Fireworks, thunderstorms and flying are just a few of the reasons a dog can become anxious. Pet owners know that when a dog becomes anxious, it can be difficult to calm them down. To help a dog feel less anxious in stressful or loud situations, there are a few tips to consider.
What Causes Anxiety For Dogs?
Dogs, just like people, can become anxious in certain situations. According to the Merck Vet Manual, dog behavior can vary depending on age and breed. In addition to the type of dog, situations involving new people, loud noises and confined spaces are all known factors for anxiety.
Dogs are often frightened by situations that humans have grown so accustomed to, we may not recognize them as potentially threatening. Opening an umbrella for instance, can be very scary for some dogs. Wood floors, rain and even car rides can also cause fear. Rather than avoid all potentially scary environments, reducing anxiety in dogs can be successful when practiced on a regular basis.
Tips To Reduce Anxiety in Dogs
Anxiety in dogs can be treated. While certain medications are sometimes recommended to treat anxiety in pets, there are also non-medication oriented treatments.
1.) Adequate exercise. Excess energy can become nervous energy if it is not handled in advance. By helping your dog get enough exercise, you can cut down on future anxiety. Long walks with lots of physical contact can help reduce energy while having plenty of bonding time. This is a particularly good strategy to use if your dog has separation anxiety.
2.) Pet travel. Service animals and pets may need to travel in a variety of different ways. When flying, pets can be transported professionally so that they can experience a smooth transition in an unknown situation. When transporting a pet through an airline or other service, make sure your pet is comfortable and has experience with kennels or crates. This can cut down on the amount of stress that comes with change.
3.) Play music. Many people play calming music to reduce anxiety during times of stress. Dogs can benefit from this type of therapy as well. Music can be a relaxing way to soothe a dog in addition to blocking out street or construction noise. This is an especially good trick for dogs who are scared of thunderstorms.
4.) Pressure jackets. Pressure jackets, also known as calming coats, apply mild pressure to the dog’s body. This physical sensation is similar to swaddling a baby in a warm blanket. This method of stress reduction can be used in airports or around new people. Pressure jackets are similar to weighted blankets for humans, but can be fastened and worn in public.
5.) Aromatherapy. While aromatherapy for dogs has not yet been extensively studied, certain scents have been known to keep fear at bay. By using a specific diffuser made for dogs, a dog can sense the pheromones being released into the room. Although dogs can pick up on the scent, humans and other pets cannot.
Recognize The Signs
Not all pet owners recognize the signs of anxiety. Since each dog is unique, these anxiety symptoms may vary. Common signs of anxiety in dogs include:
- Decreased appetite
Hypervigilance can appear in several different ways. A dog that is hypervigilant may hear sounds that aren’t there or are extremely soft. They may react with over-enthusiasm or extreme caution when somebody new or familiar approaches.
Appetite changes can happen when there is prolonged anxiety. This is often true for humans as well. When there is a stressful event, there may be an increase or decrease in hunger depending on the individual.
Pacing can also be a clear indication of anxiety. With excess energy, dogs may feel the need to walk in circles or back and forth with no clear direction. Dogs that pace regularly can feel tense or nervous.
Anxiety is not just a human phenomenon. To help calm a dog, consider moderating the activity and assessing whether it’s worth the anxiety your dog may feel. If the situation cannot be moderated, soothing methods or extra help may be needed.