If your dog’s quality of life is seriously affected by fear or anxiety, you should consult with your vet or a veterinary behaviorist. Prolonged stress, fear, and anxiety can be as painful and debilitating to a dog as a physical injury. In severe cases, medication may be the most humane initial response to alleviate your dog’s suffering. Then a positive reinforcement trainer can help you come up with management and behavior modification strategies for a longer-term solution.
If your dog just gets a little anxious in predictable situations like car rides or thunderstorms, you could try some of the calming remedies below. None of them work on all dogs but all of them work on some dogs. *Eileen’s favorites.
- Happy Traveler* soft chews contain all-natural, herbal ingredients that relieve stress and anxiety and calm dogs. (Follow directions re: dosage. Seems to work with most dogs.)
- Head to Tail Daily Calming chicken liver dog chews made with goji berries help dogs relax and reduces stress. Many other brands of calming chews are available at pet stores.
- Calming Collars* are hand made fabric collars: customized to fit your dog, filled with lavender and other calming herbs, available online at http://www.calmingcollars.com.
- Rescue Remedy: put a few drops in dog’s water bowl or on his food.
- Goat’s Milk*, available at pet stores, has calming properties that can be very effective in relaxing dogs.
- Adaptil (pheromones) available as a plug-in diffuser, a spray, or a collar.
- Sentry Calming Collar for Anxiety is a scented dog collar that releases pheromones for up to 30 days.
- Lavender: spray on dog’s bed, or on a bandana dog could wear around his neck. Or pick it from garden and do the same thing. Or light a lavender candle. Go easy on the scent, though, and don’t ever put essential oils directly on the dog or his bedding.
- ThunderShirt®: Dogs diagnosed with anxiety disorders experienced a significant reduction in heart rate when they wore a pressure wrap. (You can also make your own)
- Calming Cap covers your dog’s eyes, reducing visual stimuli. It can be used to help reduce reactivity towards other dogs and people, to calm dogs in the car and at vet visits, and to reduce stress in dogs that are triggered by light, shadows, and movement.
- The Storm Defender Cape® is a wrap that has metal-lined fabric to prevent static charges that dogs may experience during a thunderstorm.
- Play classical music. Through a Dog’s Ear* was created by musicians in collaboration with dog behaviorists; tests show it works on many dogs to calm them. It’s available as a CD, an App or as a free-standing music player called iCalmDog that plays continuously for four hours. You can order it online.
- Other soothing sounds. There are lots of apps with varieties of “white noise” – sounds of the ocean, wind, rain, etc. This is useful if you have a dog who is very reactive to sound; you can play white noise to try to mute outside noise.
- Relaxation protocol developed by veterinary behaviorist Karen Overall, easy daily exercises to train your dog to relax for increasing periods of time, described here: http://dogscouts.org/base/tonto-site/uploads/2015/03/7002_Protocol_for_Relaxation.pdf Also available as an mp3 file. http://championofmyheart.com/relaxation-protocol-mp3-files/
- Calming Signals: Norwegian scientist Turid Rugaas has studied the signals dogs use to calm each other down, some of which can be used by humans to calm dogs. Info here: http://en.turid-rugaas.no/calming-signals—the-art-of-survival.html
- Snuggle Puppy is a soft stuffed animal that is warm and has a heartbeat that could be comforting for young puppies away from their mother and litter mates for the first time.