdoing things.
And don’t feel like this means you need to run miles and miles with your pooch. Even simple trips to the dog park (or these dog park alternatives) can be great, easy ways to introduce more exercise and socialization into your dog’s routine.
9. Provide More Mental Stimulation
Like most other intelligent species, dogs need mental stimulation to remain healthy and happy. So, you may want to consider offering your canine cutie more things to do that keep his noggin’ occupied.
The need for mental stimulation varies from breed to breed (and individual to individual), but the smartest dog breeds and working dog breeds are typically among those who need more brainy activity than others.
You can offer more mental enrichment in a variety of ways, ranging from puzzle toys to games to regular outings to agility training. Even a simple stuffed KONG can help keep your pooch’s brain occupied.
Did you know that there are several toys designed for anxious pups on the market?
They all work in different ways, but most are designed to give your dog the chance to chew (a soothing behavior for pups) or keep his brain busy by making him figure out how to access a tasty treat.
10. Vet-Approved Essential Oils
There’s limited evidence to suggest that some essential oils can help calm some canines.
For instance, a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association asserts that the scent of lavender sometimes helped reduce anxiety before long car trips.
It’s important to note that many essential oils – including cinnamon, peppermint, and citrus oils – are flat out dangerous to dogs, so as with all of these strategies, talk things over with your vet before you initiate an essential oil regimen..
Also, be aware that essential oils should never be ingested or used directly on the skin.
Pet parents can purchase pheromone diffusers that release synthetic dog hormones similar to those emitted by lactating mothers (called DAP or Dog Appeasing Hormones).
These diffusers are completely safe, though the effectiveness varies depending on the dog. Some appear to respond very well to pheromone treatments, while others don’t show much change in their behavior.
That being said, this is another high-upside, low-downside strategy you may want to try.
You can also find calming dog collars infused with the pheromones, which work better for some four-footers.
The jury is still out on the value of acupuncture for dogs, but there is some evidence suggesting that it may help relieve canine anxiety.
It doesn’t appear to work in all cases, but it’s a relatively low-risk procedure that some pet parents may want to give a try.
If you plan on exploring acupuncture for your pooch, just make sure you’re working with an accredited professional – you don’t want to let just anyone start inserting needles in your dog’s skin.
The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society directory is a great place to find an accredited acupuncture professional.
13. Training & Management Techniques
While many of the treatments and strategies discussed above can provide your dog with temporary relief, you’ll often need to work with your dog (and potentially a certified dog behavior consultant) to get to the root of his fear or anxiety.
Desensitization training, which seeks to help your dog take things that upset him in stride, is one of the most likely methods to help. However, you can also try mat training — essentially, teaching your dog to go lay down on a mat and relax.
On the other hand, simple management solutions may also be helpful. For example, you may need to just keep your blinds closed to prevent your dog from seeing passersby if that’s what upsets him. Or, you may want to find a vet who provides in-home care if trips to the vet’s office stress out your pet.
To embrace this approach, you’ll have to start by determining your dog’s anxiety triggers and then figuring out a way to reduce or eliminate them.
Why Do Dogs Suffer from Fear or Anxiety?
The best way to help your dog overcome fear or anxiety is to identify and tackle the root cause of the issue.
We’ll discuss a few of the most common reasons dogs exhibit anxiety below, but understand that in some cases, a dog’s anxiety may have multiple causes.
Is your dog suddenly acting fearful or anxious without any clear stimuli? If so, his anxiety could be a symptom of an unaddressed illness or injury.
So, it’s while it’s always a good idea to discuss your dog’s anxiety with your veterinarian, it’s especially important to do so if your dog’s anxiety has begun suddenly.
Prior abuse or poor treatment can certainly make a dog fearful or anxious.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix to this sort of issue. If you suspect your dog’s anxiety is due to abuse, you’ll want to reach out to a certified dog behavior consultant to help your furry friend work through his issues.
Your dog’s fear, anxiety, or reactivity may trace back to physical or emotional trauma.
While trauma at any time may leave lasting results, it’s possible that your dog was exposed to a negative experience during the peak socialization period (between 3 and 16 weeks), which can present even greater challenges to address.
Major Life Changes
Plenty of dogs become tightly wound following big life changes. This could be moving into a new house or introducing a new pet into the family.
Most dogs adjust to their new environment or social situation over time, but our pups tend to thrive on a consistent, predictable routine. So, to the extent possible, try to keep your life as consistent as you can.
Some dogs may be fearful around other animals, or other pets in the household. Others might be wary of humans, or different types of humans (such as people of different genders or races).
For instance, if a dog wasn’t exposed to kids during the socialization process, he might be excited or reactive near kids as an adult, either due to fear or unfamiliarity.
Dogs commonly display fear or anxiety when faced with unusual or uncomfortable situations. This could include riding in a car, going to the groomer or veterinarian, or experiencing a loud storm or fireworks.
In these situations, your dog’s anxiety is most likely to occur around the time of the trigger, though it may last for some time afterward in some cases.
Natural Predisposition to Anxiety
Some dogs just seem to be wound tighter than others.
This can even be something that occurs along family lines. That’s why it’s a good idea to meet your dog’s parents before bringing home your best buddy. Your dog’s parents can give you valuable insight on what you might expect from your dog’s behaviors.
This obviously isn’t always possible with rescued or adopted pooches, but be sure to talk with the shelter staff and take in any information on your dog’s family that is available.
Separation or Boredom
Not every dog is a couch potato!
It’s possible that your dog may be anxious due to pent-up energy from too much alone time or not enough exercise. Different breeds have different energy levels, so it’s essential that you adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
Many of our furry friends wrestle with anxiety over the course of their lives. Hopefully, these strategies will help you and your canine cope while you seek out the cause of his or her condition. Don’t forget to collaborate with your veterinarian while building a care plan for your best buddy.
Does your dog suffer from anxiety? Have any of these strategies worked for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!