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Ways to Ease Anxiety in Dogs: Understanding Canine Anxiety

Ways to Ease Anxiety in Dogs: Understanding Canine Anxiety

December 29, 2021

Dogs are in tune with our feelings – sometimes before we are; but how good are we at reading their expressions and body language to give them the same courtesy?

A dog’s breed may give indications about its general temperament but that often fails to paint the entire picture. Past trauma and their general personality also play a huge role.

If you recently adopted a dog and are unsure how to make them feel at home and at ease, we’ve curated some top tips to help you be the best dog parent to your new family member. If your dog is generally high-strung, these tips can help too!

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Anxiety?

Common signs of anxiety in pets:

  • Excessive licking or chewing on the same areas of paws or toys
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Pacing and panting
  • Ongoing crying or barking

My Dog Is Normally Super-Friendly but Seems Stressed

A normally easy-going pup can exhibit signs of anxiety during or after stressful circumstances. A recent move, a new baby in the house, or even construction near your home can all be short-term stressful events that get easier with time – and don’t worry, their rambunctious personality will start to shine again as they chill out.

Okay, So How Can I Help?

Consider Crate Training

Crates mirror caves or dens which is where dogs lived through their evolution. If your dog burrows under blankets, likes to sleep with all the lights off, or curls up tight into the corner of their bed – they may be comforted by a crate.  

You can try crate games – engaging in their usual sensory activities like stuffed toys or snuffle mats while inside the crate also tells their brain “hey, we have fun in here” or “let’s go see if we left any treats behind”.

If you are uninterested in crating them for training purposes but want to offer up the crate as a sort of optional bedroom for them, just leave the door open at all times. Chances are they will snuggle up in there more often than not.

Try Multiple Tactics

Like us, dogs are dynamic so a one-size-fits-all may not be the most effective strategy. Here is a list of some good techniques; you can mix and match or try them all!

  • Leave a white noise machine on while you’re gone
  • Be sure to introduce it by turning it on while you’re in the house over a few weeks so they don’t associate it being turned on only with you leaving
  • Place a shirt of yours in their dog bed/crate so they are comforted by your smell
  • Give them lick mats when company comes over
  • Licking releases dopamine and serotonin for dogs and plus it keeps them occupied! Great trick for keeping puppies calm when new people come into the house
  • Emphasize to your guests that you are training an anxious/reactive dog and they can help out tremendously just by using calm speaking tones and moving a little slower than normal around your home

Know Their Limits

When training anxious or reactive dogs the time spent in a training session can be stressful on its own so prioritize a ton of positive reinforcement and short times working on their stressors. Roughly 20-minutes of straight training is more than enough for one day. Of course, they still need their normal physical exercise as well.

Brain Breaks

Most dogs are built for lots of physical exercise (of course there are exceptions and yes, we’re looking at you bulldogs). This is part of the reason they may not seem fully spent after an extra, extra long walk. Mental energy is in a different category altogether and wears out your dog way more than anything else can. So, give your dog time after training to refuel, hydrate, and actually sleep instead of just a short rest!

It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

Be patient! Rome wasn’t built in a day. For adopted dogs, there is tremendous jumps in how comfortable they are at 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months as they begin to settle in to their new home and life. Asking them to trust you is a very big deal and happens over time. When they look to you for comfort and begin to rely on you for their best interests, reward them with lots of affection and treats and know that their trust may ebb and flow at the beginning but soon they will understand you are their person and likely start to relax and unwind.