Unexpected bangs and flashes can upset the most even-tempered dog, or people for that matter. But beyond the fireworks season and other obvious triggers like moving house, some dogs simply have a nervous disposition and struggle with ongoing anxiety. Even if your dog doesn’t typically suffer from anxiety, you might have noticed some strange behaviours recently. Dogs are social beings and pick up on the anxieties of those around them, they can read our facial expressions and know when things aren’t ok. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, this can be contagious. Luckily there are some easy ways to help calm dogs naturally to keep them calm, healthy and happy.
Recognise the signs of an anxious dog
Every dog is different, so they’ll respond differently to stress. Thankfully our dogs love to communicate with us and there are subtle changes to their style to help you understand what they’re looking for. Take the time to understand how your dog communicates with you and what it means. For our Smudge, she communicates namely through licks: there’s the lick to say “play with me”, the lick to say “Stop bothering me”, the lick at 3 in the morning that says “I didn’t go when you asked me to, and now I really need a wee”, and the lick, nudge, growl combo of “HELLO YOU’RE FIVE MINUTES LATE FEEDING ME, WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON!!”
You’ll know your dog best and understand the subtleties in their communication. If you’re unsure as to whether your dog is stressed look out for the below which are some tell-tale signs of an anxious dog:
- Shaking or trembling
- Obsessive licking or grooming
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of enjoyment
- Drooling or increased salivation
- Panting and increased heart rates
- Toilet accidents in doors
10 simple ways to calm your dog
1. Distract them!
Help your dog think about something else by engaging with them in a positive way. This can be physical stimulation with a long walk or mental stimulation with their favourite dog toys. Exercising your dog is a healthy, natural way to work off that stress and keep fit.
2. Keep calm yourself
It’s horrible seeing your loved ones stressed and upset but equally important to be their rock during these times. If you act stressed out, this will exacerbate their stresses. Get yourself feeling zen to spread that calm to your dog. Doga anybody?
3. Calming dog treats
Not just a bedtime biscuit, calming dog treats can be a helpful addition to calm your pooch. Look for natural healthy calming treats that avoid allergens like dairy which could irritate your dog’s sensitive stomach. Always review the ingredient list in full so you can avoid nonsense like added sugars or artificial nasties. Functional botanicals likes chamomile and lemon balm can be helpful.
4. Doggy spa – massage
A great way to bond with your dog is through touch. Petting and massaging your dog is an easy way to help. Dogs have natural pressure points on their body and a dog massage can make a world of difference to alleviating stress. Spend 10-15 minutes giving them a dog spa experience with a gentle massage, paying attention to their favourite spots like their ears, top of the head and feet.
5. Use Pheromones and scents
You can buy products which have synthetic copies of the natural “dog appeasing pheromones” which help comfort your dogs. These are available as tablets, sprays or diffuser plug ins. We prefer the natural options over chemical alternatives.
6. Create a safe haven
If you used crate training for your dog as a puppy, you may already have their crate available as their safe place to retreat to as and when they like. If not, you can still introduce a crate or create a safe haven for your dog to escape to. Find a spot that’s not in the main thoroughfare and cushion a crate or area with blankets and a bed. Your dog might have their favourite area already which you can make more snuggly. If you have more than one dog, they’ll each need their own separate safe haven.
7. Relax with music
You can use music to help your dog relax and calm down. Stick to soft relaxing sounds, like reggae and classical music. Youtube is full of options with tracks created specifically for our dogs. If you leave music playing when you leave your dog alone, be sure to also play music when you’re there so they don’t associate it with you leaving which can create a new stress trigger.
8. Compression Wraps
You don’t need to buy a specific compression wrap or Thundershirt for your dog. You can use anything from a scarf to a blanket to wrap your dog up snugly. The gentle pressure helps soothe nerves and comforts your dog inducing feelings of calm and contentment.
Just like a diet of sugary foods and caffeine can give us the jitters, a poor diet can have a negative impact on their mental health. Feed them a complete, balanced diet with wholesome natural ingredients and avoid foods with added sugar or artificial additives.
10. Eliminate any obvious stress triggers
We previously covered fireworks and dogs with helpful tips to help soothe anxious dogs during what’s a stressful time for many dogs and their owners alike. If you understand what’s causing your dog’s anxiety, you can take better steps to eliminate these triggers to help your dog. And if they’re unavoidable use the below tips to help minimise the impact on your dog.
Using the above tips, you should be able to help keep your dog calm and happy. In case none of the above helps and you’re worried about your dog’s stress levels, we recommend you speak to your vet or dog behaviourist who will advise you further. They may even prescribe medication to help.