How to calm down a dog

When something’s bothering your dog, you can tell. After all, you know your pet best.Man and dog in park

Whether your pup barks like crazy during a thunderstorm or licks himself excessively when you’re packing to go on a trip, any owner knows when their dog is displaying signs of stress, anxiety, or fear. If you need a refresher,

Just like how each dog has his own way of exhibiting stress, each dog can react differently to calming methods. Try some of these strategies out the next time your pet needs some comfort.

Play some music

You probably have a go-to song you listen to when you’re overwhelmed—but did you know that music can calm down dogs, too?

Studies have shown that playing music—specifically soft rock and reggae—can reduce dogs’ heart rates, cortisol levels, and other symptoms of stress. There is even special calming music meant for dogs, too. It can help ease separation anxiety when you’re away from home and reduce stress during storms or fireworks.

Try putting on some tunes or switch on the radio the next time your pup gets anxious.

Try aromatherapy

Yes, there’s aromatherapy for dogs! Essential oils can help soothe your pet; you just have to be careful. Don’t use any essential oils you have around the house. Instead, purchase a vet-approved, specially formulated oil meant for pets. These will include the right balance of oils and be diluted properly.

When applying, be sure to rub the oil along your dog’s back and avoid applying on places he could lick it off.

Don’t forget to do your research on what essential oils dogs enjoy and what you need to stay away from. Chamomile, lavender, cedar, and bergamot have calming and grounding properties, so look for formulas that include these oils.

Steer clear of tea tree, citrus, anise, clove, wormwood, and other essential oils that are harmful to dogs.

Get some exercise

When your dog is hyperactive or jittery, go for a run or play some fetch. This will help alleviate extra energy and work out any nerves from being cooped up for too long or getting stressed out.

A frisbee and some fresh air can work wonders. If your dog remains hyperactive, take breaks during a game of fetch. Every time he returns the ball to you, have your dog sit and make eye contact with you before you throw it again. This can help calm him down.

Try to avoid other dogs or dog parks until your pup is calm. Otherwise, too much social stimulation may stress him out even more.

Soothe your pet

If music, aromatherapy, and exercise don’t help, try these soothing strategies:

  • Put your dog in a dark room with no external stimulation. This isn’t a timeout, but a way to relax and reset.
  • Never underestimate the power of physical touch. Slow, steady pets and belly rubs can make a big difference.
  • Check your own stress levels. Dogs can sense your anxiety and feed off it. Take deep breaths and ensure that you’re speaking in a calm voice.

Remember reinforcement

Reinforce positive behavior and discourage negative behavior. When your dog is jumping, barking, and getting too hyper, don’t immediately reach to pet him or soothe him. This can teach your pet that these behaviors work to get your attention fast.

Instead, don’t make eye contact or touch your dog when they’re acting this way. When ignored, your dog can stop this behavior and calm down.

When your dog deals with stress positively, don’t forget to reward him with a treat!

Key Points to Remember

  • Calm behavior can be taught.
  • Arousal makes over-the-top behavior more likely, even hours later.
  • Take breaks during excited play to teach your dog how to transition to more relaxed behavior.
  • Clicker training is particularly effective for teaching calm behavior, since the clicker lets you catch that moment of quiet and reward it.
  • Have treats with you or stashed around the house, so you can catch and reward your dog for sitting, lying down, resting on his mat, or other calm behaviors.
  • If you reward a behavior you like, your dog will repeat it.
  • If you reward a behavior you don’t like, even inadvertently, your dog will repeat it.
  • Managing your dog’s environment can keep him from barking out the window or running around with your shoe.
  • Teaching your dog skills like Leave It, Wait, Drop It, and Watch Me will help your dog learn impulse control.
  • Your dog’s mat can be used as a relaxation tool, and it can be carried anywhere.

How to calm down a hyperactive dog?

A cause that generates hyperactivity in dogs is taking short walks. You might not offer your dog enough time to play outdoors.

