You have a dog with anxiety, and quite frankly, you’re exhausted. You’ve tried everything to get your dog’s anxiety under control and help him live a calmer life.
Nothing has yet to work. You’ve played calming music while fireworks boomed in the background.
When storms come, you’ve tried the infamous ThunderShirt anxiety wraps, and it did zip, zero, nada for your dog.
You created a safe space for your dog where he can retreat, yet he refuses to use it.
When your dog goes for a walk and sees something new, he freaks out by barking relentlessly at the very scary object he doesn’t recognize. Even a yummy treat won’t distract him from defending himself and you from the neighbor’s new electric scooter.
So what in the world do you do?
Exercise & Mental Stimulation
One of the most straightforward and effective ways to calm your dog is through exercise and mental stimulation. Dogs are naturally energetic animals. If they aren’t given the opportunity to release all the physical and mental energy that builds up throughout the day, it can turn into anxious or destructive behavior in your dog.
Now when you think of exercise, your initial go-to is probably to take your dog on a walk. However, getting out ALL your dog’s physical energy could involve several miles of walking – which may not necessarily be conducive to your schedule – or the weather.
Exercise doesn’t have to look like this. We promise, there’s easier ways to exercise your dog. Here’s a couple options…
● Play fetch with your dog. If you don’t have an arm for throwing, Chuck It creates an incredible launching stick your dog – and your arm – will appreciate
● Get a toy drone. Keep it higher than your dog can jump, and then let your dog enjoy chasing it. No need for flying it in circles or crazy patterns. Flying it back and forth is plenty… and easier to control.
● Go for a sniff-walk. Potty walks, or even longer walks, tend to be controlled. With potty walks, the goal is usually to get your dog to go to the bathroom and then head straight indoors. With long walks, the objective is usually to walk for as long as possible. However, with sniff-walks, your goal is simply to let your dog sniff anything and everything as much as he wants. This mental stimulation can help wear your dog out, making him calmer overall. And remember, if you can stare at your phone for 10 minutes, you can let your dog sniff the same blade of grass for 3.
● Get your dog a puzzle toy. On rainy, burning hot, or freezing cold days, puzzle toys are a great
Remember that your dog needs exercise and doggy mental stimulation on a regular basis – ideally every day. Having a variety of exercise & stimulation options will keep your dog from getting bored and keep him both happy & healthy
Dog socialization is the process of introducing your dog to new experiences, environments, and other animals. It’s a great way to get ahead of potentially anxiety-inducing stimuli.
It’s never too late to start socializing your dog. However, the earlier you start the socialization process, the better results you’ll get.
Socialization has a lot of benefits.
It helps your dog grow their confidence in themselves and build up their relationship with you. This means that it’ll reduce their stress levels when they encounter unfamiliar scenarios.
If you’re new to socialization – whether you’re socializing your dog or your new puppy – here’s a few tips for you…
● Bring treats on every socialization outing to reward your dog’s willingness to explore and follow your cues.
● Introduce your dog to new environments on a consistent basis. Ideally try to go to place when there is less foot traffic. You want to introduce your dog to new experiences without them being incredibly overwhelming.
● Don’t force your dog into experiences or encounters when they clearly feel uncomfortable or apprehensive.
● Ditch the dog parks. Too often, dog owners take their dogs who they can’t verbally control to dog parks AND they don’t pay attention. This is a recipe for disaster.
Socialization is meant to help prepare your puppy or dog for encountering new environments and stimuli. This way, they don’t struggle with anxiety and reactivity.
However, if your dog has already become fearful of something, you’ll need to desensitize your dog to whatever causes them anxiety.
When dogs feel threatened, regardless of whether or not the threat is legitimate, it can often spark anxiety in your dog. When they encounter this potential threat, the result is that your dog goes into what we call “Fight or Flight” mode. This can turn your cuddly chihuahua into a barking beast whose snarls sound the most feisty. The other alternative is that they hide from whatever the potential threat is.
Dog desensitization helps your dog no longer go into “Fight or Flight” around whatever is causing that anxiety – whether it’s fireworks, a neighbor on a bike, or your leaving your dog unattended at home.
When desentization works, your dog will start to feel calmer and less anxious in whatever environment they’re in.
How does it work?
Over time, you’ll slowly start introducing your dog to stimuli that may cause them to have fear or anxiety. However, you do this in a controlled and non-threatening way.
