Exercise and mental stimulation are essential for a dog with anxiety.
Massaging specific areas on your dog's body relaxes them.
A dog is less anxious when they have a consistent routine.
When you have a dog with anxiety, you want a solution that works. These tried and tested dog anxiety solutions are effective. If your dog's under stress, give these solutions the test.
Some of these solutions may seem simple, but many times, the simplest solution is the one that works. Sometimes behavior modification and a consistent routine are all that you need. It's a relief for your dog and a relief for your wallet. Discover which solutions work best for you and your dog.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Every dog needs exercise and stimulation. Without these things, some dogs develop anxiety. Certain breeds have it in their genes to perform tasks. Without a job to do, these dogs become restless, bored, and stressed.
Taking your dog on walks is an essential aspect of dog ownership. Experts recommend that you walk your dog for 30 minutes twice a day. If your dog shows signs of separation anxiety, plan their walk right before you have to leave them alone. Take them for a walk at the end of the day so they get a good night's sleep.
Toys and puzzles are great ways to give them mental stimulation. Leaving them a puzzle to solve is one way of giving them that needed job or task to perform, especially if they have to be apart from their owner for a while. Exercise and stimulation leave them feeling calm and fulfilled.
Besides toys, many different products aim at calming an anxious dog. Some of these calming aids are kinesthetic and wrap around your dog's body like a ThunderShirt or calming dog bed. A ThunderShirt fits snuggly onto your dog to provide a sense of security during times of stress. A calming dog bed cuddles them as they sink into the soft lining and the outer edge supports them.
Other calming aids produce a reaction in your dog's brain by stimulating oxytocin and endorphins to make them feel better. Some calming sprays contain pheromones that mimic a mother dog when nursing. Other sprays, diffusers, and treats use naturally calming ingredients like chamomile, melatonin, L-tryptophan, L-theanine, and lavender.
A great way to alter your dog's nervous demeanor is through behavior modification. If you change your dog's routine and state of mind, they maintain that behavior without relying on meds or other products.
Calming aids are great, but they're only a temporary solution to alleviate your dog's symptoms. Behavior modification gives them more independence to handle stress on their own. If you're not experienced with training, a professional dog trainer or behaviorist is a helpful resource to teach you the steps needed to alter your dog's behavior successfully.
In cases of chronic or severe anxiety, prescription medication may be necessary. If your dog becomes consistently stressed out as a result of all sorts of different triggers, there may be something medically wrong.
At Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, the Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center advises about alleviating anxiety in dogs. "Medications," they say, "might only be necessary while you're working on behavioral modification strategies, or they may be beneficial for the rest of your dog’s life."
They recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet rather than giving an over-the-counter supplement as a first step. You want to rule out any medical issues before they get out of hand.
After a consultation with your vet, if they find no underlying medical issue, ask if natural supplements work for your dog. This may be a good option if your dog experiences anxiety in specific situations.
Calming chews have natural ingredients like chamomile, L-tryptophan, and L-theanine which have calming properties. CBD oil is more potent and has a faster effect but isn't FDA-approved. Many dog owners report the benefits of CBD and your vet may even suggest it, but they aren't able to prescribe it. Dog owners everywhere use natural supplements like CBD and hemp oil.
Massage and Touch Therapy
Massage and touch therapy are great, naturalistic ways to calm your dog. Touch is a technique in which you use your fingers in a clockwise circular motion to massage the animal's skin gently.
Acupressure is effective for relaxing a dog as well. Animal Medical of New City, New York, explains the Yin Tang and Yang Tang points on your dog. The Yin Tang point is "a single point in the center of your pet’s forehead located directly between and slightly above the eyes. Massage this area using one or two fingers and watch your pet melt into relaxation. This point is especially important for the flow of calming energy through your pet’s body."
The Yang Tang points are on either side of your dog's eyes where the skull indents, equivalent to their temples. Use one hand or two, depending on the size of your hand and the width of your dog's head. Massage and touch therapy are wonderful ways to relax your dog, and they help create a bond between owner and dog.
The ears, front legs, feet, back legs, and base of the spine are all other areas that are a common focus for massage and acupuncture. Overall, massage feels great, but you should consult a professional for specific acupuncture points.
You may see a crate as a punishment for your dog, but this isn't the case. Dogs are den animals, and as such, they feel safe in enclosed spaces. Before putting your dog inside, proper crate training is essential.
When crate training your dog, you want to make it a comfortable and inviting place. Leave the crate open and allow your dog to explore it independently. Feed them meals there while leaving the door open or give them treats inside of it so that it's a positive experience.
Put a comfortable mat inside and place the crate in a room or part of the house that's quiet. Leave them in for short amounts of time at first while you step out of the room. Leave them inside for more extended periods, but always give them a distraction like a treat or a toy.
Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning
Regarding training, desensitization, and counter-conditioning usually go hand in hand. Desensitization is the process of turning an anxiety-inducing trigger into something that causes little or no reaction. Gradually expose your dog to the stimulus until they become used to it.
Counter-conditioning is pairing that same trigger with something positive. You can do this by treating your dog when they act calmly while exposed to stimuli. You can do this in any fear-inducing situation.
If your dog has car anxiety, practice first by playing with them near the car and giving them a treat. Then, get them into the car but don't go anywhere. Once they settle down, reward them. Eventually, work up to going on short rides, rewarding good behavior at each stage. Desensitization and counter-conditioning are great ways to change your dog's behaviors without meds.
Unfamiliar situations are often scary. Dogs are more comfortable with familiarity. If your dog doesn't have a solid routine, they may be in a constant state of anxiety. When your dog knows their meals, when they go outside, and when bedtime is, they're more confident. Confidence is the opposite of anxiety.
A consistent routine helps the owner as well. When dogs get used to a regular schedule, they do what they're supposed to without prompting. If you see your dog doing something that's not part of their regular routine, it's easy to spot and may mean something's going on with them.
Tried, Tested, and Dog-Approved
None of these solutions is a one-stop cure-all by itself. If just one is the key to helping your dog with anxiety, consider yourself fortunate. It's more likely that you need two or more of these options working in combination. If your dog is on medication, consult your vet before putting them on a supplement and vice versa.
Some solutions may seem like a lot of work, but many are temporary. Once your dog settles into a calm routine, you may be able to taper off the supplements, spray, or the ThunderShirt, for example.
With these dog anxiety solutions, your petrified pooch learns to be a confident canine.
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