Certain breeds and sizes of dogs are more prone to anxiety than others.
There are things you can do to curb your dog's anxiety.
Find out the best calming dog bed for large dogs.
Learn alternative solutions if the best calming dog bed for large dogs doesn't work for you and your pup.
Any dog of any breed can develop anxiety issues. This can be triggered by various conditions, events, and experiences in the dog's life. Some breeds are genetically more prone to anxiety than others. The most common form is separation anxiety.
In many ways, the bigger the dog, the bigger the problem. A large dog may require special accommodations that may be more difficult to provide than needed for a smaller dog. One of the most effective methods to calm a large dog is a specially designed calming dog bed. If you think this might solve your "big problem," consider the following information on the best calming bed for large dogs and learn more about why your canine companion goes wild whenever you leave the house.
Big Dogs Get Scared Too
It’s no secret that little kids get scared. They are vulnerable and rely on their parents to provide safety and shelter for them. This is also true for dogs --whether they are big or little, young or old.
It doesn’t matter if they're a rottweiler or a rat terrier, all pups still look to their owners to provide for their needs. This is not only the physical needs of food and shelter but also the emotional needs of love, comfort, and security.
Many dogs have nervous reactions to strangers, loud noises, and/or separation from their owners. No matter what the cause, your dog's anxiety can be relieved by having a comfortable haven.
Of the possible triggers for anxiety, separation anxiety is the one that can be most helped by introducing a calming dog bed. There is no research to indicate that large-breed dogs are more likely to suffer from anxiety, but their size and/or physical prowess do not make them immune from it, as some might assume.
Breed Characteristics that Enhance Separation Anxiety
While size is not a factor, the dog's genetic makeup is.
According to Lisa Joyner, senior writer at Country Living, “The 10 dog breeds most likely to exhibit signs of separation anxiety have been revealed, with Labrador retrievers at the top of the list. While the world is opening up again, many dogs have built over-dependency during lockdown and could struggle to cope.”
German shepherds were also in the top 10 list, along with some medium and small breed dogs. German shepherds are protectors of their humans and homes, so their anxiety can sometimes include aggressive behaviors. This type of behavior is often considered to just be a bad temperament, but anxiety is often the root cause.
Certain breeds are more likely to develop separation anxiety, specifically because of their extreme loyalty and devotion to their owners. The poodle is one of these, as well as mixed breeds like the sheepadoodle and goldendoodle. This is because of their genetic parents on both sides (English sheepdog and golden retriever, respectively) being very social and loyal dogs. This devotion to their owners makes them prone to becoming anxious if left alone for long periods.
As mentioned, Labrador retrievers top the list of dogs most likely to develop separation anxiety. They are also ranked as the most family-friendly pet.
You might think that a dog that might tear up the sofa pillows in a "panic attack" wouldn't be considered very favorable in the rating game. Not so.
The same characteristics that make the Lab a great family pet also contribute to their separation anxiety. They easily become attached to their owners and become anxious when that bond is threatened by a perceived separation.
Methods of Curbing Anxiety
If you have any of these aforementioned breeds or are thinking about getting one, you should be aware of their particular characteristics and prepare yourself for what they might need. These things might include behavior modification training, interactive toys, dietary supplements, and the calming dog bed discussed above (and in more detail below, too).
A single toy or pill isn’t going to be a “magic cure” for any dog's anxiety, but it could help in conjunction with some training.
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of separation anxiety, behavioral training can reduce or eliminate their nervousness.
One part of this training, which dog owners might find the most difficult, is not to give your dog attention every time they seek it. If you reward them with treats or affection every time they whine, bark, or become excited, you are training them to whine, bark, and jump around whenever they want your attention.
What happens when you leave the house and the dog craves that personal attention? They still bark, whine and jump around, but their anxiety may also manifest in destroying objects or furniture.
Whenever you come home, you may be tempted to immediately show your dog that you love them and that they have no reason to be afraid you will leave them. Try to refrain.
Your dog will likely be excited to see you, but you should wait until they calm down and then reward them for their calm demeanor. After doing this consistently for some time, they will associate the reward with being calm.
In a Psychologytoday.com article called "Coping with Separation Anxiety in Dogs During COVID-19," London-based author Lily Bailey, who calls herself an "oversharing dog mum" on her Twitter account, suggests the following:
“Teach your dog that even when you’re in the same room together he can’t demand your attention whenever he wants it. Create a signal for ‘time out.' This can be as simple as a piece of cardboard that you show him. As soon as the cardboard appears it’s ‘human time’. Don’t make eye contact or interact with your dog at all until the cardboard is put away again.”
Bailey says you can use the signal at different times and for various lengths so your dog does not expect when they will receive their reward of having time with you. You could even hang the cardboard on the door when you leave and then put it away upon your return.
When practicing any behavioral training, the most important key is to be consistent. Always reward your dog for remaining calm and for returning to their calming bed. Linking the reward with the action will reinforce that behavior in the dog's mind.
There are many kinds of interactive toys or “puzzles” for dogs. These include plush toys, chew toys, balls, and even automatic treat dispensers with cameras.
