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Understanding Anxious Dogs and How to Help Calm Them Down

Dogs can get anxiety, just like humans. When it comes to the feeling of anxiety, a dog's experience is similar to that of a human. Just as we don't feel good when we're anxious, dogs don't either. Anxiety is a very common problem for dogs. It can affect all breeds, ages, and genders.

Anxiety in dogs can cause your dog to act out in ways that are not typical for him. This can be anything from excessive barking and chewing to destructive behavior like chewing on the furniture or urinating inside the house.

In this article, we will explain anxiety and how to calm an anxious dog. 

Different Forms of Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety in dogs is a common issue, but why is your dog anxious? There are many factors that could be affecting your dog, including:

1) Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is the most common behavioral problem faced by dog owners. It can be one of the hardest behaviors to correct, because it can cause physical damage to your dog and your home.

Separation anxiety occurs when a dog becomes extremely distressed at being left alone. The symptoms can include destructive behavior, excessive barking and howling, running back and forth between you and the front door, digging, clawing at windows and doors, urinating in the house, self-mutilation (e.g. excessive licking or chewing), hiding, and appearing frantic when you come home (barking, jumping up on you).

Some dogs with separation anxiety become destructive only after they have been left alone for some time (e.g. during the night or when no one is home during the day). Other dogs are destructive from the moment they are separated from their owners (i.e. they are destructive even while they are still being walked by their owners).

2) Thunderstorms and Noise

Thunderstorm anxiety is an extreme fear of thunderstorms that causes your dog to act out in a number of ways. Some dogs may become destructive or aggressive during storms while others may become so fearful that they hide in corners or under beds.

Dogs get anxious during thunderstorms because they are afraid of loud noises and the flashing lights that accompany them. These fears are natural instincts for dogs because many animals rely on hearing and sight to warn them about danger in their environment. When a storm approaches, dogs hear the sound of thunder as well as see flashes of lightning. This activates their fight-or-flight response , which then causes them to respond negatively to these stimuli.

3) Travel Anxiety

Travel anxiety in dogs is not uncommon. The dog may be fearful of the car or other vehicles, or he may be anxious about being left alone. Sometimes the dog becomes frantic when he sees his owner packing a suitcase; sometimes he becomes agitated when the owner prepares to leave by putting on shoes, dropping keys in a bowl or picking up a purse.

The causes of travel anxiety in dogs can vary widely. Some dogs are afraid of the sound and feel of an engine starting up, while others seem to sense that their owners will be leaving them alone for some time and become upset by this prospect. Some dogs are afraid of traveling over bridges or through tunnels, while others fear riding in cars with other people in them (even if they know those other people).

It's important to remember that travel anxiety is not just an inconvenience for you ‚ÄĒ it's also very stressful for your dog! Dogs who suffer from travel anxiety tend to have more behavior problems than other dogs do because their anxieties are so strong that they interfere with their ability to learn new things and interact happily with other people and animals.

4. Discomfort Near Strangers

Dogs aren't always friendly with strangers. Some dogs are friendly with everyone, but others have a tendency to be fearful or aggressive when they see someone they don't know or don't know well. This behavior pattern is called stranger anxiety and it's not unusual in dogs.

Stranger anxiety can be a problem if the dog is uncomfortable around people he doesn't know. The dog may act out by barking or growling at strangers and may even bite if he feels threatened enough. While this type of behavior isn't always dangerous, it can cause problems for you and your dog if you're looking to adopt him into a new home or bring him along on a car ride where he'll meet lots of new people.

Is Your Dog Anxious or Nervous? 

Although they sound similar, there's a difference between a dog that's nervous and a dog that's anxious. If you suffer from anxiety, think of a time when you were nervous. Now, think of a time that you have been anxious. How did you feel in each scenario? 

Being nervous is normal and is a temporary form of stress. Dogs who are nervous in a situation are not  generally overstimulated for long periods of time and they are calmer within a matter of minutes. 

Dogs who are anxious have a more intense experience with a stressor. This means it could take them hours, or sometimes even an entire day, to overcome and feel better. You will also likely notice more extreme behaviors in an anxious dog. 

Managing Your Dog’s Anxiety

Anxiety in dogs is a common problem. It can manifest itself in many ways, but the signs are often the same: excessive panting, trembling, hiding in corners, and refusing to eat. So how can you calm down an anxious dog? 

There are a number of actions you can take to help your dog manage their anxiety including the following: 

1) Behavior Modification 

Counterconditioning and desensitization are two methods you can employ to reduce your dog’s reaction to a stimulus. 