You might offer a lot of attention to your canine friend, but it also needs to run freely or play different games that stimulate it.

Roll stroll with your dog

The combination between exercise and the usage of toys is ideal. Moreover, playing with your puppy indoors is also a must. If it is agitated during the evening, play catch with it while you watch TV. In this way, your pet will consume its energy, but you will not consume yours.

Opting for a toy that is filled with food is a good option too. This is because a dog can play for hours with it, trying to get the food out and running out of energy. Remember not to yell at your puppy. It doesn’t understand why and its condition is not its fault anyway. You can find out more about these kinds of toys by checking out our article on interactive dog toys.

Puppies playing

In conclusion, anxiety in dogs can appear due to different factors and it’s of many kinds. It can be kept under control with the usage of plants, oils and supplements, but it is also manageable without them. You can look at them as adjuvants and only use them after you try to calm down your dog with your patience and the tricks listed above.

Most of all, it takes dedication and time from your side in order to cope with its problems and to help your canine friend deal with its problems as well. Taking your dog to the vet is also a really good option in case you try everything and nothing seems to have the desired effects. Try to be reasonable when it comes to time.

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What is a Hyper Dog?

Before we jump into methods of calming down a dog, first of all we should really define exactly what we mean by ‘hyper’. We’re not talking about a dog simply excited to see their owner after they come home after work or barking at the sound of fireworks: we’re talking about dogs that continually display signs of overstimulation resulting in destructive behaviors.

You should watch out for signs like:

  • Jumping up on people and furniture
  • Excessive barking and whining
  • Raiding the garbage
  • Extreme chewing or scratching
  • Rough housing

These all indicate a dog that needs to be carefully managed to ensure that they remain calm throughout the day.

Some breeds are more inclined to be hyper than others, particularly working dogs who have been bred to exert physical energy all day. If they find themselves living a more inert life of sleeping around the house most of the day, they’ll inevitably have a surplus of energy – which they’ll likely channel into chewing your sofa cushions.

How to calm down a dog – 5 steps

There are five different steps you need to complete in order to calm down a hyper dog.

The first two steps will help you cope with the situation when it arises. The remaining three steps will help prevent your dog having a hyper episode in the future

  1. Take control of your dog
  2. Calm your dog
  3. Change what you do around your dog
  4. Provide activities for your dog
  5. Teach your dog to relax

Let’s take each of these in turn

#Dog Calming Step 1:Take control of your dog

This is about physically managing your dog to make sure he doesn’t hurt you or anyone else. When your dog is over-excited you’ll need to take steps to control the situation

It is important to be able to control a lively young Lab and you’ll find this easier to do if he is wearing a body harness.

You do not want to have to fight to clip a leash on a 70lb dog while he is nipping at your sleeves or barking in your face, so have your hyper dog wear a training leash outdoors (instructions in that link) and a house line indoors.

Don’t take them off until you put him in crate or sleeping area and leave him on his own.

Or until he has outgrown this silly phase

Never use a choke chain or slip lead on a dog that has hyper episodes, he doesn’t know his own strength and he’ll hurt his neck.

The next step is to reduce the dog’s arousal or excitement levels. Let’s find out what is calming for dogs

#Dog Calming Step 4 Provide activities for your dog

Young dogs need exercise, mental stimulation and attention  But it needs to be the right sort of exercise and the right sort of attention.  Ignoring bad behavior, jumping, nipping and so on is important.  But it is not the end of the story.

Your young dog needs an alternative way of engaging with his family.

Labs are active, intelligent, sociable dogs and they need to be engaged in activities with a human companion every day for some time each day.

The way to achieve this is through exercise, training and brain games.

Indoors, you can use puzzle toys and indoor games to entertain your dog in a calm and controlled way.

Outdoors you can focus on training your dog to do what he was born to do – fetch stuff for you.

Buy yourself a couple of retrieving dummies and learn how to use them

Try to increase your dog’s daily exercise and to spend some of that time engaging with him in training exercises.

