No matter how much we pour affection onto our dogs, many of them are anxious creatures - easily spooked by a bird at the window, a passing pooch or even a friendly neighbour at the door. It’s not unusual if your dog gets freaked out occasionally; in fact, a Finnish study of almost 14,000 dogs showed that an incredible 72 percent of them could be considered anxious (1). That’s a lot of nervous pups!
So how can we ease our dogs’ anxiety? In this article, we go in-depth about anxiety in dogs and unpack some of the most common reasons your dog might be anxious. If you’d like to get to the bottom of your dog’s on-edge behaviour, read on to get some expert tips and advice for soothing their nerves and calming them down.
The reasons for a dog’s anxiety are wide-reaching - some dogs are affected by traumatic experiences in their past, while for others, the cause could be as simple as having a different dog food bowl than they’re used to.
There are scenarios that will commonly unsettle a dog, however, and they usually include the following:
If you’re not sure how to detect whether your dog is feeling anxiety, that’s fair enough - sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate whether your pooch is scared or excited. On the other extreme, some dogs become quiet and withdrawn when they’re anxious, which could easily go unnoticed if you’re busy. Generally speaking, common symptoms of anxiety in dogs include:
It’s not fun to see your dog in a state of stress, no matter what the cause. So, what are the best ways to calm your anxious pooch, and be aware of their anxieties so you can reduce the chance of it happening again? Here are some tips and strategies to help your dog cope with their tense emotions.
If your dog is displaying anxiety symptoms, try to identify the cause and if possible, put some distance between your pooch and the stressor.
Is it at night time that your dog just won’t settle? If you have a pooch who gets spooked when it’s time to sleep, here are some tips to help them wind down each evening.
The bond between dogs and owners is so strong that many form separation anxiety. If you’ve noticed your dog getting severely anxious each time you leave the house, or you return to a trail of mess and destruction each time your pooch has been left alone, there are some straightforward steps you can take to ease their distress.
Give your dog reasons to be entertained while you’re not around. This could be as simple as leaving a few treats hidden around the house, placing a few toys or interactive dog puzzles around to distract them. Music is also particularly comforting to dogs, or you could even experiment with Dog TV. To be certain they remain comfortable, take them out for a walk so they can go to the toilet before you leave, and close curtains if you live on a road with passers-by.
If your pooch is racked with grief every time you go out without them, try not to leave them for too long. If you’re planning to go out for a while, get a trusted dog sitter to play with them and keep your devoted pooch company.
Heard of the gut-brain axis? Yep - it’s scientifically proven that even for dogs, stress and anxiety is intrinsically linked to activity in the gut (2). Therefore, there are plenty of ways to reduce anxiety through nutritional means to reduce anxiety - such as adding natural gut-boosting ingredients to your dog’s food, or trying natural anti-anxiety supplements for dogs.
Try giving your pooch a boost of gut-supporting probiotics, either with probiotic supplements for dogs or with a calming dry food; it can help address the balance of friendly bacteria in their tum, instilling a sense of ease and wellbeing throughout their body and mind.
Or for a bite-size dose of calm that tastes great too, calming treats for dogs contain naturally soothing ingredients such as hemp, chamomile and even turkey, which helps produce serotonin (the happy hormone) with its key amino-acid, L-tryptophan.
Now that you’re clued up on the most common reasons for anxiety-ridden pooches, remember that every dog is unique - so keep a close eye on yours to work out exactly what spooks them.
When it comes to easing a dog’s anxiety, taking a holistic approach is best, considering their environment, routines and diet. If you’ve tried all of the above, however, and your dog still works themselves up on a regular basis, take them to the vet for a check up; it could be that they have an underlying condition and would benefit from anxiety medication.
Pooch & Mutt have a range of tasty, grain-free dog treats and anti-anxiety supplements to calm a dog’s nerves. You could also try our Calm & Relaxed recipe, specially formulated for anxious dogs. For more information about dogs with anxiety, get in touch with us to chat further.
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