Let’s say your dog has a lot of anxiety around being home alone. You can start the dog desensitization process by leaving your dog to go check the mail. Then, you may “leave” for a few minutes. This eventually becomes 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, and so on.
Over time, your dog learns that even when you go away for a little while, you’ll always come home.
Now, instead of barking anxiously for an hour at the front door, your dog takes a nap on the couch while you’re gone.
Perhaps your dog has a lot of fear around bicycles. You don’t want to immediately force your dog to be right beside the bicycle and just “get over it.” What we would consider direct exposure therapy isn’t necessarily helpful or useful in these situations. All it really does it just overwhelm your dog to the point that they shut down.
Instead, what you’ll want to do is walk with your dog with a bicycle or cyclist in view at a distance – a very larger distance, that is. A great measure is to start at 100 feet away. Let your dog practice a training skill, eat some treats, or sniff the grass with the anxiety-inducing bicycle. You’ll want to ignore the bicycle entirely.
Over time (usually days or weeks), you can do the same thing. Each time, you may get 5-10 feet closer to the bike that causes all the stress for your dog.
Continue to ignore the bicycle and let your dog focus on some sort of activity.
If your dog starts to bark at the bicycle, back away from the bike until your dog feels comfortable to continue whatever he was originally doing.
Repeat this process over a few weeks, and before you know it, your dog will be able to be around bikes and cyclists without all the stress and anxiety… and barking.
The process of desensitizing your dog to whatever stimuli is overwhelming, stressful, or scary to your dog can take some time, but it’s one of the best ways to help your dog conquer their fears and become more confident.
Dogs are incredibly perceptive and responsive to both our emotional energy as well as our body language. They can detect changes in our emotional state or interpret the subtle nuances in our body language, often before we even realize them ourselves.
Research shows that dogs can read human emotions through facial expressions, as well as sense our emotional state through our scent.
So how does this connect to your dog’s anxiety and stress levels?
Just like humans, dogs have mirror neurons. They can mirror the emotional state of humans as well as other animals.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence of dogs mirroring human emotion comes from research focusing on the synchronization of stress levels between dogs and their owners. These research studies demonstrate that dogs, particularly those that are closely bonded with their human companions, can mirror their owners' stress levels. If you as the owner are calm and relaxed, the dog is also likely to be calm. Conversely, if you are stressed or upset, the dog will likely exhibit signs of stress.
So let’s say your dog sometimes gets stressed out by other dogs when walking around your neighborhood. This manifests as barking and lunging on the leash. And truth be told, it stresses you out.
However, your dog isn’t ALWAYS reactive. Sometimes, they ignore the dog passing by. Other times, they just look at it and keep walking. And then there’s the times they absolutely lose their minds and start barking uncontrollably.
As a result, you start to get a bit stressed out every time you see another dog on your walk, because you have no idea how your dog is going to respond.
Well, chances are, your dog may start mirroring your stress & anxiety – hence the barking and the lunging.
How do you fix this?
You have to start becoming more aware of your own body language when you see another dog, as well as your own emotions. Then, it’s time to start changing your body language and how you think & feel about your dog, walks, and encountering other dogs.
One of the wonderful things about helping your dog stop struggling with anxiety and FINALLY calm down is that you can stack a lot of these activities. You can change your body language & your own personal emotional state as you practice socialization & desensitization.
However, perhaps one of the best ways to make all these calming, anxiety-reducing activities more effective is to change your dog’s baseline before you begin.
How do you do that?
Here’s the deal, before you go to a loud concert, you probably take some Tylenol… and maybe some ear plugs. Before you go to a family event, you probably enjoy some “Leafy Support” to help you get through the stress of being around your family.
So why wouldn’t you give your dog something to help him calm down and reduce his anxiety before any exciting, stressful, or overwhelming event or encounter?
That’s where Snubbies Calming & Immune Support Supplements come in. This tasty Calming & Immune Support health supplement is a blend of chamomile, colostrum, melatonin, and ginger root powder for supporting balanced behavior plus probiotics and antioxidants that aid in immune system health. Plus, our supplements promote relaxation without sedation and helps to maintain contentment during environmental stressors such as thunder, separation, travel, motion sickness, fireworks, and changes in your pets daily routine. Made in the USA with premium ingredients, you can feel good knowing you are supporting your dog’s mental health with Snubbies. Use supplements by themselves or paired with another anxiety-reducing activity to help your dog become less stressed and calm down.