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By Amelia Palmer
It can be devastating to see your dog pacing, shaking, gnawing on themselves and becoming destructive because of anxiety. You may also feel horribly helpless if you don’t know how to calm down your beloved pet.
Many pet owners offer their dogs treats when they’re upset. However, this may not always work, as animals often reject food when they’re anxious. Thankfully, there are a few other things you can try to soothe pet anxiety and get your best friend back to normal.
If you’re struggling with a dog that suffers from anxiety here are 10 ways you can help.
1. Create a Low-Noise Den
Loud noises are a common trigger of anxiety in animals, and particularly in dogs. Some loud sounds, like thunderstorms and fireworks, are unavoidable. Your best course of action is to build your pets a low-noise den where they can hide out until they’re comfortable enough to emerge.
Choose a secure and secluded part of the house, preferably one with windows and doors that you can close, when creating this hiding spot. Add a comfortable bed or even a box that your animals can hide out in until the coast is clear.
2. Make Mealtimes More Regular
If your canine’s mealtimes are irregular, their anxiety may have a nutritional explanation. Meals that are irregular or too small may trigger food guarding and other forms of nervousness in your pet.
Feeding them high-carbohydrate meals or highly processed, chemical-laden foods could cause health and behavioral issues. Talk to your vet about the best foods, meal schedule and feeding habits for your pet.
3. Prioritize Resting Time
You may love your busy lifestyle, but it can put a strain on your dog if you take them with you wherever you go. Some dogs naturally have more energy than others, but constant travel and meeting new people can cause stress in your pet, even if they are resilient by nature.
Give your dog time to rest between traveling. A few days to a week at a stretch should suffice, and these breaks should be regular, especially if your pets are visibly taking strain.
4. Get Them Exercising
Animals need regular exercise, just like we do. Not exercising them enough (or exercising them too much) can cause anxiety and stress in dogs. They may have too much pent-up energy with no way to exert it, and this can manifest as neurotic or even destructive behaviors at home. Dogs of all breeds and sizes need at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
5. Address Your Own Stress
Your dog will probably be able to pick up on your own nervousness, tension and stress. This can make them more anxious, as they pay close attention to their owners’ body language. If you’re highly strung, upset or anxious, they will notice it and be affected.
Whenever you feel yourself tensing up, take a deep breath and relax using methods that work the best for you. You may soon notice a calmer disposition in your pets, too.
6. Make Time for Play Time
Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety, which can leave them crying, howling, barking and tearing up the house while you’re away. You may not be able to avoid having to go out, and it may be challenging to change your schedule to avoid causing your canine stress.
A good compromise involves making plenty of time to play and bond with them when you are around. Play time is relaxing and stimulating for dogs, and may help them stay calm while you’re out. There is a lot of truth in the saying that a tired dog is a happy dog!
7. Distract Your Dogs
You might be able to break your dogs’ anxious cycles by distracting them from whatever is causing them stress. Choose a special toy or treat that your animal loves and bring it out only when they exhibit signs of anxiety.
If your dog’s start to pine when you prepare to leave the house, you can distract them with a chewy treat, a squeaky toy or a tasty bone to chew on. This will keep them busy during those anxiety-inducing times.
8. Reduce Exposure to New People
Your dog may love meeting new people, or they might experience extreme anxiety. If you have a shy canine on your hands, don’t force them to meet new people if they aren’t ready to do so.
Give them a private space to hide if unfamiliar people come over and let them introduce themselves at their own pace. If they react well, you can offer them a treat as a means of positive reinforcement.
9. Try CBD Oil
CBD is a mood-boosting constituent of the cannabis plant that has plenty of benefits for dogs. It can help to relax them during stressful times, and help treat conditions like pain, arthritis and epilepsy that could cause anxiety.
If you prefer a more natural, holistic route to treating anxiety but your dog’s condition requires medical intervention, CBD chews or other products may be the best course of treatment. It is, however, advisable that you chat to your vet to make sure they’re a suitable option.
10. Play Calm Music and TV Shows
Some dog owners find that their pets are more relaxed if there’s a soothing, repetitive sound in the background. Just like exercise is good for humans and dogs, the effect of music influences canine’s emotional well-being too. You could leave the radio on at a low volume, play soft meditation music or even switch on a pet-related channel to keep them entertained.
This is an especially helpful tip if they have separation anxiety; gentle and constant sources of noise may help to reduce their loneliness until you’re home again.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Helping a dog with anxiety to calm down is challenging, but it can be done. There are so many mood-boosting and soothing remedies to try, from exercise, regular meals and quiet time, to CBD oil products.
Every dog is different, so you may need to experiment with a few options to find the solutions that work best for them. Keep persevering and your pet will be back to their joyful selves in no time!