While treating anxiety in dogs may involve the use of medication, there are also natural ways to reduce anxiety in dogs. Your veterinarian should determine if medications are appropriate and necessary for your pup in order to aid in reducing anxiety. This article is not meant to support nor does it insinuate that these natural remedies should replace any of the necessary anti-anxiety medications prescribed.
These natural remedies should be viewed as more of a lifestyle that can help your anxious pup most effectively when implemented daily in conjunction with medications and professional behavior modification as necessary. I would like to introduce 5 natural ways to reduce anxiety in dogs, I often implement these with my own pups and truly appreciate the difference it makes.
Ah physical activity you say!? As the saying goes “A tired dog, is a happy dog” I truly believe daily exercise is a must for any dog, especially dogs who suffer from anxiety. Most dogs were originally bred for a specific job, in today’s society we make dogs couch potatoes or our glorified lap pillows forgetting that they need exercise and stimulation.
Giving your pup a job, gives them a purpose in life and not much time or anxious energy left to be worried. It may take trying different activities to find out what they love to do but watching your dog work and viewing the joy that they get from doing so is incredibly rewarding. Not only does being active help to stimulate our dogs but it helps to keep them lean and healthy.
There are huge rewards for us as well, for instance, I am much more active than I ever was getting my anxious pup out to do some work. We can even incorporate it into our own exercise routines, not to mention your dog will appreciate you for using this simple, natural task to help reduce their anxiety. This strengthens the human-animal bond and creates an amazing team!
This is something that is invaluable to your anxious pups treatment but is often overlooked. Although anxious dogs usually have pent-up energy, the majority of their panic and worries are in their head. Very rarely do we provide mental stimulation. Our canines are extremely smart and need to get their brain working on something positive rather than spending all of their time worrying and waiting.
Giving your pup a job as talked about in the previous paragraph can really give their brain something to focus on. This can also help improve cognitive function, which we can see decline with age and lack of mental stimulation. There are lots of options with toys. Puzzle toys usually provide a treat after your pup figures it out, this provides an immediate reward and incentive to continue.
Nose work is quite rewarding for those nosey pups; hiding things for them to find provides significant mental stimulation. Trying different sports with your pup can really help you get an idea of what they love to do as well as what stimulates them the most, both mentally and physically.
With new stresses each day many humans are taking to massage to physically relax their bodies while simultaneously relaxing their mind. Doggie massages? I thought this was a weird concept a couple years ago but I have learned the true value through reading and research and now implementing these strategies with both of my girls.
Thinking about all the benefits of massage for humans it only makes sense that it would be a natural way to reduce anxiety in dogs as well. With anxiety, we as well as our pups tend to hold in that anxious energy, this creates tension in our muscles. When we massage we are increasing circulation, generating more blood flow to those muscles and joints; this helps release tension followed by releasing all the pent-up stress and anxiety of the day or even week.
Thinking of how often we should implement this, I generally take into consideration my stress and anxiety and how often I would love a massage, this probably holds true for your furry friend. Doing this for our pups has the same benefits and when you have done it the first time and seen your anxious best friend relax and their minds quiet it is extremely rewarding as a dog mom. If only they could give massages back, right!?
I always say, “music calms my soul”; I utilize music for many reasons one of the biggest being that it calms me down and helps me focus. Studies have shown that our pets can benefit just the same. As I sit here and write this very article (and all others) I am listening to classical piano music, I find that this genre aids me the most with focus since it does not have the human voices to distract me. This also holds true for our pups.
Studies have shown that different frequencies of classical music can appeal to your dog and calm them of their worries. Human voices or singing is not recommended, at least when using it as an anti-anxiety remedy because the different voices can trigger our pets putting them on high alert and defeating the purpose.
There are different products that have species-specific calming music, such as the icalmdog and icalmcat. I have personally used these devices in practice for our hospitalized and stressed patients. Clinically tested music proven to naturally reduce your cat or dogs anxiety is used and pre-loaded onto these devices. Cats and dogs hear and respond differently which is why one device is not used for both.
Pheromones are let off by us as well as our pets; they are tiny particles that we smell from others of the same species. They are hormones secreted outside of the body that are unique to each individual, and influence the behavior of another. This is how dogs get information about another dog, the other dogs’ pheromones tell them their gender, age and even their mood. This causes your pup to act or respond in different ways, whether it be an intact female where your pup responds with excitement or an uneasy dog where your pup may have to choose to either fight or flight.
As scientists study pheromones in dogs, they look for specific ones to elicit specific behaviors in your pup. One of the greatest found in my opinion is the Dog Appeasing Pheromone a.k.a. D.A.P. It is used specifically to calm dogs and ease their anxiety. The pheromone itself is released by the bitch when she has pups, it calms her pups and lets them know everything is okay. After they leave mom they do not have anywhere to go to get that reassurance.
Then amazing products were created using this pheromone; it is used in diffusers for homes to help with generalized anxiety as well as thunder storm phobia. Adaptil is the specific brand I use and highly recommend, they have collars that help in several situations including in the home, for car rides, for the vet and anywhere else that they may be nervous or uncomfortable. They also carry diffusers and refills as well as a spray, great for on the go.
We use Adaptil products in-hospital for our anxious pups staying with us, having surgery and for appointments with our worried patients. This helps ease some of their anxiety so they can relax and recover quickly and helps us attempt to reduce fear at the vet.
D.A.P. has been proven to reduce fear and anxiety in shelter environments as well. I appreciate how this can help our pups feel safe and secure and always recommend adding it to the treatment plan.
As always, thanks for reading and enjoy cuddling with your calm, secure pup!
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