Best Ways To Calm Your Dog Down (Proven Methods)
Have you ever come home to destroyed furniture, thanks to a dog with separation anxiety? Does your dog shake in fear at the sound of a thunderstorm? These things are common for anxious dogs, and they can lead to anxious owners.
Anxiety in dogs is a problem that many pet owners deal with. You never want your pets to feel fear or stress, so seeing your dog struggle with anxiety can be awful.
Fortunately, there are ways you can help to ease your dog's anxiety. In this article, we'll be sharing some of the best ways to calm a dog down. Check out these proven methods below.
What is Dog Anxiety?
If you want to know how to help dog anxiety, you need to understand what it looks like first. Anxiety in dogs can manifest in several different ways and have a number of causes. Pet owners can help their dogs best if they can quickly identify the signs of anxiety and their triggers for anxious behavior.
Dog anxiety is any sort of behavioral disturbance that is caused by a fear-inducing factor. When an anxious dog encounters a stimulus that induces fear in them, they begin to exhibit certain negative behaviors.
This may look like a dog that shakes and tries to hide when they hear the loud noise of fireworks. It may be a dog that experiences separation anxiety while their owner is at work. They feel fear when their owner leaves, which leads to destructive behavior like tearing into furniture or incessant barking.
What Are the Signs of Anxiety in Dogs?
The symptoms of anxiety can vary from dog to dog, depending on their natural demeanor and what has triggered the anxiety. For example, a hyperactive dog may exhibit anxiety with an increased heart rate or digging.
If your dog is not a hyper dog, they may exhibit anxiety through their body language, with signs like a tucked tail or arched back.
The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms of anxiety in dogs:
- Increased heart rate
- Running away
- Obsessive grooming
- Avoiding eye contact
- Body language (postural changes, tucked tail)
What Are Common Causes of Dog Anxiety?
These are just a few of the things that may trigger your dog's anxiety:
- Separation anxiety
- Pheromones of other animals
- Fireworks or other loud noises
- Vet visits
- Dog parks, playtime, or doggy daycare
Dog Anxiety Treatment: Medications
When it comes to treating anxiety in dogs, many pet owners help their dogs to find relief with the use of medication. There is a wide variety of medications that aim to ease anxiety and calm a nervous dog.
The hardest part of treating your dog's anxiety with medication is finding a medicine that will be the best fit for your pet. Fortunately, this is something a veterinarian can help with!
If you feel like your dog's anxiety can be treated with medicine, you'll have to consult with your veterinarian first. Most anti-anxiety medications need to be prescribed by a licensed veterinarian after your pet is evaluated.
When they are assessing your dog for anxiety, the vet will perform a full physical examination to make sure your pet is in good health. They will then ask you to describe the symptoms of your dog's anxiety.
Your vet will be able to determine which anti-anxiety medication you should try for your dog. In some cases, this involves a bit of trial and error. Not every pet responds to every anxiety medicine in the same way. If one medication does not work, you will need to let your veterinarian know so that you can try another one.
Learn more about the most common medications used as dog anxiety treatments below:
Sertraline is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant that is used to treat a number of behavioral issues in dogs. This includes aggression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety. It can be found under brand names like Zoloft and Altruline.
Given by mouth, either in a tablet form or liquid form, Sertraline works gradually. You may see signs of improvement in your pet after a few weeks of use. Potential side effects include diarrhea, vomiting, a lack of appetite, and lethargy.
Paroxetine is a selective SSRI antidepressant that is used to treat a wide variety of behavioral problems in dogs and cats. This includes aggression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety. It can be found under the brand names Paxil and Brisdelle.
Paroxetine is administered orally as a capsule, tablet, or liquid suspension. It can take several days to begin seeing the effects of this medicine. Possible side effects of Paroxetine include lethargy and decreased appetite.
Amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant drug that is used to treat separation anxiety and fearful behavior in dogs by increasing their serotonin levels. It can be found under the brand name Elavil and works best in conjunction with behavior therapy modification.
