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Dog Anxiety: Top 5 ways to soothe your anxious dog

It’s not just us humans who can suffer from anxiety, our adorable furry friends can too. In fact, a study has shown over 70% of dogs will experience some form of anxiety in their lifetime! Dog anxiety can be triggered by multiple scenarios like someone coming to the door, other dogs walking by, or being left alone.

Of course, as owners, we want to help calm our anxious dog in any way we can. The good news is dog anxiety can be treated. This article discusses 5 ways to soothe an anxious dog. It also covers the signs that indicate your dog is anxious and stressed.

dog looking anxious
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Dog anxiety: Why do dogs get anxious?

Before we begin, the first place to start is understanding why dogs get anxious and the signs of anxiety to look out for.

The most common reasons for dog anxiety include:

  • Fear: Caused by strange and unfamiliar environments or people, loud noises, certain objects, or specific situations. Your dog could be afraid of car journeys or going to the vet. 
  • Separation Anxiety: It’s estimated around 14-20% of dogs are affected by separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety will strongly dislike being left alone or separated from family members. This anxiety will often show itself through behaviours like barking, urinating, or defecating on the floor, or destroying furniture.
  • Age: Older dog anxiety and stress can be linked to Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). This is when their memory, learning, awareness, and perception start to deteriorate. 
  • Life experiences: A lack of socialising, a traumatic event in the past such as neglect, abandonment, or confinement, can lead to a dog suffering from anxiety. 
  • Sickness: When your dog is feeling unwell or is injured, they can feel more vulnerable, in which can result in anxiety.
  • Biological factors: Anxiety can be down to a dog’s breed according to some studies. One study revealed Shetland Sheepdogs, Wheaten Terriers, and Miniature Schnauzers, are a few of the most anxious dog breeds. However, every dog is different.
Dog hiding under table
Mike Burke via Unsplash

What are the signs my dog is feeling anxious?

Now that you know some of the main triggers of dog anxiety, you may be wondering what the signs are to look out for. Well, there are several symptoms, and these include:

  • Aggression
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Tail tucked between their legs
  • Urinating or defecating in the household
  • Excessive Barking
  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Destructive behaviours such as scratching, chewing, or digging
  • Depression
  • Pacing around and showing restlessness
  • Compulsive and repetitive behaviour

If your dog is experiencing any of these behaviours, it’s a good idea to speak to your vet first to rule out any underlying medical conditions. If you have confirmed your dog has anxiety, check out our top tips below to help soothe them.

1. Give your fur baby lots of strokes and cuddles to calm anxiety

Let’s start with the obvious and most simple way to help calm your dog's anxiety. Petting your dog can alleviate mild dog anxiety. It’s considered a bonding moment and can release the hormone oxytocin – the love hormone!

Most dogs will be comfortable with you petting their shoulder, chest, and base of their tail to soothe them. Some areas such as the muzzle, top of the head, and stomach, could make some pups feel more nervous. Especially if the dog does not know you that well yet. If your canine is feeling very stressed, petting could make them feel worse and it may be best to leave them be to calm down. 

Dog cuddles
Helena Lopes via Unsplash

2. Ensure your dog gets enough exercise to help with anxiety

If your dog is one to suffer from separation anxiety, one solution is to never leave them alone. But of course, this isn’t possible for most pet owners. Exercise can be used as a bonding experience and to tire out your dog and let them release that excess energy that can cause dog anxiety.

One way to help your four-legged friend release excess energy is by playing ball with them in the park. Chuckit! Ball Launchers are a terrific way to play ball with your dog without tiring yourself out! They allow you to throw the ball further and faster for your pup to chase.

Exercise is a great distraction for an anxious dog as it can take their mind away from what is bothering them. It can also help to release feel-good hormones that will relieve their anxiety. 

3. Provide your dog with interactive toys to soothe their anxiety

Physical exercise is not the only way to calm an anxious dog. Mental stimulation is also crucially important for your furry friend’s mental health and wellbeing. You can give your dog interactive puzzle toys to stimulate their mind and encourage problem-solving skills.

Interactive toys are great to keep your dog distracted, especially when they are feeling anxious. Treat Dispensers are the perfect outlet for mental and physical energy as they make your dog work to receive a treat that is hidden within the toy.

Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety can sometimes turn their attention to destructive behaviours like destroying your furniture. Something we are sure you will be wanting to avoid! A toy that gives treats can distract and calm anxious pets. It can also provide them with a way to use up their extra energy when you're not around.

At WOOOF, we have a whole variety of different interactive toys that are perfect for calming dog anxiety. Check out some of our favourites below or visit our website today for more:

4. Provide a safe space for your anxious dog

If your dog is feeling overstimulated or anxious, they may want to hide away or have somewhere safe to retreat to. Your furry companion should have a dog bed or den within a quiet space in the home where they can go for some alone time. This should be a place where they are not disturbed and can feel safe and relaxed.

If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, relaxing music such as classical, piano, or harp could be played in this area to help soothe your dog and block out any noises that might scare them whilst you are away.

If you would like to purchase your anxious dog a new cosy dog bed or den to unwind in, we have a few examples below that we think they’ll love! 

5. Get a calming Lick Mat to soothe dog anxiety

Lick Mats are a fantastic solution for calming dog anxiety. These mats encourage your dog to focus on the challenging task of extracting tasty treats like peanut butter or yoghurt from the crevices of the lick mat. The process of licking helps to release endorphins which will soothe and relax your dog when they are stressed or anxious.

The tactile and sensory stimulation from lick mats not only engages a dog’s senses, but also transforms their mealtimes into a more leisurely and enjoyable activity. This means they are especially great for dogs prone to rapid food consumption!

We have a variety of Lick Mats available on our website, each featuring fun designs. However, you can also make a lick mat at home if you have any silicone mats. See our DIY dog enrichment toy article for some creative ideas! 

Soothing dog anxiety with WOOOF

At WOOOF, we know how anxiety can affect our furry friend’s lives. So as owners, it’s important for us to recognise and understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options to help them.

We hope that some of our top tips have helped you to calm your anxious dog. We recommend contacting your vet for further advice, as they will help you find treatment that best suits your dog and lifestyle.

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