11/29/2014 09:11 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Ways to Soothe Anxious Dogs


Pets can become stressed for several different reasons. From new roommates to fireworks to long travel hours, dogs react to changes in their environment similar to how we do.

Many types of canine anxiety problems exist. Separation anxiety can occur when a dog is left alone for long periods of time. When dogs become fearful of loud noises, like thunderstorms, they are experiencing noise anxiety. Motion sickness and travel anxiety are possible for dogs, too, and you may think twice before keeping your dog in a crate as their frustration can lead to confinement anxiety.

Because dogs are sensitive to their physical and emotional settings, they may engage in repetitive or displacement behavior during times of stress. Agitated dogs may stop barking, chew on furniture and shoes, eat their own poop, or be aggressive toward others.

When these behaviors happen, don't misjudge the situation and punish your dog. Punishment will not address the root cause of the problem. In fact, pain will only increase their levels of stress leading to more unwanted behavior.

Fortunately, with the right plan of action, you can help your pet overcome anxiety. Every dog responds differently to certain methods. Therefore, if your pet doesn't respond to one technique, consider trying another. Here are five possible solutions for anxiety in dogs:

1. Use Medication
First, always consult a veterinarian before administering medication. Giving your dog Benadryl is one popular option for relief. It's a light, over-the-counter antihistamine with sedative properties. Your pet can take the medicine in different ways. You can put the tablet in small pieces of food, or the liquid gel capsules can be mixed into a treat.

2. Choose a Healthy Diet
As they say, you are what you eat, and a healthy diet leads to healthy behavior. Hyperactive dogs need a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. Therefore, it's in your best interest to monitor what you feed your pets (or what they randomly decide to eat). Discuss the best dietary options with your vet.

3. Exercise
Physical exercise is a great way to soothe your dog's anxiety. Schedule a daily routine for your dog to be active. If it's too cold for outdoor fun, experiment with indoor exercises and stretches. Also, make it enjoyable. Play games to associate positive emotions with typically stressful activities like car rides.

4. Give a Massage
Who said massages were just for people? Massaging is a great calming technique for an anxious dog. Not only does it heal the body, but also the mind. Connect with a certified canine massage therapist in your area. They can teach you multiple ways to relax your pet through touch.

5. Create a Predictable Environment
Dogs can sometimes get flustered, especially if their daily routine changes. Reduce stress by creating a predictable environment with fixed activities. It's important to set expectations for your dog. In return, both owner and pet will be happy.

Dogs are man's best friends; they share many of our emotions and can experience anxiety just like us. It is normal for a dog to become nervous when life changes occur. So instead of punishing innocent behavior, seek out help to relieve their stress. In the end, everyone will be grateful.

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