How to Calm Your Dog Down
Is your dog prone to anxiety or hyperactivity? Do you find that it’s a challenge to keep your dog calm throughout the day or when they are interacting with other dogs and people? It’s common for dogs to be anxious and hyperactive for a variety of reasons, but it can be a challenge for you as their pet parent.
Knowing how to calm your dog down can significantly increase your own peace and help your dog live a happier and healthier life. There are a few methods you can use to calm your dog down, but to understand how they work, you must start with understanding what is causing your dog’s anxiety in the first place.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress in Dogs
There are different types of anxiety and stress. Some dogs are stressed constantly, whether from environmental stimuli or a naturally anxious personality. Some dogs get stressed only at certain times and may react by loud barking, jumping on people, or similar unpleasant habits.
If your dog is constantly or occasionally stressed, there are some common symptoms you should keep an eye on that will help you determine what might be causing your pup’s anxiety.
Aggression (such as biting or jumping on others)
Pacing and restlessness
Urinating or pooping in the house
Performing repetitive and/or compulsive behaviors
These symptoms may indicate a variety of different issues. Some dogs may simply get anxious around new people, causing them to become aggressive. Some may be anxious constantly, causing them to act out while left home alone.
It’s important that you’re aware of what symptoms your dog exhibits so you can better understand the reasons behind their behavior.
Reasons for Dog’s Anxiety
There are a few different things that may be causing your dog to feel anxious or unsettled in your home. Some of the common stressors that cause dogs to act out include:
Separation anxiety. Many dogs struggle with being alone, especially if left for long periods of time while you are at work.
Loud noises. Many dogs have very sensitive ears, which means loud noises affect them more strongly than they might affect humans. Sometimes, dogs grow more anxious when subject to loud noises frequently or for long periods of time.
New people. Many dogs are uncomfortable around new people, whether because they have had bad experiences with people in the past or simply because they’re very jealous of your time and affection.
Boredom. Dogs were created to work and forage for food out in nature. If they have nothing to do day after day, they may become anxious and angsty.
Second-hand stress. Studies have shown that dogs are emotionally attached to their owners. This means that if you are constantly stressed or anxious, your dog may be picking up some of your emotions and acting out in response.
Over-stimulation. Sometimes, dogs just need to be alone. If they are constantly in company with you or other dogs and humans, they may begin to feel overwhelmed and unsettled.
Illness. In some dogs, signs of anxiety are actually signs of an underlying illness or condition. Your dog may be experiencing digestive issues or suffering from some kind of disease. Keep an eye on danger signs in your dog’s poop and physical appearance to determine if they need medical treatment.
It can be difficult to determine what exactly is causing your dog to feel anxious or act out unnecessarily. Some conditions may not appear obvious to you. If you’re struggling to determine what exactly your dog is dealing with, you may want to talk to your vet for help.
Ways You Can Calm Your Dog Down At Home
In some cases, you may want to seek medical help to deal with your dog’s anxiety. However, in most cases, you will be able to help calm them down with a few simple steps. Here are some ways to try calming your dog down at home.
Train your dog. While it will take time and effort, training your dog will likely be the most effective method of managing their stress. You can train your dog to change their reaction to a stressor by making them sit instead of jump when excited by other people, for example. You may want help from a dog trainer to ensure that you use the most effective techniques.
Provide activities for your dog. If your dog seems bored and anxious when left home alone, they may need extra stimulation. Take them out to play as often as you can. And when you’re not home, try making them hunt for their food or solve a puzzle to release food into their bowl. You can do this yourself or buy a dish designed to do it for you. This could help your dog feel more useful and engaged and improve their overall quality of life.
Exercise your dog regularly. Dogs are made to move outdoors. If they’re always stuck inside or penned in the yard, they’re likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. Make sure you get at least 20-30 minutes of activity with them every day.
Pet your dog. If your dog is exhibiting signs of fear (trembling, running, hiding their face, etc.), try petting them gently. While too much contact can cause problems (hugging, for example, can make them feel trapped), gentle petting will usually relieve their stress and provide comfort.
Provide a sanctuary. Many dogs need time alone to regroup during the day. While they won’t want to spend hours by themselves, they may need to spend an hour or so away from dogs, children, and other stimuli that could be causing them stress. Provide them a room with a lock where they can be by themselves for a while, if necessary.
Use classical music or calming scents. Your dog has sensitive ears and a very sensitive nose. Some dogs react well to classical music and calming scents like lavender or chamomile. If your dog acts up during the day a lot, especially when you’re not home, try playing classical music and placing lavender scents in your home to help calm them.
Reduce your stress. As mentioned, dogs pick up on the emotional cues left by their owners. If you’re constantly stressed, your dog will sense that and begin to feel the strain along with you. Try to reduce stress in your life to help your dog feel better too.
When To Seek Medical Help for Calming Down Your Dog
There may come a time when your dog begins to suffer from serious anxiety. If that happens, you’ll need to take them to the vet and many need to invest in anti-anxiety medication. Usually, you’ll know that you need to seek medical help if your dog:
Is depressed and lethargic.
Destroys your home while you’re away.
Frequently urinates or poops in the house.
Is having frequent, unexplained diarrhea.
These symptoms likely indicate that your dog is in need of medical intervention. In some cases, they may be suffering from an internal illness that you need to address. However, if not, your vet may ask if there are any triggers in your home that might be causing your dog severe stress.
Anti-Anxiety Medications for Dogs
If your dog is suffering and needs medical help, your vet will probably recommend one of the most popular anti-anxiety medications available. Your pet may be prescribed:
Alprazolam, a light sedative commonly prescribed for dogs who fear thunderstorms.
Amitriptyline, an antidepressant commonly used for dogs who have separation anxiety.
Buspirone, a medication that increases serotonin and helps dogs who are anxious in social settings.
Clomipramine (Clomicalm), an FDA-approved antidepressant used for separation and other common anxieties.
Dexmedetomidine (Sileo), a depressant used often for dogs with noise sensitivities.
Diazepam, a sedative often administered before an anxiety-inducing event.
Fluoxetine (Reconcile), a medication that increases serotonin in dogs but should only be used for two months at a time.
Lorazepam, another sedative usually given before an anxiety-inducing event.
Paroxetine, another medication that increases serotonin but should be used no longer than two months.
Sertraline, a third serotonin-increasing medication prescribed for two months.
L-theanine, a nutritional supplement that increases serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid.
s-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe), a nutritional supplement that increases serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Pheromones, a synthetic version of the hormone mother dogs use to calm their puppies. These are available as diffusers, sprays, or collars.
These are some of the more commonly prescribed medications. However, your vet will know which is best to use for your pet.
Reducing Anxiety to Calm Your Dog
As you can see, there are many reasons a dog may feel anxious and require calming down. You must decide what will work best for you and your pet based on the symptoms they are showing and the triggers activating their stress levels.
It’s best to start with home-based methods like training your dog, providing them a safe and comforting home, and offering them plenty of opportunities for exercising their muscles and their brains. As a last resort, you should seek help from your vet to calm your anxious dog.