This will help him learn to focus on you and to enjoy the rewards that training brings.

Once you have got your Lab fetching simple retrieves, you can make these more complicated so that he has to work both his brain and his body to complete them.

Once his body and brain are tired, and you have put a stop to all rough play, you’ll find your dog’s behavior improving. But there is one more thing you can do to help.

How to calm down a dog – summary

A young Lab who has frequent hyper episodes doesn’t understand how to interact constructively with people, and doesn’t understand what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. He is very unsure where his boundaries lie, and quite apart from the misery it causes you, this isn’t a happy state for a dog to be in.

Your first step is to make sure you have the means to manage your dog safely during a hyper episode.

Dog calming - how to calm a dog down - great tips and adviceMake sure your dog is wearing a harness and line so that you can control him, and remain very calm yourself. Stop all rough play and walk the dog around until he calms down.

Once calm is restored you need to take steps to avoid overexciting your dog in future

If you are expecting visitors that you know enjoy deliberately winding up your  dog, it might be simpler to put him out of the way until they have gone. Show willing visitors how to reward the dog with a treat only when all four paws are on the ground or when he is sitting quietly in his bed.

Most are only too happy to join in the ‘training game’. Carry a clicker and treats around with you and treat the dog for calm behaviors whenever and wherever you can.

Remember that dogs do what works for them.

If your dog wants attention and you give it to him when he whines, barks, or jumps at you, he will whine, bark, and jump a whole lot more. If you play rough, he will play rough back. And he will not be able to control just how rough the game gets.

Take comfort in the fact that dogs learn fast, and most young dogs grow out of this phase very quickly if people around them are consistent and reward the right behaviors. You might also find it helpful to join our forum where you can chat to the many other dog owners who have been through what you are experiencing, and come out the other side in one piece!

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More information on Labradors

Check out our Labrador Training section for more help and advice on managing a lively Labrador.labrador-jacket-800

If you’d like all of our best Labrador information together in one place, then get your copy of The Labrador Handbook today.

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects owning a Labrador, through daily care, to health and training at each stage of their life.

The Labrador Handbook is available worldwide.

Dog Anxiety Symptoms

Dog anxiety symptoms are easy to spot once you understand how dogs communicate their feelings. Despite what we might hope, dogs really don’t really “talk” to us. They do, however, communicate volumes with their body language and actions, including tipping us off about anxiety.

Dog anxiety symptoms include:

Sounds: Dogs can moan, whine, whimper, bark excessively or howl when they’re anxious or afraid. These sounds may differ from their regular sounds. A dog’s whimper for a treat or a happy bark at hearing you come through the door may sound different than a noise made out of fear. Owners know when their dogs react differently to stimuli. The more time you spend with your dog, the easier it will be to spot fear-based reactions.

Pacing: Fearful dogs may pace the house and be unable to settle down in their favorite spots. They may lie down for a few minutes and then jump up to find a new spot. Sometimes they act as if they’re looking for something — perhaps a place where they feel safe.

Destruction: Some pet owners blame their dog’s destructive tendencies on boredom, unaware that anxious and fearful dogs also become destructive dogs. Dogs chew, dig or scratch at doors and other objects in attempts to escape what they fear. The anxiety and fear centers of the brain trigger the fight or flight response — and destruction resulting from fear is usually an attempt toimg class flee whatever triggered their fear reaction.

Shaking: Fear makes dogs shake or tremble. You may feel it when you put your hands on your dog’s sides or see ripples moving down your dog’s flanks. Cowering often accompanies shaking.

Drooling: Drooling and panting are part of the fear response, too. Excessive salivation is another autonomic nervous system reaction when the fight or flight instinct is triggered in dogs.

Potty Mistakes: Scared dogs often forget their potty training and soil carpets, rugs or other forbidden areas.

Yawning: It may sound odd that yawning excessively is a dog anxiety symptom, but the same internal mechanism that triggers all the other reactions can make your dog yawn, too.