This medication is given by mouth as a capsule or tablet. It may take days to weeks to begin seeing improvement in your dog's behavior. Side effects include extreme drowsiness, dry mouth, and thirst.
Clomipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant medication that can be used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorders in dogs, cats, and birds. It is often used in combination with behavior modification therapy. Some veterinarians prescribe it for off-label use for anxiety. It can be found under brand names like Clomicalm and Clopress.
Clomipramine is given orally by tablet or capsule. It can be compounded into a liquid suspension if necessary. It can take several weeks to see changes in your pet, but some pet parents report seeing results in the first week. Side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.
Fluoxetine is an SSRI antidepressant that is used to treat a number of behavioral issues in dogs and cats, including separation anxiety. It can be found under the brand names Prozac and Reconcile.
Given orally by capsule, tablet, or liquid, Fluoxetine takes several weeks to start showing results. Possible side effects include lethargy and decreased appetite.
Rescue Remedy is a natural medication used to treat anxiety in dogs. It acts as a natural stress reliever, helping to ease fear and tension in dogs that are scared of loud noises, traveling, or stressful events.
This natural liquid suspension is given orally and should be used before your pet will be exposed to a stressful situation. Pet owners do not need to get Rescue Remedy through a veterinarian. It can be found on Amazon and through other pet supply retailers.
Can Anti-Anxiety Medications Cause Any Health Conditions for My Dog?
When you're treating behavior problems or dog anxiety disorder with medications, you might be concerned about any potential adverse effects they can have on your pet. This is why it is so important to talk with your veterinarian before starting your dog on any new medication.
Some medications come with serious side effects when they are used in high doses for behavior modification. They may lead to an extreme lack of appetite, lethargy, and vomiting.
It is also important to discuss any contraindications with your vet. Certain medications cannot be used for dogs that have underlying health issues. For example, Amitriptyline shouldn't be used for dogs that have diabetes because it can affect their glucose levels.
Natural Calming Methods for Dog Anxiety
If you are concerned about using medication to treat your dog's anxiety, there are several natural methods you can try to help calm down a nervous dog. These include essential oils, aromatherapy diffusers, petting, and more.
Aromatherapy and Essential Oils
Aromatherapy and essential oils are a great way to produce a calm feeling in your home and help your dog feel more at ease. This is because a lot of essential oils produce a sense of relaxation.
Many pet parents place diffusers with essential oils like lavender and chamomile throughout their homes. These aromatherapy oils have calming properties that may relax your dog during stressful times.
Some pet owners turn to classical music to ease the discomfort of their pooch. Studies show that classical music has been proven to have a calming effect that can relax animals that are stressed.
Depending on what triggers their pet's anxiety, dog owners may want to make playing classical music a part of their daily routine or just put it on when they anticipate a stressful event, like fireworks or thunderstorms.
Research has shown that some dogs can essentially be trained out of their anxiety. This would include pet owners deliberately doing activities that they know will calm their pet or naturally produce serotonin. Those things may be petting, long walks, playtime or getting dog treats.
Working with a behaviorist can also help train your dog out of their anxious behavior. An expert dog trainer that works with pets who have behavior issues can help to teach both the owner and dog healthy ways to cope with anxiety when it occurs.
Thundershirts are a popular product for pet parents that are trying to address their dog's anxiety. The Thundershirt is a calming device that is worn by the pet. It applies gentle, even pressure around the pet's body that mimics the feeling of being held.
The Thundershirt has been shown to be over 80% effective in calming dogs during thunderstorms, vet visits, and travel.
When your dog has anxiety, it can be incredibly upsetting as a pet parent. You want your pet to be happy and comfortable at all times. This is why it's so important for dog owners to resolve their pet's anxiety in an effective way.
Fortunately, there are many ways to address anxiety in dogs. Some dog parents choose medications like Sertraline or Fluoxetine that calm their dog by working with its brain chemistry. Other pet owners choose natural alternatives like training or aromatherapy to relax their nervous dogs. Every pet is different and responds to different approaches.
However you decide to treat your dog's anxiety, it is beneficial to talk with experts like veterinarians and professional dog trainers who can help you to calm your dog effectively.