Dogs are no stranger to the unpleasant experiences associated with fears, phobias, and anxiety. As a pet parent, there’s not much worse than seeing your dog suffer and not knowing how to help. Luckily, there are ways to calm a dog naturally, and we’ve got them for you right here.
Fears, Phobias, and Anxiety – What’s Your Dog Feeling?
The first step in helping your dog is understanding the differences in fears, phobias, and anxiety, so you know what you’re dealing with.
Fear is an emotion that is felt in response to a real or imagined threat. This feeling produces a response in the nervous system that tells your dog to react in one way or another. This response 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 daily! However, sometimes, dogs (and humans) fear things that don’t need to be feared.
Signs of fear may include trembling, tucked tail (between legs), withdrawal, hiding, low energy/ lethargy, submission, and passive escape behaviors.
Phobia is also fear; however, it is fear felt in response to something specific. This could be a sound like fireworks or thunder, objects, or even people. A phobia can even be triggered by a bad memory or experience, causing your dog to feel fear anytime they are reminded of the memory.
The signs of phobia in a dog are similar to the signs of fear, but in response to something specific.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is fear resulting from a perceived or expected danger. An anxious dog will begin to experience the physiological response that one would feel if faced with actual danger.
Signs of anxiety can vary in different dogs (or any animal). Shaking, barking, crying, hiding, fleeing, vomiting, urinating, and destruction of property are all responses that may result from anxiety. The most frequently occurring anxiety in dogs is separation anxiety.
Once you know the root of the fear response in your dog, you can more easily address it, and often, you can eliminate it. Whatever is causing your dog’s fear, phobia, or anxiety, here are some ways to calm a dog the natural way:
Natural Ways to Calm a Dog (or Other Pet):
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, a toy, or a nice long walk, try to redirect your dog’s attention from the real or imagined fear. The redirection will help eliminate negative feelings or behaviors.
Often, pet parents think that once their dog exhibits anxiety for one reason or another that they’re sunk for life. This is not true! Through the use of positive reconditioning, a dog can relearn a new and positive response to previously anxiety-producing events.
Reconditioning is a simple concept. In a controlled environment, you expose your dog to anxiety-producing stimuli while simultaneously reassuring your dog that everything is okay or using positive reinforcement. Through this process, your dog learns to associate the anxiety-producing stimuli with something positive instead.
Here are some tips for reconditioning:
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.
You can use treats, hugs, or whatever your dog finds comfort in to help eliminate or alleviate the negative response he usually feels when exposed to the stimuli. Keep in mind that this is not something that will happen overnight; you’ll need to be in it for the long haul.
The process of reconditioning can be long and arduous. Luckily there are many natural remedies on the market that can help calm a dog the natural way. Here are some of our favorites:
Sometimes a pet’s anxiety, fear, or phobias can be so severe that medication is needed. But, before you opt for harsh chemicals like Prozac or Ativan for your dog (or cat or horse, etc.), try a natural option. CBD oil is all the rage for humans these days because of how helpful it can be in alleviating several ailments, but did you know they make CBD for pets too?
CBD oil from Canna-Pet is a great way to try and calm a dog naturally. CBD oil for pets can be used to treat a wide variety of issues, not just anxiety (check out this full list of ailments that CBD can help). Canna-Pet offers treats, capsules, and tinctures, so you can choose what works best for your pet.
Canna-Pet CBD can be given as a single dose before an event that makes your pet anxious or nervous. It can also be used as a preventative, given every 12 hours or so, which is what I do for my dog Terra! The best part is that they derive their oil from hemp, not cannabis, so there’s no THC to worry about (THC is toxic to pets). Both my vet and I strongly recommend this product as the first step for anyone looking into medication for their pet, for anything from anxiety to seizures.
Through the combination of 5 flower essences, rescue remedy helps to calm your dog down, naturally. To use, simply rub it on his ears and paws, and he’ll be feeling the effects before you know it.
Sentry Calming Spray
This product calms your dog because it contains pheromones, which is exactly what Momma dogs produce and emit to their puppies just after giving birth.
Many dogs and cats experience relief through the use of pressure therapy. A great product that mimics the effects of pressure therapy right at home is the Thundershirt. The shirt places gentle pressure on 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?
And Remember to Stay Calm!
However you go about calming your pet, remember that your stress will automatically transfer to them no matter what other actions you are displaying at the time. If you are frustrated or stressed out, your dog will be too. So next time you’re not feeling so calm, remember you need to calm down for your furry friend; it’s a win-win.
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 to you and your dog.
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!
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