We believe a calm dog is easier to love. A calm dog is a dog that is easier to keep safe. And a calm dog is a dog that will stay healthy longer. Of course, an anxious dog is the exact opposite of these. Anxious dogs are more likely to be unhealthy, more likely to find themselves in unsafe situations, and be a bit harder to love.
We love all of our dogs regardless of their mindset, but this can be a challenge for some so we want to help you ensure your dog is anxiety free as much as possible. Making the dog easier to love and care for helps ensure it’s happy and always has a good home.
With this in mind, we focus on helping dog owners figure out how to calm their pooches down.
High anxiety dogs, dogs that are nervous around loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms, and dogs that get a bit too hyperactive when you have visitors over can all be worked with, over time, to become calmer.
Getting started right
When you first bring your new dog into your household, you can do several things to help introduce the dog into your family in a way that will set the stage for the future. Getting this right up front will go a long way towards ensuring the new dog is well adjusted and, therefore, less anxious in the future.
It’s important to understand where the dog is coming from (literally and figuratively) as this has a bearing on the dog’s mindset and will help determine how to best work with him or her. If the dog has a rough past, perhaps it was abused, you need to consider it. I had a rescue named Jake that was deathly afraid of brooms but literally nothing else. I knew I just had to accept that and keep brooms away from him.
Understanding things like this will enable you to work with the dog to help them either overcome their fears or allow you to recognize that it’s going to be easier to avoid them. It really wasn’t that hard to keep Jake away from brooms.
Work with your veterinarian.
Throughout these pages, you’ll see this repeated quite a bit. Always consider your own vet as the best source of information. Your vet knows your dog better than anybody else, or at least your vet should. If not – if your vet isn’t interested enough to really know your dog – find a new vet.
Since we run a rescue, we are extremely close to our vet, and they know every one of our dogs by name and on sight. We trust them entirely. We’ve had heartbreak a few times, and sometimes the vet has to give bad news. But hearing that kind of news from a person you know and trust is easier to swallow, and you’ll do far less second-guessing down the road. Get to know your vet – it’ll pay off in terms of ease-of-mind, I promise.
Much like your own doctor, your vet will understand the particulars about your dog. Is the breed naturally anxious? Is there anything you can do about its hyperactivity? (I’m looking at you, Chihuahuas!). Or is it a more laid back breed where you can expect, perhaps, less anxious moments?
But note that even typically hyperactive breeds can become calm given the right environment and love. For those that need help, anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed but again, work with your vet. Over the counter “calming chews” are one thing and safe (although I would still talk to my vet), but harder medicine to calm your dog down should only be given when prescribed by your vet. Importantly, this applies to Benadryl – I bring that up as we see questions on it a good bit. Again, we strongly recommend a chat with your vet.
Counter Conditioning to help your anxious dog
Counter conditioning is a method by which you provide your dog with something physiologically stimulating rather than behaviorally. This usually revolves around using tasty treats and doing so ahead of the normally anxious event. Doing this ahead of the event teaches your dog to associate the upcoming event with good things.
As a quick example, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms and you know a storm is on the way, begin feeding tasty treat before the wind, and the thunder starts. Doing this consistently over time – often an extended period of time – will condition the dog to associate storms with tasty treats rather than scary noises and help them cope with storms better.
I mentioned an extended period of time above. This is important. This is not a quick fix but rather an effort you will need to work on over many months consistently.
Dog beds, toys, food, etc.
You have toys. I have toys. I sleep in a nice bed. I imagine you do as well. You eat good food, and lord knows I do as well. These are things we take for granted and should be given strong consideration for the dogs in our lives.
I love it when folks tell me my dogs are spoiled. Yep, they are.
And they deserve it.
They bring me happiness, so I’m more than happy to ensure they have what they need to be happy as well. Often, that means a lap to lay in, but sometimes they also need their favorite chew toy, favorite bed, favorite neckerchief, favorite whatever, as well as the best food I can find.
We probably go overboard here because we spend inordinate amounts of money on food from our local Tractor Supply store. My wife mixes kibble, soft food, coconut oil, and other stuff into individual bowls for our dogs. We have eight right now, so this is no small feat.
We also subscribe to Barkbox, so they get regularly scheduled toys. Rusty recognizes the boxes and has a great time tearing them apart.
We’re careful about chew toys these days as we lost one of our best friends to one. Read about that here: Chew toys can kill.
We also spend a good bit on comfortable calming dog beds to ensure they have good places to sleep that promote a calm demeanor.
Please have a look around and let us know if you like what you see or if you’d like to see something specific. Send us a note, and we’ll work on it.
Calm dog articles
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