How to Calm an Anxious Dog

with Dr. Tim Shu & Maria Calabrese
Dr. Tim Shu, Founder, VetCBD explains how CBD and cannabis work to calm an anxious dog. He discusses why some dogs are noise averse, especially to fireworks, and shares tips on how to keep your dog safe while helping your pup cope with loud noises and environmental stress. Green Bee Life Founder, Maria Calabrese and her husband John Verniero, a health care professional, have two adorable pups, but for years have struggled with the effects of fireworks on their pet's noise and environmental stress. See how CBD revolutionized their independence from loud noise stressors to their dog! And Learn how Hemp CBD oil calmed Maria and John's stressed German Shepard during fireworks, storms, and other loud noises.
Meet Our Featured Guest

Dr. Tim Shu

Dr. Tim Shu's passion has always been to improve the lives of animals. It's ultimately what led him to pursue veterinary medicine. As a medical professional, one of Dr. Shu's priorities is investigating and developing new therapies that can benefit pets. Humans have used cannabis to improve their lives for thousands of years, and through research and trials, he realized those same benefits can help pets live better lives too. In 2015, he founded VETCBD with one goal in mind: to improve the lives of pets through cannabis. Since then they've helped tens of thousands of pets find relief through the formulations Dr. Shu developed.

Meet Your Host

Maria Calabrese

GBL Founder, Maria Calabrese, thrives off giving a voice to the cannabis industry's most innovative brands and community, while helping them get the exposure they deserve to unleash the full potential of cannabis as a wellness solution. Her education and experience include marketing, law, cross-cultural communications, TV/film management and production, branding, advocacy and mentorship. During this massive shift from traditional television to new media, her focus has remained on the empowerment of the cannabis consumer, educators and brands across all mediums. She believes content should say something meaningful, not just make noise to compete for eyeballs.

It doesn’t take much to upset some canines, so it’s really important to know how to calm an anxious dog down.

In this episode, we’ll scratch the surface of dog anxiety. Then, we’ll dig deep into different anxiety-inducing scenarios and offer some practical suggestions for burying your best fur bud’s anxiety.

Can Dogs Get Anxiety?

Yes, they can. Anxiety is a common issue for many dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, up to 14% of dogs show signs of anxiety and fear at some point in their lives.(1)

What Causes Dog Anxiety?

A whole lot of things can trigger anxiety in dogs. Among the wide range of possibilities, the following are oft-cited reasons:(1,2)
  • Sudden change in environment
  • Underlying medical conditions
  • A traumatic experience
  • Lack of socialization
  • Boredom
  • Being left alone
  • Not getting enough attention
  • Presence of unfamiliar people, pets, or surroundings
  • Abandonment
  • Loud noises
  • Traveling
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Genetics
  • Aging
It's important to understand why your dog may be anxious in order to take the necessary and appropriate steps to help it cope.

What Does Dog Anxiety Look Like?

While the cause of anxiety can vary from dog to dog, the result is the same: an unhappy and stressed pup. Anxiety in dogs can manifest in different ways, such as:(1)
an example of a dog that is scared or anxious
  • Displaying fearful behaviors (e.g., cowering, trembling, being clingy)
  • Aggression
  • Atypical or excessive vocalizations, like whining, barking, yowling
  • Pooping or peeing where they know they're not supposed to
  • Destroying things
  • Pacing or running around frenetically (anxiety zoomies)
  • Drooling or panting
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Repetitive or compulsive behaviors
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your dog manage their anxiety.

Do Loud Noises or Environmental Stressors Freak Your Dog Out?

For many pet parents, the answer to that question is a wholehearted “Yes” accompanied by a vigorous nodding of the head.

Fortunately, with some knowledge and patience, there’s actually a lot we can do to ease the overwhelm our dogs may experience. Below are some very common scenarios in which dogs may exhibit anxious behaviors and how to calm down an anxious dog in each instance.

If you think your dog may be anxious, you should also consult with your veterinarian or a pet behavioral specialist. Your vet can help you develop a plan to manage your pooch’s anxiety. With proper care and treatment, you can help your pup feel more secure and relaxed.

Our focus here is on how to calm an anxious dog naturally using training, conditioning, and natural or non-invasive techniques.(1,2) However, there are dog anxiety medications on the market as well.

How to Calm a Dog During a Storm

No matter the age or size of your pup, the clatter of bad weather can cause dogs to become anxious and overwhelmed.

Ways to Quiet Your Canine When It’s Stormy Out

Next time it's gross out and your dog is starting to flip out, you can try these methods to help your dog find some tranquility.
  • Prepare ahead of time. Before the storm begins, make sure your dog has plenty of toys to play with and that you have some anxiety-reducing treats on hand.
  • Create a safe space. Set up a quiet and comfy space in your house for your dog to retreat to during a storm. This should be a location that’s shielded from the claps of thunder and bright flashes of lightning.
  • Divert attention. During the storm, try engaging your dog in an activity such as playing fetch or teaching him or her a new trick to focus its attention away from the tempest outside.
  • Play soothing sounds. Play relaxing music or white noise to help drown out the sound of thunder and rain.
  • Use comforting touch. Reassure your fur baby with affection or by offering him or her a cozy blanket to snuggle in. Dr. Shu recommends finding the right balance. The goal is to comfort, not reinforce the anxious behavior. Try to maintain a comforting and confident touch.
  • Invest in a vest. Treat your pooch to a calming wrap to make your pup feel enveloped and secure.
Giving treats to your dog when they are exhibiting undesirable behaviors due to anxiety can have a negative effect. It can reinforce the whining, cowering, aggression, etc. that you want to alleviate.

How to Calm an Anxious Dog at Night

It’s not just kids that get scared of the dark. Some dogs don’t take to the evening hours with a sense of serenity.

