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Chewy EditorialBehavior / Stress & Anxiety

How to Calm a Stressed Dog

I recently had clients with a very stressed dog. There were so many situations that made this dog anxious. He barked whenever guests arrived and wouldn’t stop until they left. He lunged and snapped at dogs and strangers on walks. He barked and howled whenever he was left alone. I knew they needed help fast, so we went over some calming techniques along with some remedies I thought they could start using right away.

When I saw the family the following week, I was pleased to see that the dog was doing much better. The barking and lunging on walks were almost gone, the barking at guests didn’t last as long, and the dog was more relaxed when left alone. They are definitely on the right path to calming their stressed dog.

With the aid of calming remedies and training, you can help relieve your dog’s stress, too.

Signs Your Dog Is Stressed

Does the above story sound familiar? Or are you just wondering if your dog might be stressed too? Here are common signs of a stressed dog that you can look out for:

  • Panting a lot, even when it’s not hot
  • Barking at every little noise
  • Licking, yawning or drooling
  • Refusing treats
  • Hiding

Check out more signs your dog is stressed. Note that some of these signs can indicate a medical issue as well, so check with your veterinarian just in case.

Common Stressful Situations

Situations that seem ordinary to us can be quite scary for our pets, especially if they are stressed to begin with. Here are some common scenarios that may trigger your dog:

  • Being left alone
  • Meeting guests
  • Riding in a car
  • Going to a new place
  • Thunderstorms, fireworks and other loud noises
  • Going to the veterinarian or groomer

For most dogs, these situations are manageable. Certain dogs may even think they’re fun. For other dogs, though, they can lead to a great deal of stress.

5 Ways to Calm a Stressed Dog

So, what can you do if you have a stressed dog? First, reach out to a certified dog behavior consultant for a pet-friendly, scientifically-sound behavior modification program. They should be able to help your dog feel better about situations that cause them stress.

While you are getting that training started, try some of these calming remedies and techniques.

NOTE: Each dog is different, so you may have to test out more than one of these suggestions, or even use several of them together, to calm your stressed dog. Also, the training techniques mentioned below (numbers 1-3) are best used under the supervision of certified training professional who can tailor the training to your particular dog.

1. Give Your Dog Something Else to Think About

One of the easiest ways to calm a stressed dog is to offer them something else to think about that is better, such as a treat or toy. For dogs who are nervous around strangers, offer them a yummy treat, such as Real Meat beef jerky bitz dog treat, or pull out your Chuck It! ultra tug ball dog toy and play some tug. Also, don’t be afraid to ask strangers to stay away; most stressed dogs don’t want to make new friends.

2. Teach Your Dog to Relax on a Mat

A safe spot to chill out can be a great stress relief for dogs. Show your dog that settling on a mat is a great place to relax by giving them yummy chews or even a massage when they’re hanging out there.

If a mat isn’t cutting it for your dog, you can create Zen spaces just for dogs to help them relax.

3. Lure Your Dog to a Safe Space

When in doubt, simply move your dog away from whatever is scaring them. In some cases, this will help a stressed dog more than anything else.

In some cases, it’s as simple as calling your dog to you. If your dog is good at hand targeting (in which your dog touches the palm of your hand with their nose), you can also ask your dog to target your hand repeatedly to move them away from the scary thing.

If none of that works, or your dog’s training isn’t quite solid enough yet, grab a treat—a yummy, smelly one—put it right up to your dog’s nose to get their attention, and then walk away while keeping your hand right at your dog’s nose, so they follow you. Wait to feed them the treat until you are far away from the scary thing and have control of your dog (e.g., they’re on leash).

4. Use a Calming Remedy

 Many dogs benefit from over-the-counter calming remedies. Here are a few you can try:

  • Rescue Remedy stress relief pet supplement is a hit with many of my clients. Its combination of flower essences helps take the sting out of stressful situations, and it’s easy to administer: simply add it to the dog’s water.
  • VetriScience Composure dog chews can offer great stress relief for dogs. Dogs tend to like the chewable tablets, and you can safely double or even triple the dose on particularly stressful days.
  • Nutramax Solliquin calming chews is another product that offers stress relief for dogs. It comes as a soft chew that includes a combination of calming supplements. You may need to use Solliquin for 30 to 45 days to see an effect.

NOTE: Different dogs benefit from different remedies, and a combination of remedies can be even more beneficial than a single remedy, in some cases.

Check with your veterinarian before using any of these remedies, to make sure they are safe for your dog given their health history.

5. Play Relaxing Music

iCalmPet offers research-backed calming music for dogs. I’ve seen this music soothe stressed dogs into a relaxed state in just 10 minutes.

I suggest trying this method during nap time for young puppies, as well as any time for newly adopted adult dogs. You can also use it when unusual things are going on—for example, if you are packing up for a move, or there’s construction going on in your home.

Your stressed dog can feel better; all it takes is some time to figure out what helps calm your dog down. Try the suggestions above, and consult a certified professional if you need more help.

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