Many situations can make dogs anxious and fearful. You, as the pack leader, can restore calm to the canine mind.
There are some dogs that would be comatose if they were any more laid back. Other dogs panic during thunderstorms and fireworks displays or when a new person visits the house. There are a number of tools and methods you can use to help restore calm to your pack. With a bit of forethought, you might also be able to stop the anxiety before it starts.
Dark Blanket “Caves” Are Safe Hidey-Holes
If your dog gets over-stimulated and panicky when there are guests in the house or there is too much noise in the yard, they might like a darkened retreat under a blanket. This retreat might be on your lap with a blanket covering them (including their head), or in their crate with a throw rug over it. Some dogs will calm right down once they are under their hidey blanket.
However, be sure there is enough ventilation, especially on hot days!
So-named because they were originally developed to help dogs deal with fear of thunder in electrical storms, a ThunderShirt provides a calming pressure around the dog’s torso. The product is based on the work of Dr. Temple Grandin.
ThunderShirt is easy to put on, comes in an assortment of sizes, and has nice, clear instructions. It looks a little like a fitted doggy-raincoat.
On a personal note, the ThunderShirt has proven effective for a few dogs in our extended family.
A Firm Hug
Giving your dog a firm hug can help to calm them down when they are nervous, in much the same way that a ThunderShirt works. Some dogs also like to be wrapped up in a blanket or towel. It’s the same idea.
Acupuncture and acupressure are parts of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which certain points on the body are poked with short needles or pressed with the fingers. These treatments are useful for relieving anxiety and stress in dogs. If your dog’s anxiety is a frequent problem, you might want to make an appointment with a veterinary acupuncturist.
Some dogs are more nervous than they need to be, simply because they don’t know what’s expected of them. Not knowing how to fit into the pack and please the “Alpha” can be enough to make the dog unhappy and anxious. For these dogs, obedience classes can solve all or most of the problem.
Basic obedience classes do more than just let pooches know what is expected of them. Knowing how to stay, come when called, and focus on you while ignoring assorted distractions can help to keep them safe if they are off-leash or “escaped” in heavy traffic.
Many Dogs Like to Have a Job
If you’ve read any of Cesar Millan’s work or if you’ve seen any of his shows on television, you know that he believes that dogs like to have a defined job in the household. This is going to be especially true of the standard working dogs, such as shepherds and retrievers.
For example, if you live in an apartment downtown, your sheepdog is going to be frustrated by a lack of herding opportunities. There have been instances of sheepdogs jumping through windows to get to a street to herd cars. The cars were the only moving objects in large groups available to them. As you can imagine, these dogs turned up at the animal clinic in pretty rough shape.
If you have a frustrated working dog, why not give him a job? Perhaps the two of you could learn agility training. That would give your dog something to work on, and it might put an end to his anxiety.
Stay Calm, Yourself
Your pooch takes many of their social cues from you, the leader of their pack. If you’re anxious, you can be sure that they will be. They’re going to assume that if you’re worried, there’s something wrong, and that is going to make them nervous. They might not know why you’re upset, but they certainly pick up on your moods.
“Oh no, the Alpha’s in a panic! Maybe that means we can’t defend our territory? Or – Horrors! – What if there’s no prey to hunt? No more food? Oh no, oh no, oh no….!”
Sometimes, all it takes to calm your pet is for you to take a few nice deep breaths and calm yourself. In fact, faking a yawn or three will help to reassure the canine members of the family.
If you’re calm and confident, you can use these tips to help your dogs stay calm and happy, too.
Note: Dogs find the noise of fireworks to be painfully loud. Please do not take your pets to the fireworks shows. Many dogs have panicked and run off in these situations. Only some of them are ever found.
Have you tried any of these methods to help your dog stay calm? Share your experiences in the comments below. Check out Love That Pet for other interesting pet care tips.
Sebastian Paulin is Director of Operations at Love That Pet. When not learning about the latest trends in pet supplies you will find Sebastian exploring the great outdoors with his Chocolate Labrador “Cadbury”.