Common Signs Your Dog Is Stressed And How To Calm Anxious Dogs?
Anxiety is not only a common trait in humans, but animals can also badly suffer as well.
Just like with other unhealthy behaviours — biting, barking, chewing and growling can all be treated through behavioural/reinforcement training. Anxiety can be totally cured, but sometimes it can only be managed. it’s important to be supportive and patient during this whole process as your dogs behaviour will not change overnight, and will take hard work and dedication to change.
If you have a dog that suffers from anxiety, or is generally nervous, this post is a must-read. We’ll outline multiple proven methods for supporting your anxious dog and help you understand the triggers to their behaviour.
The Key Signs Your Dog is Stressed:
Pacing or shaking. You’ll have all seen your dog shake after a bath or a roll in the grass. That whole body shake thing can be amusing and is quite normal…unless it happens as the result of a stressful situation. As an example, it is quite common dogs are stressed when visiting the vets. Dogs, just like people, also pace when agitated and some dogs walk a repeated path around the exam room while waiting for the veterinarian to come in.
Whining or barking. Dogs being vocal is a self-expression but may be intensified when they are under stress. Dogs that are afraid or tense may whine or bark to get your attention, or to self soothe.
Yawning, drooling and licking. Dogs, like humans yawn when they are tired or just simply bored, they also yawn when stressed. A stressful yawn can be identified as more prolonged and intense than a sleepy yawn. Dogs can be known to drool and lick excessively when nervous.
Stressed dog body language/ change in body posture Stressed dogs, may have dilated pupils, blink rapidly and may open their eyes really wide and show more sclera (white) than usual, giving them that “startled look” appearance. Ears that are usually relaxed or alert are pinned back against the head. Alternatively, they could cower away by lifting their head down looking at the floor, avoiding direct eye contact when stressed.
Shedding. Show dogs that become nervous in the show ring often have the phrase “blow their coat” coined after them. Dogs also shed a lot when in the veterinary clinic. Although, a lot less noticeable in outside settings, such as visiting a new dog park, shedding increases when a dog is anxious.
Panting. Dogs pant when hot, excited, or less commonly stressed. If your dog is panting even though he has not exercised or the temperature is cool, he may be experiencing stress.
Changes in bodily functions. Like people, nervous dogs can feel a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. When your dog urinates shortly after meeting a new canine friend, he may be marking territory and reacting to the strain simultaneously. Refusal of food and loss of bowel function are also typical stress indicators.
Avoidance or displacement behavior. When faced with a stressful situation, dogs may “escape” by focusing on something else. Ignoring someone may not be polite, but it’s their defense mechanism. If your dog decides to avoid interaction with other dogs or people, try not to force the issue; Respect their choice.
Hiding or escape behaviour. An extension of avoidance, some tense dogs would move directly behind their owners to hide. They may even nudge their owners to prompt them to move along. This can commonly happen on a walk when they encounter another dog which may be larger or intimidating to them. As a means of escape, they may attempt diversion activities such as digging or circling or may hide behind a tree or parked car.
How To Calm An Anxious Dog?
Believe it or not, research has shown that you can use music to help your dog feel calmer and encourage relaxation. Some music genres have been proven to be more soothing for your dog than others. Reggae and soft rock have been researched as the most relaxing music for dogs in shelters, and classical music also helps calm down dogs in stressful environments.
Interestingly, playing classical and reggae songs can also have a relaxing effect on dogs, as in a study by animal behaviourist Dr. Deborah Well, our canine friends spent more time resting and being quiet, and less time standing when exposed to classical music compared to heavy metal music, pop music, or general conversation.
You’ll be happy to read we have created our own dog calming playlist, where we have mixed a number of songs across classical, solo piano and reggae genres to calm your pets down in the comfort of your own home. Our playlist is available on Spotify or Apple music.
When to Play Calming Music for Your Dog?
Your dog can benefit from music in a variety of situations, including:
During the initial period after you first bring home your new puppy or dog.
Whenever you leave your dog home alone.
When your dog spends time in their crate, puppy zone, or in their safe space.
During thunderstorms or fireworks.
Helping a restless puppy or dog fall asleep.
At the veterinary clinic during examination.
While riding in the car to help ease travel anxiety
As with humans, exercise releases endorphins which can help improve our mood. Dogs experience the biological effects in the same way we do. This would make complete sense, as dogs crave walks as part of their daily routine and whilst on their walks, they are in their element sniffing around and discovering new places.
