Knowing how to soothe an anxious dog can be difficult.
It’s no secret that Jet is an anxious dog; he has been for all of his life.
For most dogs, anxiety is a result of experience, but for Jet, I firmly believe that anxiety is a result of his puppy mill genetics as well.
As he has aged, Jet’s anxieties have only worsened as a result of worsening vision, less control over his body, and the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction.
Fortunately, while we cannot eliminate Jet’s anxiety completely, there are some things that we can do to help to soothe him when he is experiencing anxious moments.
Before I share some of these things with you, keep in mind that you should always try to work with a behavioral trainer to get to the root of your dog’s anxiety. Soothing their symptoms is comforting, but without getting to the root of the problem, your dog is going to continue to show anxiety.
Now, while you are working with your trainer, here are some things that you can use to soothe your anxious dog!
How to Soothe An Anxious Dog: 6 Tips You Should Try Before Medication
Just like swaddling helps to provide a sense of security for babies, it can do the same for dogs with anxiety.
No, I don’t recommend wrapping your dog up in a swaddling blanket, but I do recommend trying a tool like the Thundershirt. (If you have trouble figuring out how to wrap the Thundershirt, try the Swaddle Shirt instead!)
The use of maintained pressure (like swaddling or wrapping) helps to provide a calming feeling. This feeling is achieved through the engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system, helping tense muscles to relax.
Dogs are creatures of habit and as such, surprises and lack of routine can cause anxiety or worsen existing anxiety.
Although you can’t anticipate every eventuality, it is important that you do everything you can to maintain a regular routine for your dog. For example, walks in the morning at 7, breakfast at 8, mom leaves for work, mom gets home at 5, dinner at 6, walk before bed at 11.
This type of routine helps your dog (who works off their internal body clock) to structure their life and know what to expect and when to expect it.
Building a regular routine is particularly important for older dogs experiencing canine cognitive dysfunction. Routine provides a reinforced foundation that gives your dog familiarity even when they feel trapped in an unfamiliar world.
Light such as the nightlights pictured above can also play a role in soothing an anxious dog. Nightlights can improve vision for dogs with sight loss and eliminate shadows that can create uncertainty or fear.
Now note, I am not saying that your dog is afraid of the dark, rather that their anxiety and fear can be worsened by uncertainty.
Light can be particularly important to senior dogs facing canine cognitive dysfunction and the loss of familiarity that accompanies it.
Sound machines, white noise machines, sound spas or box fans can be helpful in creating background noise to ease anxiety.
For some dogs where the source of their anxiety is sound based, white noise machines or fans can drown out the source of their fear. For other dogs, white noise or fan noise can simply provide a soothing sensation by drowning out stimulating or fear inducing sounds.
An added bonus of using a white noise machine, sound machine, sound spa, or box fan is that it can improve your own level of sleep by minimizing disturbances during the night.
Just as scents can induce relaxation in humans, they can create the same sensation for our dogs!
One of the best applications of scent to calm your dog is to utilize aromatherapy oils in a diffuser in your home. As the scents are diffused throughout the home, they induce relaxation in the body. An added benefit of this method of calming your anxious dog is that it can also help you to relax!
The best scents for calming aromatherapy include these essential oils: lavender, rose, chamomile, ylang-ylang, bergamot, and frankincense. You can pick up essential oils at most health food stores, we recommend the Radha brand which is of therapeutic grade and 100% natural. You can pick up an aromatherapy diffuser from Amazon, we like this waterless Radha aromatherapy diffuser with LED light so that it creates a nightlight effect too.
One of my favorite things to tell new puppy parents is that “a tired dog is a good dog”. This principle applies to anxious dogs as well. When a dog is anxious, they tend to have a lot of nervous energy and find unhealthy outlets for this energy.
One way that you can help your dog to deal with their anxiety is to ensure that they are getting enough exercise to leave them tired by the end of the day. Tired dogs sleep and sleeping dogs don’t notice the shadows that scare them, hear the far off fireworks, or pay attention the fact that their favorite person has left the house to run an errand.
Not sure how much exercise your dog needs? It all depends on your dog! If two walks and a play session every day isn’t doing enough to tire your dog out, consider taking them to an off-leash area to get a little more intense playtime, or try your local doggy daycare!