3 Remedies to Calm Your Nervous Dog
Just like people, dogs vary in sensitivity. Everyone knows a person they would describe as “tightly wound” or “high strung,” and dogs are no different. Whether a function of genetics, socialization or personality, dogs can manifest nervousness in a variety of ways. Unlike people, pets can’t be reasoned with when they display nervous behavior; it won’t do much good to tell Fido, “Hey, that thunder is just noise. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt you.”
Fortunately, there are several well-documented ways to treat a nervous dog once you are able to pinpoint the behavior that doesn’t involve expensive medication that might carry serious side effects.
What Does a Nervous Dog Look Like?
Dogs who are displaying nervous or fearful behavior can be quite obvious, like in the case of a pooch who cowers and whimpers, or runs and hides with its proverbial tail between its legs. A nervous dog can display other behaviors that might not be as recognizable; ways that dogs show nervousness can run the gamut, including:
- Flattened ears
- Pacing, cowering or slinking
- Yawning or drooling
- Trembling or shivering
- Destructive chewing
- Dribbling urine
- Growling or snapping
A fearful dog might have developed a phobia as a result of a traumatic experience, or simply act nervous because they have a shy personality by nature. Once you are able to interpret the behavior and situations that trigger nervousness, you can start to take steps to calm your pet.
#1 – Provide a Calm Environment
One way to address a situation if your dog is displaying nervous behavior in direct response to a certain situation, like an unfamiliar person entering your home for the first time, is to mitigate the stimulus causing the behavior. Take the dog into another room, or if they are crate trained, invite them into their crate where they feel safe and contained. You can also draw the blinds, or use a blanket over the crate to muffle sounds if that helps. This doesn’t address the nervous reaction long-term, but can be helpful as a first response.
In addition to creating a safe space, sometimes giving your dog her favorite toy to play with or chew on can turn the stimulus creating nervousness into a positive one. Treats and toys can help distract from the situation causing nervous behavior and can help to create new associations, aiding in avoiding the anxiety in the future.
It’s important to offer “rewards” only once your pup has shown signs of calming down, as some animal experts warn that offering toys and petting your dog when they are anxious could be seen as a reinforcement for nervous behavior. The treat should be associated with the act of settling down.
Some dogs are helped by being wrapped in a coat like the Thundershirt to ease anxious behavior and make them feel more secure and contained, similar to swaddling a baby. The theory is that the garment wrapped around the animal’s torso touches key pressure points, and can help ease nerves. While not a cure-all, there is some evidence that wrap-around coats can offer some relief to your agitated canine.
#2 – CBD Oil
CBD is a cannabidiol found in both cannabis and hemp. CBD is the medicinal component of the plant, while THC is the constituent that causes the intoxicating sensation. So, CBD can provide a calming, relaxing feeling without the “high” effect. CBD oil for dogs has been shown to be effective in many applications, including treating dogs who are chronically anxious.
The positive reviews of CBD state that not only does it not cause your dog to be stoned, but it also doesn’t typically cause lethargy or depression. It is fast-acting, so it can be used as a preventative measure for dogs whose nervousness can be predicted, as in the case of fireworks, a car ride, or trick or treaters coming to the door on Halloween. CBD can be administered through treats or directly via dropper.
While CBD can’t change your pet’s fundamental personality, in conjunction with training it can be effective in reducing anxiety in your furry friend.
#3 – Homeopathic Remedies, Pheromones & Flower Essences
Homeopathy, far from being merely an old wives’ remedy, is becoming more and more common in mainstream society as an effective way to treat a range of ailments in people and animals. Homeopathic applications have been used for centuries, and involve a form of medicine that stimulates the body’s naturally occurring healing capabilities.
Ingredients like phosphorus, borax, or aconite are examples of homeopathic treatments that can be put into preparations that, when administered to your pet directly or through via the water bowl, can have a calming effect. These work particularly well for dogs displaying noise sensitivity, irritability and/or aggressive behavior.
Pheromones are naturally occurring chemicals in the body that help species communicate. To treat pets, substances can be created that mimic naturally occurring pheromones to communicate a sense of calm and soothe an upset animal. Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) recreate those of a nursing mother caring for her pups, imparting a soothing, comforting message. Dog pheromones are sold over the counter and can be administered via diffusers, sprays, wipes or collars.
Flower remedies can be used singularly or in combination to treat several common maladies. An “essence” is created by steeping the flower, and that essence is then given to the dog to alleviate symptoms of fear and nervousness.
Flower essences can be used to treat dogs who are nervous as a result of a traumatic event, or as a preventative measure for pets who freak out when they have to go to the vet, for instance. They’re also helpful in dealing with common problems like separation anxiety, fear of loud noises, or pups who get anxious out on walks encountering other dogs. Some common flower essences used to care for nervous dogs include:
- Rock rose
- Red chestnut
The great thing about flower essences is there is no danger of overdose, and they are obviously all natural. Advocates for this treatment claim that it can make your pooch more confident, independent, relaxed and balanced, thus alleviating the behaviors that the animal has adapted due to anxiety and nerves.
As with anything, it is vital that you check with a qualified medical professional who is familiar with the particular treatment you are researching before giving anything to your dog (for instance, a vet trained in animal homeopathy). While these remedies are non-invasive and natural, it’s always wise to get the opinion of a professional before spending a lot of money on a therapy that may not be quite appropriate, or worse not addressing some more serious underlying medical issue that could be exacerbating symptoms of anxiety in your dear doggie.
Everyone wants healthy, happy pets, and natural remedies can often be a great way to bring peace back into your home.