Do you have a scared dog? A nervous dog can be stressed by one or many stimuli and, in some cases, react dramatically. The best news? There are things you can do to make your skittish dog feel safe and less sensitive to their stressors.
If your dog seems anxious, find out how to calm a scared dog with these tips.
Common Dog Stressors
A fearful dog can get worked up in the face of a wide variety of stressors, different for every dog. Some of the most common include: being alone, car rides, veterinarian visits, loud noises like fireworks and storms, vacuums, other dogs, strangers, dark rooms, and many more.
How can you tell when your dog is stressed? There are some well-known signs that a dog is stressed or scared, like hiding their tail between their legs, flattening their ears, panting, trembling, barking, or hiding. But there are lesser known symptoms of stress in dogs, like excessive licking, scratching, and drooling.
How To Change A Nervous Dog Into A Happy Dog
Create A Calming Space
Whether your dog is crate trained or not, creating a comfortable space for your dog can help lower their nervousness around household stressors. If your dog is scared of strangers, the sound of the lawn mower or vacuum, or being home alone, you can help ease their anxiety by creating a space in the home that makes them feel comfortable. This space should include a bed, toys, food, and water - all their favorite things! This space can be made anywhere in your home, but you might consider a room with a door in case you need to block access from the rest of the home (like when vacuuming).
Just like crate training, you should allow your dog to gradually make this their go-to spot. For the first few weeks, keep the door to the crate or the room open at all times, so the dog does not feel trapped. Give your dog a treat every time they go to their place for the first few days. They will begin to associate their special place with good things.
Use Therabis Calm & Quiet
If your dog is especially scared and nervous, your veterinarian may prescribe anxiety medicine. These medicines, while effective, often leave your dog drowsy and can cause liver problems if used consistently for a long period of time.
There are natural alternatives that you can try instead of prescription medication. Try Therabis’ Calm & Quiet as a natural alternative. Therabis' Calm and Quiet leverages our powerful formula to ease anxiety and help dogs maintain a calm energy. Our powerful combination of whole-plant hemp with naturally-occurring cannabinoids comes together with L-Theanine from green tea to keep your dog at his or her social and emotional best for a happier, healthier pet. Therabis Calm & Quiet comes in single serving sachets that you can mix directly with your dog’s food daily.
Create An Exercise Routine
Just like a tough workout makes you feel better after a long week, exercise can help your dog shake off their stress. Exercise releases endorphins, a feel good hormone that helps both humans and dogs feel calm and happy. Make sure to spend at least 30 minutes a day exercising your dog, whether that’s walking, running, or playing fetch.
Better yet, create an consistent exercise routine. Dogs enjoy routine. It helps them feel less anxious when they can anticipate their potty breaks and exercise time. Take a walk or jog with your dog around the same time every day.
Try Positive Reinforcement Training
Dogs respond to positive reinforcement training. When they do something good, reward them with a treat. Eventually, the dog will begin to recognize a certain behavior results in treats -- making them more likely to do it. Here’s an example:
Imagine your dog is scared of the mailman. Every time he gets to your house, your dog barks, hides, or acts aggressively. Instead of letting them engage in these behaviors, or punishing them, try positive reinforcement. Every time the mailman approaches the house (and, this is key, before they start the bad behavior) give your dog a treat. Eventually, they will associate the mailman’s arrival with a yummy handout. They didn’t even have to sit and shake for it!
It’s very important to keep your dog comfortable, not pushing them too far beyond their comfort zone. This method takes time (weeks, sometimes months), so be patient with your dog as they learn.
Desensitization For Dogs
More consistent exposure to things that make your dog nervous can help them feel comfortable around that stressor. This method is called desensitization, simply exposing your dog to the stressor until they feel more comfortable and, eventually, unphased by it altogether. Here’s an example:
Say your dog is afraid of the vacuum. When you turn it on, even in a totally different room, your pup goes bizerk. Try putting your dog in their crate or the room with their safe space and shut the door. Turn the vacuum on in another room. Do this daily until your dog no longer barks or reacts to the vacuum. Then, start vacuuming right outside the door of the room. Do this until they stop reacting, then move to vacuuming inside the same room. Gradually, your dog should feel desensitized to the vacuum.
Desensitizing your dog can take weeks or months. Just like positive reinforcement, you should be sensitive to your dog’s comfort zone during this training method and take care to not frighten them.