By Stephanie Annon
Dogs suffer from anxiety and stress similarly to humans. Anxiety can manifest for your dog in a variety of ways, social and separation anxiety being most common. According to the College of Veterinary Medicine and The University of Illinois, between twenty and forty percent of dogs presented to veterinary behavioural specialists suffer from separation anxiety.
Signs your dog is experiencing anxiety may include excessive barking or destructive behaviour when left alone, apparent aggression around other pets or people, and less obvious behaviour like the tucking of a tail, yawning, and lifting a front paw. Anxiety in dogs can make socialisation a challenge for even experienced dog owners and can pose serious stressors for the pet owner.
No one wants their pet to suffer, so luckily there are a variety of ways to help your pet cope with their stress and anxiety. Coincidentally, many of these methods are similar to dealing with human stress. Below are five easy ways to soothe your furry friend based on different forms of pet anxiety.
Play soft music for pets with separation anxiety
When it comes to separation anxiety, playing music for your dog while you are away can be a healthy solution. Reggae, soft rock, and classical music has been proven to reduce stress in dogs, particularly in high-stress environments like kennels. Research by the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that kenneled dogs exposed to classical music spent more time sleeping than dogs that were not exposed.
However, hard rock had the opposite effect, raising the dog’s blood pressure and increasing shaking. If your dog suffers from anxiety, try playing some relaxing tunes to soothe their nerves. You can skip the workout playlist for this tip though.
Consider a weighted vest for pets with social anxiety
Weighted vests provide a powerful therapeutic experience called Deep Pressure Touch. A common remedy for social anxiety in students with special needs, contact with a weighted vest releases oxytocin, your pleasure hormone, which has been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure. Deep pressure touch is described as feeling like a long hug. Providing a weighted vest for your dog is like giving them loving petting all day long.
If your pet does not respond well to wearing a vest, consider giving your pet a massage to reduce their social anxiety. Dogs have a tendency to experience increased anxiety as they age, so prolonged touch via petting and massages may help assuage their natural decline and reinforce your relationship with your pet as their behaviours begin to change.
Co-sleep with your pet to soothe nighttime anxiety
Similar to weighted vests, but much more fun, cuddling your pet provides a therapeutic effect. Deep Pressure Touch comes from healthy prolonged touching. If your dog wakes up at the slightest noise, co-sleeping may be the answer to soothe their nighttime anxiety.
However, sleeping with your pet may pose stressors for you. In order to get a good night’s sleep, you may need to consider buying a mattress that sleeps cool, limits motion transfer, and is durable enough to withstand your new bed-mate. Luckily there are also helpful guides to aid in making a mattress switch. If nighttime anxiety is an issue, be sure your pet is getting enough exercise during the day. If they are constantly sleeping, resting at night can be a challenge.
If these tips still don’t help your pup, it’s important to find the proper treatment to help. Just as visiting a therapist is helpful for humans, consulting a board certified trainer is a great way to help your pet cope with their anxiety. Trainers can have that tail wagging again in no time!
Stephanie Annon is a writer and serial pet rescuer in Raleigh, North Carolina. When she isn’t sitting on her computer, she is hiking with her lab mix Roxie.