Dog anxiety symptoms can often be mistaken for other problems. A nervous dog who paces through the house, whimpers and soils the carpet may be scolded for being a “bad dog” when he’s simply afraid of something or feeling anxious. It’s also important to rule out other causes, such as an upset stomach.

2 Aromatherapy for Stressed Dogs

A specific smell will reduce your canine's stress levels.

How Aromatherapy helps to calm down a dogIf a human’s olfactory (smell) receptors were the size of a pinhead, then a dogs olfactory receptors would be the size of a postage stamp. Dogs' sense of smell goes beyond the current understanding of humans. It’s on a different level.

Unsurprisingly, and much like how dogs react differently to different musical stimuli, they also react differently to varying olfactory stimuli.

Several studies have shown that when dogs are exposed to lavender and chamomile they become less vocal, are more docile, more relaxed and are less active, as opposed to their behavior when exposed to peppermint or rosemary.

In a more binary example of scent sensitivity, dogs were observed in a controlled setting without any odor stimulants and then again when exposed to lavender. The results were polarizing as the dogs showed significantly less activity and vocalization when exposed to the scent.

Dog anxiety level reductionGraphic showing the reduction of anxiety levels in observed dogs.

To put it shortly, lavender (and to a certain extent chamomile) have proven to be effective methods to calm down a dog. Some of the essential oils for dogs may have similar effects on pets and reduce their levels of cortisol and, as a result, anxiety.

Finally, the same has been observed in dog-appeasing pheromones, further confirming that specific smells can indeed calm down a dog quickly and very effectively.

READ: How To Train A Dog To Enjoy Grooming & Stay Calm (Video Guide)

3 Physical Contact

Pet your dog to calm him down, but don't hug him.

Pet a dog to calm him downIt is said that the worst thing you can do to a newborn baby is to deprive it of human contact. The same can be said about dogs. When dogs are viewed in a “natural setting” or in feral communities, it is observed that they live in a pack-like structure, and in the den they often sleep close together.

Their pack-lick behavior in the nature is likely related to their close relatives – wolves. And even though over 10,000 years of domestication, behavior of dogs has changed significantly to that of wolves, there are traits these animals still share in the wild.

As for the pack-like structure, it is unsurprising as a tight knit community, much like sleeping near one another, provides a measure of both physical and emotional security.

A study showed that when dogs were groomed (petted) on highly innervated areas of the body, there were noticeable physiological changes to the subject.

It was observed that with as little as 8 minutes of stroking, a dog's overall heart rate can be decreased. Since an elevated heart rate is usually a common indicator of stress, this simple act of petting is a convenient and effective way to calm down a dog.

As with most things in this world, there can be too much of a good thing, and physical contact is no different. It has been observed that excessive hugging can actually cause a dog's stress levels to increase. According to experts, hugging is in effect restricting a dog's ability to express movement and makes them feel trapped, which they dislike.

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Hugging actually increases their heart and breathing rate, and elevates a dog's stress hormones. It is only natural for a human to hug a dog to show him affection, but it would be wise to keep in mind that the dog does not necessarily see it in the same light.

READ: The Best Dog Grooming Mitts to Calm Dogs

4 Exercise the Canine

Increase in cortisol is bad for dogs, so exercise your pet to reduce it.

Exercise the dog to reduce stressWe know that a good workout can help our minds and bodies unwind and release some pent up energy, particularly with high intensity workouts or heavy lifting.

It seems that a good set of exercise can have similar effects on dogs. With as little as a 25-minute workout and human contact session, a dog's stress levels can be significantly reduced.

A research team has found that mild exercise and physical contact with the dog's person can have a calming effect on canines as observed by the reduction of the cortisol levels measured in canines' saliva.

Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone and is related to a host of adverse physiological and psychological effects on the canine body.

For dogs, not only is cortisol the primary suspect for increasing their level of stress, but it also decreases sleep, lengthens healing times and in prolonged elevated levels, can lead to the breakdown of muscle protein in a canine body. Cortisol is serious business.

