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How To Help An Anxious Dog

Written by Ella White

Last updated

Everyone feels nervous from time to time, but those who suffer with anxiety know how crippling it can be – even just performing everyday tasks. In humans we know that anxiety is something that should not go untreated. So if you begin to spot similar symptoms in your dog, you should take it just as seriously.

Dog anxiety is personal – it affects each dog, and even each breed, in different ways. Some anxieties present themselves more obviously that others, and some causes are easier to determine. But whatever the reason for your dog’s nervousness, it’s important to get it treated. Untreated anxiety can lead to more serious behavioural issues, and means your dog’s life may not be as happy as it should be.

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

Dog anxiety can be caused by almost anything, from obvious lived experiences like abandonment and neglect, to separation anxiety, to fear-based issues including loud noises, new environments, and even kinds of people. Some dogs also develop anxiety as they age, as it can be a symptom of cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs

The symptoms of anxiety in dogs could be occasional and triggered by specific events, or they could be an ongoing result of your dog’s condition. Like with most illnesses, the symptoms are varied in how seriously they will affect your dog’s quality of life. But if you feel your dog is displaying signs of anxiety, you should take them to see a veterinarian who can advise on ways to help calm them.

  • Aggression
  • Urinating and defecating in the house
  • Destructive behaviours
  • Barking excessively
  • Drooling or panting excessively
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Depression
  • Compulsive behaviours

Aggression towards humans or other animals is the most serious and dangerous symptom of anxiety in dogs, and should be treated immediately. Urinating and defecating in the house are often symptoms of signs of separation anxiety in dogs as a housebroken dog may become so distressed that they’re unable to control their usual functions. Similarly, dogs suffering with separation anxiety may be destructive or bark excessively as they act out and try to attract attention to ease their stress.

How to Treat Dog Anxiety

The first step to treating dog anxiety is by identifying the kind of anxiety they’re suffering with and its potential triggers. How you treat your dog’s anxiety can be determined by the type of anxiety they suffer, or the cause of that anxiety if you know it. Taking your anxious dog to the vet to work through these factors will also help eliminate any other illnesses linked with the anxious symptoms your dog is exhibiting.

For example, fear-based anxieties or phobia in dogs can be managed by keeping your dog away from situations or environments that are likely to trigger their fears. However, this will not always be possible and a more reliable kind of treatment might be needed, such as a calming supplement for dogs.

1. Training

Training and counter training with a specialist trainer or therapist can help your dog to overcome specific fears and anxieties. It helps to change your dog’s response to the sources of their anxiety and can also help in desensitising them to their fears.

2. Medication

If your dog is showing signs of depression or compulsive behaviours as a symptom of their anxiety, your vet may prescribe an antidepressant. This will help them to overcome the ongoing symptoms that make their daily lives harder than they should be.

For dogs with fear-based or occasional anxiety, there are dog anxiety treatments that can be administered to help them cope with that specific stress – for example fireworks. Benzodiazepine is a common treatment for occasional dog anxiety and can be calming for dogs.

3. Supplements

Anxiety supplements for dogs are a great way to boost your dog’s quality of life, without changing their routine. Front of the Pack’s Harmony supplement is designed to help your dog feel calm and stress-free in less than 90 minutes - it's like a calming treat for dogs. Made with natural, clinically-proven ingredients it’s an almost-instant aid for anxiety in dogs. Ashwagandha helps moderate stress levels, L-theanine balances the brain chemicals for a calm but non-drowsy effect, and Relora cuts off anxiety at the source.  Unlike other options, it can be taken as and when it’s needed, or included in your dog's nutritional routine as part of a healthy diet.

Preventing Anxiety in Dogs

If your dog is not currently anxious or showing any of the typical dog anxiety symptoms, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of the possibilities. If your dog is older, anxiety can be harder to predict. But if you’re training a puppy there are some simple steps you can take to help promote a calm, stress-free mind in your pup. To help prevent your dog from developing anxiety, these daily habits can help. 

1. Socialising

The more people, places, and other dogs and animals your dog encounters when they’re young, the better equipped they will be to deal with new experiences as they grow up. Proper socialisation helps your dog puppy to adjust to all the kinds of people and dogs they will meet throughout their life, so they’re less likely to become anxious when they face new situations.

2. Get to know them

Understanding the way your dog reacts to situations is key to understanding their state of mind. Just like you would with a baby, learn to read their body language and use any negative experiences as an opportunity for positive training. Helping your puppy avoid and overcome situations that make them nervous will help them develop into a more well-rounded dog.

3. Training

Taking your dog to obedience training lays the groundwork for good socialisation, and a trusting relationship with humans. The better trained your dog is, the better they’ll be able to deal with new experiences, and the easier it will be to train them out of nervous behaviours.

4. Good health

Keeping your dog healthy with a balanced diet and regular exercise is key to their development, and also their mental wellbeing. It can help prevent behavioural issues, and keeps their mind stimulated which prevents anxiety and nervousness. 

Avoiding anxiety triggers are the best way to keep your dog calm and mentally well. But when the sources of your dog’s anxiety cannot be avoided, a fast-acting supplement like Harmony is always useful to have to hand.