Dealing with an anxious dog can be as upsetting for the owner as it is for the pup. There are a number of causes for anxiety in dogs, with some being easier to identify than others (read our blog about anxiety in dogs here). But whatever the reason, owners of anxious dogs will be equally anxious to ease their pet’s stress and help them live a happier life.
Dog Anxiety: The Low Down
Before investing in anxiety products for dogs, you should work to identify the cause of your dog’s stress or fear. Common causes include:
- Fear - for example loud sounds or environmental triggers like other animals
- Separation - if your dog hates it when you leave, they probably have separation anxiety
- Age - this can cause cognitive dysfunction
Each kind of anxiety can have different triggers, and can present differently. Some display physical signs of anxiety like hunching and flattened ears, while others might bark excessively, and others become destructive or aggressive.
If your dog has been adopted from a rescue shelter, they’re more likely to exhibit fear-based anxieties and your shelter rep should have explained these to you as thoroughly as their knowledge allowed.
If you’re still not sure what’s causing your dog’s stress, seek medical attention. Vets and animal behaviorists are highly skilled at identifying stress triggers in dogs, and can help you find the best cure.
Ready to get to work? These are some of our favorite anxiety products for dogs.
Crates are designed to give dogs their own, secure space where they can go to relax. Many humans project their own ideas about cages onto dog crates, ignoring the fact that dogs are den-dwelling animals that enjoy the safe feeling that enclosed spaces offer them – something that’s often missing from human households. Think of it like their home within your home.
So, if your dog is anxious and doesn’t have a crate this could be the solution. Make sure it’s the right size for your dog to stand and lie in with extra room. Pad it out with comfy blankets and bedding, make space for food and water bowls, and pop some of their favorite toys in it.
Their crate will become a place they go to feel comfort, whether they’ve been triggered by a fear, need to relax to soothe their separation anxiety, or need a safe space to go to prevent destructive behavior.
We say it so often on this blog, but mental and physical exercise really does work wonders to cure a cacophony of issues.
Daily walks aren’t just for your dog’s physical benefit – it helps them mentally, too. We know that exercise releases serotonin that makes us feel happy, but for dogs, if they don’t get any exercise they can become anxious and confused as a result of understimulation.
And if your dog gets their daily recommended exercise but suffers from anxiety separately, some extra time outdoors could help ease their stress. Try mixing their walks up a bit, pick a different route or somewhere new.
Remember, in the wild, dogs don’t go for ‘walks’, they go on a hunt. Obviously you can’t let your dog go chasing down anything that kicks their prey drive into gear (and in many states, even letting your dog run off their lead has tight restrictions), but see the walk from their perspective. Let them enjoy that sniff, it’s making them use their brain. If they want to leave a quick wee-mail reply, that’s fine too. Any undesirable behavior on a walk offers the perfect opportunity for some corrective training which keeps their brains engaged too.
Plush, round beds with a sunken middle are sometimes referred to as calming beds. Like crates, they give anxious pups a place to burrow and curl up where they can feel safe and enclosed. Much like a child’s comfort blanket, calming beds help dogs rest at night or when left home alone.
Be mindful of the balance between wanting to keep their bed clean and tidy and what works for them. You might think it’s getting a bit smelly, but putting it through the wash too often could contribute to your dog feeling reluctance towards their bed.
If you’re into technical solutions, the ThunderShirt soothes anxious dogs by applying constant, gentle pressure on their chest and sides. Worn like a wrap, the idea is the same as swaddling a baby in a blanket. So your dog can still move, but with the added benefit of feeling like they’re being hugged.
It’s called the ThunderShirt as it was originally designed to ease fear-based anxieties during storms. Many owners now use it during fireworks and other events that can cause trauma and stress in their dogs.
Whilst crates, exercise and beds can be permanent solutions (or at least adopted into everyday life), the Thundershirt should be viewed as more of a temporary solution. It’s still important to address the cause of the anxiety. The Thundershirt can just be a backup when you know something especially worrying might occur (like storms or fireworks).
Puzzle Toys And Chews
Puzzle toys have two anxiety-reducing benefits for dogs: they keep them mentally stimulated to help prevent the anxiety that comes with being underactive, and they keep them distracted during situations that could trigger their fear.
Safe chews and lick mats can also help anxiety by rewarding soothing behaviors – like licking. It takes them a while to finish a chew or lick a whole mat clean, so it can be a long-lasting solution to helping them overcome their anxiety.
For dogs with separation anxiety, tricky treat balls and food mats can be a good way to distract them while their owner leaves the house.
Medications, Supplements, And Therapies
Though not a ‘product’ in the literal sense of the word, there are a number of medical options that can help to stop your dog’s anxiety at the source. These include:
- Over the counter medications, recommended by your vet
- Prescribed medication from your vet, including Xanax, Benadryl, and Valium
- Calming treats infused with CBD, recommended by your vet
- Diffusers for the home that release calming pheromones
- Calming supplements, recommended by your vet
- Dog-friendly CBD oil, recommended by your vet
Front of the Pack’s Soothe supplement is an all-in-one remedy that cuts off stress at the source. Clinically proven to target anxiety and help your dog live a stress-free life, it’s packaged in a handy sachet for quick and easy use, and the results can be seen in as little as 90 minutes. It’s made with Ashwagandha to moderate stress and cortisol levels, L-theanine to promote a state of calm, and Relora to alleviate nerves.
Another option favored by more experimental dog owners are different treatments that are known to relieve – although not necessarily cure – stress in humans.
If you want to give your dog a treat after a stressful time, or are working to cure their anxiety but think they could do with a temporary boost in relaxation, you might want to try one of these anecdotal benefits.
- Noise therapy including white noise, fans, and classical music
Like the Thundershirt, these are great for dealing with a stressful situation but they’re not a long term solution. It’s still important to find and address the cause of the anxiety.
One of the most effective ways to truly cure a nervous dog of their anxiety is through training. Many owners make a valiant effort to complete this training at home – but don’t get down on yourself if you’re not successful. Dog anxiety is deep-rooted and complex.
Just as we would see a therapist to help overcome our problems rather than simply chatting with friends and family, sometimes dogs just need the help of a professional, too.
- Behavioral training helps to address and manage anxiety, which can be triggered by untrained dogs not understanding their place in their ‘pack’ or home
- Separation anxiety training is targeted especially at dogs who become nervous when left alone
- Positive reinforcement training helps dogs repeat desired behaviors
- Counterconditioning training helps dogs overcome adverse reactions to stress triggers
- Desensitization training which gradually exposes a dog to their fear until they no longer associate it with negative feelings
- Sozialisation training helps dogs understand how the world works – without this, neglected dogs can become confused and anxious