Fortunately, putting a dog through exercise routine that doesn’t require a vast amount of resources is a convenient and highly effective way to manage it, and calm down a dog.

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Take your paws off of her (just for an hour).

Let a sleeping dog lieThis may seem like a silly idea that should be reserved for misbehaving toddlers; however, there is evidence that suggests that planned or scheduled “quiet-play” and time out sessions may very well calm down a dog.

A study done on therapy dogs in a stressful hospital environment indicated that when dogs were given one to two hours of time to themselves, away from the ever-changing and bustling atmosphere of a working hospital, their stress levels decreased.

Once again, stress levels were measured using canines' salivary cortisol levels from three different time intervals throughout the day. The most effective measure of stress.

Elevated levels of cortisol in a dog can lead to dire consequences as it has negative effects ranging from heart rate to sleep to immune response. Suffice it to say, the presence of high cortisol levels is indicative of a highly stressed animal.

Giving your dog a mere hour or so to themselves without you bothering them, so that a dog can calm down and gather herself, would do your pet a world of good.

READ: 5 Ways to Train a Hyperactive Dog to Calm Down

6 Reduce Human Induced Stress

Calm yourself first.

Reduce your own stress to calm down a dogEnter Quality of Life factor (QoL) – it has different meanings for different people, and rightly so. Everyone has their own definition of it, and there are various ways to measure your QoL. However, a correlation has been observed in the QoL of dogs and their owners.

Using the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS, or “Attachment Scale”) test, researchers were able to deduce that dogs whose owners enjoyed a higher and more fulfilled quality of life also tend to have a higher quality of life themselves.

This study observed that seemingly benign factors like marital status of the owner and relationship lengths in the owner's life played large roles in helping to calm down a dog.

Researchers concluded that this must be due to the owners’ ability to form emotional bonds with others and their dog. Apparently, these emotional bonds lead to a decrease in the amount of stress that the dog experiences.

This makes sense when extrapolated, as stable relationships mean that the dog is not constantly experiencing new people in their lives. Dogs are creatures of habit and routine, and new people in their lives would cause quite a bit of stress on them.

Furthermore, going on the assumptions, strong and stable relationships on the owners’ end may also mean less conflict in the household.

Finally, since research has shown that dogs have a tendency to feed off the energy and emotions of their owners and surroundings, the emotional stability of the owner would obviously be reflected in the dog as well. By decreasing the amount of stress in their own lives, humans can in fact bring calm and relaxation to their dogs lives.

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7 Medication for Anxious Dogs

The very last resort, but it works.

Dog anxiety medication as last resortUsing drugs to calm down a dog, especially one with mental or emotional conditions, is often the least recommended option. Just like in humans, a pill should not be your first or second choice of dealing with problems, nor is it a good option for pets.

Pharmaceuticals often bring along with them undesirable side effects and their own brand of stress. However, since it is still a viable option, it must still be explored in this article.

There are several anxiety medications for dogs that have been shown to work well. The tricyclic antidepressant, clomipramine, has been shown in several studies to decrease separation anxiety induced stress in dogs left alone from 22 to 90 minutes at a time.

In particular, studies observed that the administration of clomipramine had a significant reduction in pacing, scratching and vocalization in dogs, as well as an increase in what is deemed as passive behavior in canines.

However, as with most other medications, extreme caution should be taken when giving it to dogs. Clomipramine (brand name “Anafranil”) does have adverse effects for dogs which range anywhere from vomiting and diarrhea to weight loss and palpitations.

While side effects may vary from individual to individual, it is best to keep a close eye on your dog if you choose to medicate him in any way. Always consult a vet beforehand.

Another option dog owners can try to calm down a dog before using pet anxiety medication is to try dog anxiety vests. There hasn't been any research on anxiety vests to date; however, anecdotal evidence and pet owners' reviews show these to be effective.

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