Desensitization involves exposing your dog to low-level versions of the triggers he fears (such as thunderstorms, other dogs) in order to habituate him to them. The goal is for your dog to learn that these things are not really dangerous after all.

Counterconditioning builds on top of desensitization by changing your dog's emotional response to things that used to scare him. Instead of being afraid, he will learn to associate them with pleasant experiences. The process is fairly simple: you pair something that your dog already likes with something he fears, so that when he encounters the thing he fears, he'll think about something good instead.

This process can be used to help your dog deal with many types of anxiety and fear issues, including:

  • Fear of storms or thunder
  • Fear of fireworks
  • Fear of loud noises in general
  • Separation anxiety
  • Phobias (such as fear of strangers or fear of other dogs)
2) Traditional Medications 

There are many different types of pharmaceutical medications that can be used to treat anxiety in dogs. Some of these drugs are available over-the-counter while others may require a prescription from your veterinarian.

There are several medications that can help dogs with anxiety. The most common drugs used to treat anxiety in dogs are benzodiazepines, which include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan). These drugs are typically prescribed for humans with anxiety disorders and have also been shown to be effective in treating canine anxiety.

Another class of drugs is the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which includes fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft). SSRIs work by increasing the amount of serotonin available in the brain, which has been found to reduce anxiety-related behaviors in dogs. 

There are also some newer medications such as ondansetron that can be used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness or car rides. These medications may help reduce some symptoms of anxiety but they do not treat the root cause of the problem so you should still work on other management strategies as well.

3) Natural Alternative: CBD for Anxious Dogs

CBD for dogs, like Canine Cush, is a natural alternative medicine that can help relieve symptoms of anxiety in dogs. CBD oil for dogs can be used for separation anxiety, noise phobias, and other types of stress-related disorders.

CBD works by interacting with receptors throughout the body known as cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2). These receptors are part of a complex system in the brain called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS helps regulate functions such as mood, pain sensation, immune response and more.

How to Make Your Dog Less Anxious: Additional Solutions

There are additional actions you can take to help your dog with anxiety, including:

1) Exercise 

Dogs who are active have fewer behavioral problems than those who aren't getting enough exercise each day. That's because exercise releases endorphins that help relieve stress in dogs and people alike.

The amount of exercise that your dog needs will vary depending on his age and breed as well as how active he is outside of your home. Puppies may need more than adults because they are growing so rapidly at this stage in their lives; they also have lots of energy!

Senior dogs may not require as much exercise as younger dogs because they don't have the same level of energy or muscle strength as their younger counterparts do. If your older dog loves going for walks with you or playing fetch in the yard, then that can count toward his daily exercise requirement!

Ideally, your dog should be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. This doesn't mean that it has to be all at once; you can spread it out over the course of the day, with 10 minutes here and there. Your dog will still get the benefits of physical activity even if he only gets 15 minutes a day.

2) Probiotics 

Probiotics for dogs, like Daily Dog, have been shown to be effective in helping to reduce stress and anxiety in dogs as well as improving their digestive health.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract and help keep it balanced by keeping bad bacteria at bay. When a dog's digestive system isn't functioning properly, the bacteria can become imbalanced, which can lead to a host of problems including diarrhea, constipation and even yeast infections. 

Probiotic supplements contain good bacteria that help restore balance to a dog's digestive system so that he doesn't suffer from these common symptoms of poor digestion or an imbalance in his microbiome.

Dogs who suffer from anxiety tend to have lower levels of good bacteria than non-anxious dogs do. This suggests that probiotics could potentially help treat canine anxiety by increasing the amount of healthy bacteria present in the gut which would provide nutritional support for brain function and overall health.

3) High-Quality Diet 

Dogs who eat well-balanced, high quality diets usually have fewer health problems than those who don't get enough nutrients or vitamins in their food. This is especially important for older dogs who may be more prone to diseases and conditions such as arthritis or dental disease if they don't get enough calcium in their diets.

A poor diet can leave your dog feeling weak and lethargic, but when you feed him good food he'll feel better overall, which means he'll be more active and playful! 

Preventing Dog Anxiety 

The overall goal is to prevent your dog from experiencing anxiety at all. We want our dogs to remain as happy and healthy as possible. By taking the steps above, you are making the decision to improve your dog’s quality of life. If none of the options above seem to be improving your dog’s anxiety, consult your veterinarian so they can check for any underlying causes that could be resulting in anxiety.

Read More:

When Do Dogs Need Probiotics?

Behavioral Probiotics

Photo by Mike Burke on Unsplash