You must choose a toy that is appropriate for your large breed dog. Chew toys made for small dogs can be torn apart and swallowed by a larger dog.
Kong is a popular brand of treat holder that allows you to stuff the inside with peanut butter or other favorite treats. If the holder is too small, instead of being happy to eat a treat, the large dog will be frustrated because they can't get the treat out.
The use of hemp oil and cannabidiol (CBD) oil is popular in canine dietary supplements. Although CBD is on the market, it cannot be prescribed by a veterinarian. Many owners have given convincing testimonials about CBD's benefits for their pets.
CBD's popularity increased after it was legalized in 2018 and was removed from the federal list of controlled substances. Some states have not followed suit, so check your state laws to determine if this is an option where you live.
As regulations for CBD and similar products are relaxed, the FDA could authorize its use for pets. This would allow vets to prescribe it for dogs with anxiety, arthritic conditions, and traveling-related issues.
Hemp oil is more available and can be found in most pet stores. It doesn’t have the same potency as CBD, but can still be effective.
Calming Dog makes peanut butter-flavored Zen Chews containing ingredients like chamomile, L-Theanine, and L-Tryptophan. The doses are measured by the size/weight of the dog, so be sure to follow the package's serving size.
Any of these supplements can be used before an event like travel, separation, thunderstorms, or fireworks displays. They require a little time to take effect, so you should read and follow the product directions.
Anti-Anxiety/Calming Dog Beds
A calming dog bed is another effective way to ease an anxious dog's nerves. These beds are made with a super soft filling, cozy faux fur, and bolstered sides to support the head and neck. They are designed for your dog to sink into them, giving a sense of security and comfort -- especially at a time when they are not able to receive the human contact they need.
A search on Amazon yielded 10,000 results for dog beds, but not all of those are designed as anti-anxiety or calming beds. There is no separate category for this special type of dog bed, so you have to look closely at the product's names and descriptions.
Choosing the right one for your stated purpose might seem like an overwhelming decision, but there are a few tips that can help in your search.
The Best Anti-Anxiety Dog Beds
Best Friends by Sheri The Original Calming Dog Bed is ranked as number one in the category of Dog Beds. This bed comes in several sizes, and the largest is the XXL at 54" x 54." None of the other top 100 dog beds are larger and only a few are close to the same size.
Please read "Let Anxious Dogs Lie–On the Best Anti-Anxiety Dog Bed" for a detailed review of this bed.
Most anti-anxiety dog beds are donut-shaped which allows your dog to curl up and sink in. The bolstered sides cradle and support your dog, creating a safe space that helps to lessen their anxiety.
Not all dogs have the same sleeping patterns. If you have a very large dog, 54" may not be long enough for them if they like to spread out. There are other options.
If your dog likes to sprawl when they sleep, you might want to check out Chongfa's Calming Dog Bed Fluffy Plush Dog Mat, available on Amazon. This bed is 45" long and is meant to go on your sofa, so as long as your sofa is long enough for your long dog, it won't matter if they hang off the end a little.
For the donut-style bed, the Savfox Calming Dog Bed is the largest at 45” x 45.”
Even the bed touted as the “best” may not be the right fit for your dog, but there are other options that might suit you and your dog’s needs.
Consider a memory foam dog mattress. Although it is not advertised as a “calming” bed, it serves a similar function. One benefit is that it is easier to store because it will be able to slide under a standard-sized bed.
Memory foam responds to the contours and weight of the body, sinking beneath the weight placed on it. Unlike other mattresses, the pressure is not distributed beyond the shape of the body. This allows the mattress to conform and almost wrap itself on the sides of whoever is lying on it.
In this way, it is very much like an anti-anxiety dog bed, whose function is also to envelop and support your dog.
Costco offers the FurHaven NAP Deluxe Memory Foam Pillow Dog Bed w/Removable Cover. Their largest size (Jumbo Plus) is 53" long, an inch shorter than Best Friends' largest size. However, this bed allows your dog to spread out a little more easily than the donut-style beds. It lists for $155.99 but just before Christmas (2022) was on sale for $129.99.
On Amazon, the Dogbed4less Ultimate Memory Foam Dog Bed is 55" long. This gives your dog a couple more inches than the FurHaven Memory Foam Pillow. At the time of this writing, it was being sold for $119.95. You would be getting two inches more for $10 less. You might want to shop and compare.
If you think one of these alternative options sounds like it might work for you and your nervous big dog, you might want to add a Calming Cuddle Blanket from Calming Dog to help give them the security they need to ease their anxiety. The dog can burrow underneath the cover for a more “cave-like” or "wolf den" feeling.
Putting Their Anxiety to Bed
Having a dog with anxiety is not easy, but thankfully, there are options to help.
You don’t want to have the hassle of trying numerous styles of beds only to end up realizing all of your trials were errors. Hopefully, you're now armed with the information you can use in choosing the best treatment methods for your dog's anxiety and in finding the perfect bed for your large-breed dog.
Measure your dog to determine what size bed they need before you buy one. After that, use the other tips mentioned to address your dog's well-being.
If you are persistent and consistent in treating the anxiety, both you and your dog will be able to rest easier.