Create a Sanctuary Space:
Sometimes dogs find it much easier to relax in the safety of their crate than out in the rest of the house. Know your dog’s signs and causes, so you can make the most functional safe space for them. This will be the place where they can retreat to regain a sense of safety and comfort.
To identify the best type of safe space, observe how your dog handles anxiety. It may be easy to think a dog in distress would most likely like to gravitate towards you to seek comfort, but this may not always be the case. Your dog may need a secluded area to handle their anxiety alone.
Which Dog Calming Aids Should I Buy?
When it comes to tackling your dog’s anxiety, sometimes an immediate solution is called upon. Dog calming products such as dog calming sprays and calming treats can work perfectly to help ease their anxiety and stresses. Calming products for dogs with anxiety are convenient to use especially if your pup struggles with going to vets, long car journeys or bonfire season, as they can provide quick relief.
Zen Dog – Available To Buy Now
We are proud to have released our latest product Zen Dog, a 250ml dog calming spray made from all natural, cruelty free ingredients. It has been designed to reduce stress and anxiety in all breeds. This is achieved with our unique combination of ingredients which help maintain the calming pathways in the brain and support relaxation.
Zen Dog is a natural dog anxiety reliever to use on a nervous, depressed, or hyperactive pup, and is also an excellent sleep aid if your dog has bouts of insomnia or struggles to settle down in the evenings.
How to Help a Dog with Separation Anxiety?
It comes as a given that dogs should never be left for too long on their own, but if they get used to being left for short periods when young, they are likely to grow up feeling relaxed and comfortable when left on their own for some parts of the day. This could explain why dogs bought during the lockdown period find it difficult to be left on their own, as they will have been used to spending time with their owners 24 hours a day, and then you go to the extreme of being left alone for long periods.
How long can my dog be left alone?
Your dog should never be left alone for more than 4/5 hours at a time. However, this will greatly depend on your dog, their breed, age and how they cope with being left on their own in the house. Some may find it difficult being away from their owners for this long and others will be unphased and able to adapt easily to the new presented situation.
If your dog is anxious or unsettled when being left at home alone you may observe the following behaviours:
Your dog becomes distressed as soon as you leave. The first 15 minutes are typically the worst, during which time your dog becomes extremely upset. All the physiological signs of fear may be present – an increase in heart and breathing rate, panting, salivating, releasing nervous energy and, sometimes, a need to go to the toilet. Your dog may try to follow you as you leave, scratching at doors, chewing at doorframes, door legs, scratching up carpets or jumping up at windowsills to look for a way out. Alternatively, your dog may bark, whine or howl as a means to persuade you to come back.
After this frantic period, your dog may settle down to chew something that you have recently touched that still carries your scent, e.g. socks, slippers and blankets.
On your return, your dog may appear elated and may become very excitable. They may be wet, either from salivating or excessively drinking due to stress.
When you are home, your dog may attempt to follow you wherever you go in the house. They may begin to display anxious behaviours when they see you preparing to leave the house (e.g., panting, pacing, howling).
How To Calm An Anxious Dog In The Car?
For some dogs, a trip to the vet could be the main journey they associate with a ride in the car. And since many dogs don’t always love what happens at the vet, is it any wonder that getting in the car can often trigger stress and anxiety for so many dogs?
Other dogs become anxious in the car because of previous bad experiences in the car, such as being left alone, bumpy journey or a scary event such as a car accident.
The positive news is that if you start them whilst their young, you can prevent them from ever developing negative associations (and the resulting stressful state of mind) with the car using a process called desensitization. If you already have a dog that exhibits anxiety during their car ride, it is possible to modify that association using counterconditioning. The key to both desensitization and counterconditioning is recognizing that it’s not a race, and will take a lot of time and dedication to modify their behaviour.
When To Consult With A Vet?
If your dog is truly struggling with anxiety and this has been going on for a fairly long time, you can talk to your veterinarian about whether anti-anxiety medications would be the best course of action.
Some pet owners worry about using these medications:
Will it make their dog sleepy all the time?
Will it change their personality?
Will these types of medications shorten their dog’s lifespan?
When treated with the proper medications, your pet should display less anxiety, seem happier, and still have the same personality. If your veterinarian isn’t sure what to prescribe or how to proceed further, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist can help you find the best medication for your dog to help them live a stress-free life.
Thank you for your reading our guide on how to calm a stressed dog.
Article written by Hayden Lloyd - Founder HWL Pet Supplies