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Dog Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Tips on How to Treat It

Dog hiding under blanket

 

With summer in full swing, that means lots and lots of fireworks. And, if your dog is like a lot of pups out there, they likely aren’t always a fan of the loud booms and bangs. While some pets don’t seem to be the least bit phased by loud noises and lots of activity, many can get pretty stressed out. Therefore, it’s not uncommon that when a bad thunderstorm strikes or fireworks start to go off nonstop, you end up with one anxious dog.

If your canine companion gets agitated during these types of situations, don’t worry. Lucky for you, and your pup, there are several things you can do to help them get through these stressful events.

Why Do Dogs Get Anxiety?

Your dog can get anxious for multiple reasons, including separation anxiety, fear of loud noises, discomfort around strangers and new situations, and traveling. Quite often, a dog's anxiety will stem from a history of abuse or neglect. It can also come from improper socialization when they were puppies, especially during their first fear period.

The first fear period is when a puppy is between 8 and 11 weeks old and when it's most important to expose them to as many positive experiences as possible to help tame their fear response. If your dog seems to get anxious, pay attention to what triggers their anxiety. Once you can pinpoint the reason, you can better determine how to help your pal.

Do You Have an Anxious Dog?

First, take a second to think about how your dog behaves during potentially stressful situations. For example, if your pup simply jumps at the first sound of fireworks, but then starts to ignore them, they were likely just shocked by the loud noise and not suffering from anxiety. If they go into another room or under a blanket, the noise may just be annoying them and they're trying to find a quiet place to rest. You can help with this by playing some music or white noise to help mask the sound.

But, some behaviors are clear signals that your dog is dealing with some anxious feelings, and they don’t just happen with loud noises. You might notice various clues that your pup is stressed when riding in a car, waiting at the vet’s office, or dropping your pal off at the groomer. No matter what the situation, look for these signs that your dog might be feeling a bit (or a lot) anxious.

8 Signs Your Dog Is Feeling Stressed

Here are some signs that can clue you in to your furry friend's anxious feelings. If you notice any, it's best to address them sooner rather than later.

Not only will your dog feel better for it, but you can prevent possible further complications. If left unchecked, seemingly small acute bouts of anxiety can morph into more severe conditions.

  • Excessive whining or barking
  • Shivering or whimpering
  • Engages in destructive behavior
  • Poor potty habits (more accidents in the house)
  • Shows aggressive behavior
  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Pacing or restless behavior
  • Repetitive actions, like excessive licking or self-grooming (sometimes it can get so bad your dog will cause harm to themselves, like raw skin or hot spots)
  • Excessive yawning

 

dog-neat-lik-tray

 

10 Ways to Help Calm Your Dog

If your canine companion is anxious about a thunderstorm, blasting fireworks, an impending vet visit, or any other situation, try these tips to help calm them down.

Play Some Music

As previously mentioned, putting on some music can help your pup relax, especially if their anxiety is due to loud noises. So, when the fireworks start up or the thunder starts rolling, crank up the tunes. Research has shown that dogs seem to relax the most when listening to classical music, thanks to the slower tempos and lower frequencies.

Give Your Dog a Massage

Never underestimate the power of personal touch, and your dog loves it when you show them attention. So, place your hands on your pal and give them a gentle massage, starting at the top and working your way down the body. This is also a great way to bond with your pup, and many trainers recommend spending at least 15 minutes a day doing massage with your dog to build trust.

Use the Neat-Lik Mat

Dogs have a natural urge to lick as a way to calm down. This is because licking helps release endorphins, which in turn help relieve stress. To encourage your pal to lick, place some peanut butter or other favorite soft food on the Neat-Lik Mat and watch them go to town.

Not only will the licking release those calming endorphins, but it will also provide them with a distraction to whatever is going on around them. 

We designed the Neat-Lik Mat to fit inside of a protective mess-proof tray. This means that you can take the Neat-Lik with you on the go, including car rides, without having to worry about your dog getting their favorite treats all over the place. 

Provide Ample Opportunities for Exercise

Sometimes, excess energy can add to anxious feelings. Daily exercise is already essential, but if you know a stressful situation is approaching, make a point to add in an extra activity and play session with your pup. For example, before the fireworks start on July 4th, you might take your furry friend for an extra-long, brisk walk.

Try Calming Sprays and Diffusers

Several products are on the market that can help calm your pet. The Adaptil Calming Kit features plug-ins that release a synthetic version of the pheromone nursing mothers emit to calm their puppies. Nicknamed DAPs (dog-appeasing pheromones), they can help your dog relax. You can typically find them as a diffuser, plug-in, or spray. Some versions even clip on to your pup’s collar or plug into your car.

Use a Compression Coat

Compression coats or shirts apply constant pressure around your pup’s torso, helping relieve stressful feelings. The Thundershirt is a popular brand of one such shirt that you can put on your dog during times when they typically feel anxiety.

Create a Doggy Zen Den

Have you ever gotten so upset or stressed that you need to step out of the room for a minute? Sometimes, we all need a place to go to calm down and remove ourselves from stressful situations. Your dog can also benefit from this, so create a getaway for your pooch where they can be alone and feel safe and secure. Ensure you place familiar items in the room, like their bed, perhaps a crate (if they’re used to it), and an item with your scent. Also, provide your pal with fresh water and play soft music in the room.

Offer Engaging and interactive Toys

Another way to help your pal calm down is to distract them. Provide interactive and engaging toys that help keep your pal focused and stimulated in a healthy way, like the previously mentioned Neat-Lik Mat or the Rolly Cannoli. It’s also a good idea to have some of these items in your dog’s zen den personal space.

Work with a Trainer

If your dog’s stress and anxiety are over the top, you might need to work with a behavioral trainer to target specific triggers and issues. Take some time to research possibilities so that you can find the right trainer for your dog. You can get recommendations from trusted friends and family or your vet.

Talk to Your Vet

If your pals’ anxiety seems to worsen or doesn’t seem to get better with these tips, you might need some more intense therapy. No matter what, you should talk with your vet about any signs of anxiety your dog shows. Your vet will want to rule out any potential underlying conditions. They might recommend some behavioral and environmental changes, or in some cases, you might need to give your pet medication.

Stressful situations aren’t fun for anyone; otherwise, they wouldn’t be stressful. But that doesn’t mean we can’t put a few practices into play to help cope with them and deal with them better. You can help your dog handle anxious feelings using these tips. For more valuable resources, you can check out the rest of our blog. In the meantime, keep calm and canine on.

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