Calming your Dog the Natural Way
Dogs, unfortunately, are no stranger to the unpleasant experiences associated with fears, phobias, and anxiety. Fortunately, there are ways to calm your dog naturally! First, you should really make yourself aware of and understand the differences of fears, phobias, and anxiety.
Fear is an emotion that is felt in response to a real or imagined threat. This feeling produces action that in the nervous system that tells your dog to react in one way or another which is known as the fight or flight effect. Fear is completely normal and without it an animal’s survival would be jeopardized. Even humans deal with this on a daily basis! However, sometimes dogs (and humans) feel fear at times that are not appropriate.
Phobia is also fear however, it is fear felt in response to something specific. This could be sounds like fireworks or thunder, objects or even people. Often times the phobia can even be triggered by a bad memory or experience so that anytime your dog is reminded of the memory, they feel fear.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is fear resulting from a perceived or expected danger. The dog will begin to experience the actual physiologic response that one would feel if engulfed in the actual danger. This can look different in different dogs (or any animal). Shaking, barking, crying, hiding, fleeing, vomiting, urinating and destruction of property are all responses that may manifest from any expected or perceived danger. The most frequently occurring anxiety in dogs happens to be separation anxiety.
Signs of fear may include trembling, tucked tail (between legs), withdrawal, hiding, low energy/ lethargy, submission, and passive escape behaviors. Signs of panic may include high energy active escape behavior; this escape behavior associated with panic can cause accidental injury.
Once you know the root of the fear response in your dog, you can more easily address it and often times you can eliminate it altogether. In the meantime, you can address your dog’s fear and calm him through natural means.
- Redirection. Just like humans, dogs sometimes just need a little distraction to take their focus off of any impending doom or anxiety. Whether it’s a game a treat or a toy or a nice long walk, try to redirect your dog’s attention from the real or imagined fear to help eliminate those negative feelings or behaviors.
- Reconditioning. Often times, pet parents think that once their dog exhibits anxiety for one reason or another that they’re sunk for life. Not true! Through the use of positive reconditioning a dog can relearn a new and positive response to once anxiety-producing events. Conditioning should always occur in a calm, safe environment. It is also advised to consult a vet or trainer as you approach this process. You certainly don’t want to do more harm than good. The idea is simple. In a controlled environment, you are exposing your dog to the anxiety-producing stimuli while simultaneously reassuring your dog. You can use treats, hugs or whatever your dog seeks comfort from to help eliminate or alleviate the negative response he usually feels when exposed to the stimuli he fears. The idea is for your dog to learn o associate the stimuli to something positive instead of the dread he once experienced. Keep in mind that this is not something that will happen overnight. You will need to be plugged in for the long haul.
- Natural Remedies. While reconditioning is taking place, the process may be long and arduous. So, try some natural remedies to help alleviate the anxiety in the meantime. There are many over the counter remedies on the market that can help return your dog to a calm state of being. Rescue Remedy is one such product. Through the combination of 5 flower essences, this remedy helps to calm your dog down. Simply rub it on his ears and paws and he’ll be feeling the effects before you know it. You can also consider using Sentry Calming spray. It contains pheromones which is exactly what Momma dogs produce and emit to their puppies just after giving birth. Additionally, many dogs, and cats for that matter, experience relief through the use of pressure therapy. The Thundershirt is a great product that mimics the effects of pressure therapy right at home. The shirt places gentle pressure upon the dog’s chest cavity. Simply put, it mimics the effects of a hug and let’s face it, who doesn’t benefit from a gentle hug?
- Stay calm. Your stress will automatically transfer to your dog no matter what other actions you are displaying at the time. If you are frustrated or stressed out, your dog will be, too. Never yell or punish your dog for his anxiety or the behaviors that he exhibits as a result of his anxiety. It’s not nice, it won’t solve anything and is completely unfair.
- CBD oil. Sometimes a medication is needed, but before jumping to harsh chemicals like Ativan or Prozac for your dog (or cat or horse) try checking out CBD oil from Canna-Pet. They have treats, capsules, and tinctures, and it can be used to treat a wide variety of issues, not just anxiety (you can check out the full list of ailments that they help here). It can be given either as a single dose before an event that makes them typically anxious or nervous, or it can be given as a preventative every 12 hours or so, which is what I do for my dog Terra. The best part is they derive their oil from hemp, not cannabis, so there is no THC, which is toxic to pets, to worry about. Both I and my Vet strongly recommend this product as a first step for anyone looking into medication for anything from anxiety to seizures.
As you try to find the best way to help eliminate stress, anxiety, and phobias in your dog, always remain positive and hopeful. There are no easy answers but there ARE answers. Always reach out to your pet care professionals to help you navigate the process. You are not alone!