6 Ways To Ease Your Dog’s Anxiety Naturally

From herbs to music, there are plenty of ways to calm down your pup that don't involve prescription drugs.

March 15, 2017
anxious dog looking nervous
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Dogs suffer from stress and anxiety as much as people do, though it can be harder to recognize their symptoms. Your pet might try to tell you that he’s stressed by pushing his ears back, tucking his tail, salivating, yawning, licking his muzzle, or lifting his front paw. Other, more obvious signs of dog anxiety include cowering or hiding, trembling, panting, or expressing his anal glands.

And just like people, there are plenty of ways to soothe anxiety in dogs without resorting to medications. (Here are 10 quick and easy ways to de-stress in under a minute.) Love listening to a certain type of music to unwind? Apparently, so does your dog. When it comes to tension-taming tunes, pups seem to prefer the sounds of soft rock or reggae to jazz, pop, or Motown. Playing the music was linked to a decrease in shelter dogs’ heart rates (which is a sign of less stress) in a new British study.

But even if you’re not a fan of Bob Marley or Michael Bolton, don’t worry. There are plenty of other natural, drug-free ways to calm your furry friend: Here are 6 simple strategies worth trying. 

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man walking with dog to ease anxiety
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Take a look at your routine

Before shelling out for any products that promise to soothe your pup’s stress, consider how you might be able to help him feel calmer. “Most of the time, pet owners do have to do something different to help manage and improve their dog’s anxiety,” explains veterinary behaviorist Meredith Stepita, DVM. For instance, having a predictable daily routine that helps your dog anticipate when he’ll get to eat, go outside, and spend time playing with you could help him feel more confident and less nervous. That’s especially true if his stress seems to stem from separation anxiety, Stepita says.

Related: 18 Adventure-Loving Dogs That Will Inspire You To Get Off Your Butt And Go Outside

giving dog supplement for anxiety
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Consider supplements

Just like how a whiff of lavender essential oil might leave you feeling more relaxed, flower essences like Bach’s Rescue Remedy could help your four-legged friend chill out. But there are other options that may be even more effective, says Stepita. Namely, Zylkene—a supplement derived from milk protein that findings suggest can inhibit certain neurotransmitters in the brain, calming nervous activity. Another option is Solliquin, a supplement containing calming natural ingredients like l-theanine (found in green tea), magnolia, phellodendron, and whey protein concentrate. These are thought to increase feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, Stepita says. Of course, consult with your vet before starting your dog on a new supplement.

dog in thundershirt
3/6 Photograph courtesy of amazon
Try a compression wrap

Those Thundershirts might make you pup look funny, but they really can make a difference. (And not just during thunderstorms or fireworks.) The wraps work by swaddling your dog and applying gentle, continuous pressure, which is thought to help reduce fear, says Stepita.

Related: 5 First-Aid Essentials Every Pet Owner Should Know

dog listening to music to ease anxiety
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Play a different kind of music

Reggae and soft rock aren’t the only genres that can encourage your pooch to relax. Classical music like Mozart and Beethoven has also been shown to reduce stress in dogs, and even encourage them to bark less.

woman giving dog a massage to reduce anxiety
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Treat your pup to a massage

Anecdotally, physical touch is thought to ease anxiety and aggression in dogs. And though there’s not much research to support this, gentle petting seems to help dogs stay calmer during stressful or uncomfortable situations like getting shots or having their blood drawn, suggests one small Applied Animal Behavior Science study. Here are some tips on how to massage your dog (or cat) the right way.

vet checking out dog with anxiety
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Seek professional help

If you’re still struggling to find the key to calm, don’t give up. It’s important to pinpoint the source of your dog’s stress and find ways to manage it. Chances are, he won’t just learn to get over whatever’s upsetting him—and his anxiety will likely get worse, Stepita says. Consider meeting with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist or certified applied animal behaviorist, who can help you put together a specific plan to change your dog’s underlying emotional response—so he can get back to his happy, tail-wagging self. 

Related: 3 Mistakes Even Good Pet Owners Make

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