How to calm an anxious dog and spot dog anxiety symptoms
Our dogs give us so much love and bring so much joy. They’re always thrilled to see us, and we do everything we can to keep them healthy and happy. Unfortunately, even the most well-looked-after and enthusiastic dog can become stressed or anxious.
As loving owners, it’s our job to recognise the signs of anxiety in our dogs. Here’s what you need to know and how to help your dog through their anxiety.
Know the dog anxiety symptoms
What are the main signs that your dog might be feeling stressed or anxious? Here are a few to watch out for:
Panting or shaking
Dogs pant to cool down but it can also be a sign of fear or anxiety. They might also shake or drool.
Changes in eating or sleeping
An anxious dog might lose interest in their food. They might also change their sleeping patterns.
If your dog is anxious, they might bark or vocalise more often.
Puppies have specific periods of their development when they’re more likely to be afraid. This is a normal part of healthy development, and with proper training, they should grow out of these new fears.
How to calm an anxious dog
Realising that your dog is anxious can be stressful for owners. Let’s look at the practical steps you can take to help calm your anxious dog.
Create a calm environment
The first step is to create a calming environment for your dog. This is very similar to a calming environment you’d create for yourself.
Try to reduce the amount of noise and movement. Noise and movement both signal to a dog that they need to be alert. Your dog can more easily relax when their environment is quiet and still.
Many dogs enjoy having a cosy, safe space to retreat to when they feel anxious. If your dog is crate trained, this will often be their preferred space. If not, try offering them a bed somewhere out of the way.
Even the most clever dog can be easily distracted. Help them overcome their anxiety by giving them something else to concentrate on.
Tasks that take a lot of attention and mental effort are ideal. Playing with toys or activities such as sniffing or a puzzle mat can focus your dog’s mind and let them forget their fear.
Training can also help distract your dog, but be careful not to overwhelm them. An anxious dog isn’t going to be at their best. Avoid trying new tricks. Instead, focus on the basic commands that give them lots of opportunities to succeed and earn praise.
Dogs will naturally self-soothe through activities such as licking and chewing, so offer your dog a favourite chew toy or even a frozen snack to encourage licking.
Don't forget about exercise
Sometimes an anxious dog needs to get rid of some of their excess energy. Exercise won’t deal with any underlying causes of anxiety in your dog, but it can reduce the effects.
Make sure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise every day. It’s important to take your dog for regular walks to keep them mentally stimulated and offer them new sights, smells, and sounds to enjoy.
Reward and train calm behaviour
Try to encourage your dog to be calmer by rewarding them when they settle quietly. This ‘captures’ the calm feeling, making them more likely to repeat the behaviour.
Help keep anxiety away with proper socialisation
Of course, prevention is better than cure. Proper socialisation can help puppies grow into confident dogs and avoid symptoms of anxiety.
The best way to socialise your puppy is to give them a wide range of different experiences.
Paws in Work’s puppy therapy sessions are an excellent way for young puppies to get used to the world and get proper socialisation to help them grow into confident dogs.
Get in touch to learn more about our puppy therapy sessions!