Dog anxiety can be a troubling issue for all dog parents. As it's affecting a lot of pets, it can lead to undesirable behaviour and stress for both dogs and their owners.
In recent years, the focus has shifted towards natural solutions that can help manage and alleviate these symptoms without the need for harsh medications.
This shift has mainly happened due to the increase in the number of human products that are now available for dogs in special formulations. In the next few paragraphs below we'll discuss some of these options, specifically focusing on the natural choices.
Causes of Dog Anxiety and Stress
Before diving into the solutions, it's essential to understand what dog anxiety is and how it manifests.
Dog anxiety can be triggered by various factors, such as separation from owners, loud noises such as fireworks or traffic noise, unfamiliar environments, or changes in routine.
Your dog often gives you various signs that he is stressed so if you know how to recognise these, you can act pre-emptively, before his or her anxiety gets worse.
Signs your dog is stressed or anxious
Here is a table that might be helpful, based on our own article on 11 signs a dog is stressed. You may find it useful to check if your dog exhibits any of these behaviours:
|Description (Expand as needed)
|Excessive Grooming and Licking
|Dogs may groom themselves as a soothing mechanism, but when it becomes too much, this indicates that they are doing out of anxiety. This is similar to us humans having a tic for example.
|Anxiety, boredom, or underlying health issues in rarer cases
|Increased Aggression or Fearfulness
|A noticeable change in the aggression or fear in situations the dog previously was comfortable with.
|New environments, strangers, or traumatic experiences.
|Excessive Pacing, Restlessness
|Continuous movement without a clear purpose, often in a repetitive path.
|Separation anxiety, boredom, or unmet exercise needs. May also want to go out to use the toilet so keep an open mind!
|Dilated Pupils or Wide Eyes
|Eyes appear larger than normal, showing more of the white bit.
|Fear, excitement, or stimulation from a perceived threat.
|Drooling, Frothing or Yawning
|Excessive drooling not related to food or heat, and yawning when the dog is not tired
|Stress, nervousness, or anticipation of something unpleasant. This often happens if your dog gets anxious when someone stares at them for too long.
|Barking or Howling
|Unusual or excessive vocalisation, especially in response to certain stimuli or when alone.
|Seeking attention, alarm barking, or separation anxiety.
|Heavy breathing not related to recent physical activity or high temperatures.
|Stress, fear, or overheating from a stressful situation.
|Pinned Low Ears
|Ears are held back against the head more than usual.
|Submission, fearfulness, or uncertainty in a situation.
|Actively moving away from people, other animals, or specific situations.
|Fear, discomfort, or negative past experiences.
|Similar to shaking water off, but without water, often after a stressful event has passed.
|Dogs could use this as a way to physically dispel tension or stress after an encounter either with another animal or a human.
|Low Tail Carriage
|Tail is held lower than its natural resting position, and may also tuck between legs.
|Fear, submission, or general unease.
So now that we've observed some of the signs exhibited by anxious and stressed dogs, let's look at a few natural solutions starting with supplements.
Dog Calming Supplements
One of the first natural solutions to consider is calming supplements. These supplements often contain ingredients like chamomile, valerian root, passion flower, lemon balm and L-Theanine, which have been shown to have a calming effect on dogs. Other amino acids that work well are L-Tryptophan and L-Tyrosine; these are essential amino acids that promote positive feelings of happiness and improve sleep. (source)
They work by enhancing brain function, promoting relaxation, and reducing irritability.
L-Theanine for example has been shown to be a glutamate receptor antagonist and to upregulate GABA receptors. By doing so, it promotes relaxation and calms down the excitatory part of the brain.
Our own natural dog calming supplement, CALM. has a combination of goodies shown to promote calm, sleep and relaxation including:
- Passion flower/ passiflora
- Lemon balm extract
These ingredients act synergistically to naturally promote relaxation. We also never add any artificial chemicals, flavourings or colours or preservatives to our products, so you know they're fully natural!
CBD oil, derived from hemp, is another option to try for dog anxiety. It has first gained popularity for its potential to reduce anxiety in humans, and now dogs.
This works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system to help regulate mood and promote a sense of calm.
CBD oil has the benefits that its non-psychoactive so it will help support the overall wellbeing without it being addictive. Make sure you buy it from a reputable brand though, to ensure it is of the highest quality.
We don't manufacture CBD oil supplements yet, but if you get in touch with us we'd be happy to recommend some that we have tried and tested. When you administer CBD oil to your dog for the first time, always start with a low dose and increase the amount based on your dog's response.
Small dogs in particular can respond very strongly to CBD oil so it's important to slowly titrate up.
Regular physical activity is crucial for reducing anxiety in dogs. Exercise helps burn off excess energy and stimulates the production of serotonin.
This is the natural 'happy' hormone and a mood stabiliser that can help make your dog feel better almost instantly.
Incorporate daily walks, playtime, and other physical activities suited to your dog's breed and age. Running zoomies and fetching are both enjoyable and healthy activities for dogs of all size, breeds and ages.
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Engaging your dog's brain through training, puzzles, and games can help alleviate stress and prevent boredom.
There are now various toys that you can buy for your dog that involve solving puzzles in order to get a treat out for example.
Here's an example of a treat dispenser where your dog would have to put in some work before they can get their treats out. This treat ball by Nina Ottosson came in one of our dog Christmas hampers last year and it was very popular from the feedback received. You can still buy it from various retailers such as John Lewis or on Amazon.
Relaxing Music for Dogs
Music therapy has been shown to have a calming effect on dogs. Playing soft, classical music can help soothe anxious pets, especially during stressful situations like thunderstorms or fireworks.
There are various dog music channels now available online with all kinds of soothing music.
It's not always easy to integrate solutions such as this in your dog's routine, especially when we are already busy. However, let's remember that our dog is another family member after all, and we should treat them as such.
Start by introducing one remedy at a time to observe how your dog responds and try to build consistency.
I am convinced that with these natural solutions, you can create a supportive environment that addresses the root causes of anxiety, offering your dog relief and peace of mind, thus ultimately improving their quality of life.