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6 Ways to Help an Anxious Dog

woman giving dog Kong Classic toy

Some dogs are just anxious, and there are a lot of reasons for it. Some are naturally anxious, others have some type of separation anxiety and still, others may have had unfortunate upbringings before we adopted them where they were mistreated and/or neglected. Regardless of why a dog is anxious, it’s a tough thing to deal with and it’s difficult for us to watch our beloved furry friends struggle with anxiety. We, as dog owners and dog lovers, would do anything to help them overcome this challenge, but it’s not an easy hurdle to clear. Some dogs never really get over their anxiety while others improve remarkably. There is no hard-and-fast way for how to help an anxious dog, but there are steps you can take to make things a bit easier.

KONG has been comprised of people who love dogs for generations, and below we’re going to provide some ideas for how to help an anxious dog. These ideas do not include medication, but if a dog is suffering from severe anxiety where its behavior is dangerous or destructive, you should consider talking to your veterinarian. If your dog is simply a bit nervous or wound a little tightly, as they say, consider the ideas below.

1. Exercise

There aren’t that many things in a dog’s life that won’t be helped by good, old-fashioned exercise. Dogs love to be out and about, running and trotting around, sniffing new things, and seeing familiar places. Dogs are like humans in that when they exercise, the endorphins start firing and they feel pretty good about things in general. Make sure that every day includes time for exercising your dog thoroughly, and don’t be surprised if you notice a difference before too long.

You can feel free to change things up a bit if you think it’s a good idea, but that’ll depend on your dog. If it loves taking the same walk or going for the same run every day, then follow that plan, but if it enjoys different forms of exercise, go for variety. What you should, do, however, try to make it happen at or near the same time every day, as a solid routine is also a good way to help an anxious dog.

2. Physical Contact

When we see a person who is agitated and nervous, our natural reaction is to leave that person alone or to at least keep our distance while trying to offer verbal support. When we see an agitated and nervous dog, we tend to do the same thing, as we’ve all been taught to leave a dog that isn’t happy alone, or else we could risk escalating the situation. Dogs are animals, as we’ve been told, so we need to let them deal with whatever they’re dealing with and allow them some space.

That’s not really how to help an anxious dog, at least not when it’s your dog. Dogs yearn for attention from their owners, as we are their pack leaders. The ultimate way to earn attention from the pack leader is by way of physical contact. If you see your dog is anxious, slowly and calmly approach it and offer to give it some pets. If it seems open to the idea, then soothe it with petting and some accompanying soft words. However, if you approach your dog and it skitters away, give it time to come to you and when it does, take advantage of the opportunity by giving it some physical affection.

3. Give It a Safe Place

When dogs get anxious, their natural instinct is to retreat. They look for a place – any place – to go and spend some time without being bothered. They need a little “timeout,” for lack of a better term, and if they’re afforded that opportunity they usually return to the scene refreshed and in a much better place mentally and emotionally. The best way for how to help an anxious dog in this regard is to make sure it has a safe place in your home.

Remember, this is your dog’s home as well, and we all need at least one place to go and relax unbothered. Every dog and every home is different, so whether it’s a spot on the couch, its kennel, a blanket on the floor of the master bedroom or even a side room that isn’t often used, make sure that your dog and any family members know that if it retreats to that place, everyone needs to respect that and leave it alone.

4. Music

We can all think of times when we walked into a room and heard loud, booming rock music. Depending on our mood at the time, it either fired us up or annoyed us beyond belief. We can all also remember a time when we walked into a room when softer music was playing, such as reggae or classical. That tended to calm us down, whether that’s the effect we were looking for or not. We may not think about this in terms of how to help an anxious dog, but music can actually make the situation better.

If your dog is anxious, put on some soothing music and make sure there isn’t any other loud noise being generated. If you give your dog a few minutes to relax, studies have actually shown that this type of musical therapy can make a difference. It’s not something many people would think of, but it is worth trying in certain situations.

5. Distractions

Finally, dogs are once again similar to people in that they have certain belongings that are important to them. These could include toys, blankets, a bone, one of your socks, or just about anything that soothes them and that they can call their own. One idea for how to help an anxious dog is to make sure that it has an item or two to call its own, as that can give you the option of distracting it when those moments of anxiety arise.

If you’re wondering what types of things would good ideas for how to help an anxious dog, KONG Club’s Pet Coaches have the answer!

6. Special Note on Fireworks

All dogs tend to have some anxiety when it comes to fireworks. With holidays like the 4th of July, New Years Eve, and many state holidays, where fireworks will be a staple, we recommend looking into a KONG Club or any KONG accessories that will help calm your anxious dog. Don’t let them be scared during the celebrations, so you’re able to fully enjoy yourself during the festivities.

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