Bark Goodnight to Nighttime Anxiety with These Techniques

When this happens, see if any of these tips do the trick.
  • Create a familiar and inviting environment. Put your dog's bed in a room that’s dark, quiet, and well-known — maybe even in a room with a family member. Lots of dogs love to retreat to their crates.
  • Shed some light. If it seems that your dog’s upset stems from being in the dark, place a night light in the room where your baby sleeps.
  • Drown out the bumps in the night. Are the weird sounds making your pup jump? Use a white noise machine to blanket any unfamiliar sounds.
  • Exercise before bedtime. If your dog is good and tired, he or she may have an easier time remaining calm. And, often, a spent pup is a sleepy pup.
  • Take a potty break. By doing its business before bedtime, your dog will be more comfortable and won’t have to worry about holding it until morning.
  • Stick to a routine. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and stick to it. This will help your pup recognize the signs that it's time for bed.

How to Calm a Dog During Fireworks

While we humans may love the aerial light show on Independence Day, New Year's Eve, or other special occasion — many dogs aren’t fans.

Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe During Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve Fireworks

Next time you know there’s going to be some Boom! Boom! Boom! from firecrackers, rockets, cakes, or smoke balls, give these “pyro-techniques” a shot.

Activate your Stormy Weather Plan. Those techniques used during storms can work when fireworks are the trigger.
  • Get in a pre-fireworks workout. Take your dog for a walk or play fetch before the fireworks are expected to start. This can help expend energy and reduce anxiety levels.
  • Desensitize your dog’s senses. Gradually expose your dog to loud noises by playing recordings at low volumes and gradually increasing the volume.
  • Get a noise-canceling headset. Reduce the decibels your dog’s receiving with sound-blocking earmuffs made for mutts.
  • Cover those peepers. If the eruptions of blinding rainbows sets your pup off, an eye mask made for dogs might help.
  • Apply healing hands. Massage is a proven way to alleviate a canine’s tension.
  • Distract. Play with your dog or give it a stimulating toy to focus on.
In addition to the above, Dr. Tim Shu also recommends the following precautions be taken:
  • Secure all fences. Some pets may try to run away from the noise and light. Ensure your fur baby stays at home by securing all fencing and make sure gates are closed and locked.
  • Get your pet microchipped and keep the information up-to-date. If your dog gets away from you while they are scared, it is best to ensure that you can get them safely returned to you when someone else finds him or her.
  • Get vet recommendations on medication. If your precious pet doesn't respond to any of the above recommendations, it might be necessary to discuss medication with your vet to see if that can help.
July 5th is the busiest day of the year for U.S. animal shelters. It's the day when the most animals are admitted.
- Dr. Tim Shu

How to Calm an Anxious Dog When You Leave

Separation anxiety is a big deal. As much as you love your pet, it adores you right back and may not understand why you’re gone for extended periods of time.

Try These Things to Help Your Pooch Part With Its Separation Anxiety

Give these recommendations a whirl and help your pet understand and handle your absences.
  • Occupy your dog’s time and mind-body. Give your pup a toy to focus their attention on, rather than you being gone. A fenced yard to run around in can also keep your dog busy. Always make sure your fence is secured/locked.
  • Interact from afar. Some pet parents like to use modern technology to connect with their dogs while they’re away. Think webcalls.(3)
  • Hire a dog walker or pet care. Highly social or energetic dogs may benefit from encounters with people or other animals during the day.
  • Get another pet. A companion animal could ease your dog’s tension, loneliness, and boredom.
  • Try an alternative therapy. There are herbal supplements, homeopathic remedies, aromatherapies, CBD treats, and other formulations specifically for pets.
  • Leave a piece of you behind. Leaving your pooch with a blanket or t-shirt that smells like you might provide comfort.

More Situations Riling Your Dog Up?

Maybe you want to know:
  • How to calm an anxious dog in a car
  • How to calm an anxious dog for grooming
  • How to calm an anxious dog at the vet
After all, there are so many reasons why and occasions when your beloved pet might get upset. Luckily, the majority of the tips and recommendations listed in the above sections can be adapted to fit other kinds of anxiety episodes. It may take some time and trial and error — but eventually you’ll land on a set of anxiety-busting tactics that you can readily draw upon.

Know How To Soothe an Anxious Dog

Dogs can experience anxiety for many reasons and in many ways. But, they needn’t suffer.

You have plenty of anxiety-management options available to you. So, the next time your pup gets spooked by fireworks or foul weather — you’ll know how to calm an anxious dog.

References

  1. Kriss, R. (2021). Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Dog Anxiety. American Kennel Club.
  2. (2019). 7 Proven Ways to Calm Your Anxious Dog. Central California SPCA.
  3. Revel, D. (2018). 10 Tech Products to Help Your Dog’s Anxiety. HGTV.
  4. (2017). Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Dogs. MSPCA-Angell.
  5. (2022). Treating anxiety to prevent canine aggression. American Veterinary Medical Association.

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FAQs Buzzin’ Through the Hive

Should you ignore an anxious dog?
The short answer is no. The longer answer is that, depending on the cause of your pet’s anxiety, a little ignoring could help. For example, ignoring your dog for 10-15 minutes before you leave may help condition your dog to understand that you’ll be leaving soon and help reduce separation anxiety.(4)

Remember, it's important to comfort your pet but not to reinforce the anxious behavior.  
How to stop dog anxiety whining, pooping, etc.?
By mitigating the underlying stress, these undesirable behaviors should dissipate. But, it could take some additional counter-conditioning or behavior training as well.
How to calm an anxious aggressive dog?
Pet aggression should never be left unaddressed. Various methods for calming are listed above. Aggression is commonly addressed with medication and/or behavioral modification through training and conditioning.(5)
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