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Signs Your Dog is Stressed and How to Relieve It Naturally

Signs Your Dog is Stressed and How to Relieve It Naturally

We all want our furry friends to be happy and stress-free. However, just like humans, dogs can experience anxiety and nervousness. Nervous behaviour can come from internal anxieties or external stressors. Understanding the causes behind their issues and identifying the associated behaviors can help us provide the right solutions. In this blog post, let's delve into some common causes of anxiety in dogs, recognize the behaviors that indicate their unease, and explore effective solutions.


Common Causes of Stress in Dogs

Anxiety in dogs can stem from various factors. It's crucial to identify the root cause to better address their needs and alleviate their concern. Here are some common causes:

Separation Anxiety:

Dogs are highly social animals that form strong bonds with their human companions. When left alone for extended periods, they can experience negative effects of separation. This type of anxiety arises from their fear of being separated from their loved ones and left alone.

Noise Sensitivity:

Some dogs are particularly sensitive to loud noises, which can trigger their anxiety. Common sources of loud noises include thunderstorms, fireworks, fire alarms, and even everyday sounds like footsteps in the neighborhood or a knock on the door.

Change of Environment:

Dogs can be creatures of habit, and sudden changes in their environment can cause stress. Moving to a new house, going on a trip, or finding themselves in an unfamiliar setting can be overwhelming for them.

New Family Members or Pets:

Introducing a new family member or pet into the household can disrupt your dog's established routine and trigger anxiety. Dogs may struggle to adjust to the presence of someone new. It is essential to manage the introduction carefully and provide reassurance to your dog during this transition period.


Recognizing Behaviors of an Anxious Dog

Since we don't share a verbal language, dogs rely on their behaviour to communicate their anxiety to us. By being attentive to these signs, we can take prompt action and provide them with the support they need. Here are some behaviors to look out for:

Excessive Panting or Drooling:

Anxiety can lead to physiological responses in dogs, including excessive panting and drooling. Even in the absence of physical exertion, anxious dogs may pant heavily.


Anxious dogs may whine, cry, bark or howl persistently as a way to communicate their distress or to seek attention and reassurance. This behavior can be disruptive and may indicate that the dog is struggling with their emotions and seeking relief.

Destructive Behavior:

Dogs with anxiety may resort to destructive behaviors as a coping mechanism. They may chew on furniture, shoes, or household items in an attempt to alleviate their stress or redirect their anxious energy.

Aggression or Withdrawal:

Anxious dogs may exhibit signs of aggression as a defensive response to perceived threats or as a means to establish control over their environment. On the other hand, some dogs may withdraw from social interactions, seeking isolation and avoiding contact with people or other animals.

Stool Eating and pica:

In some cases, anxiety can lead to unusual behaviors such as stool eating, known as coprophagia, or eating other non-food items, called pica. Dogs may engage in this behavior as a result of stress, boredom, or as a self-soothing mechanism.

Inappropriate toileting:

When stressed, dogs who are otherwise house trained may toilet in the house.

*Note: these anxiety-associated behaviours also overlap with signs of canine cognitive dysfunction, a neurodegenerative disease common in aging dogs.


Effective Solutions to Calm Your Anxious Dog

Fortunately, there are numerous strategies to help calm your anxious dog and provide them with a sense of security. These strategies work in synergy, so incorporating as many as possible and practicable to your situation can offer your dog the best relief from stress and anxiety.


Where possible, avoidance of a stressful situation is the easiest and most reliable way to help your dog feel safe and secure. For example, if your dog is afraid of loud bangs, put music on before a planned fireworks display, or take your dog for a drive out to the countryside where they will not be exposed to the loud and scary sounds.

Create a Safe and Comfortable Environment:

Designate a quiet and secure space where your dog can retreat to when feeling anxious. Provide cozy bedding, toys, and familiar scents to create a calming environment. This safe haven can give your dog a sense of security and control during stressful situations.


Some stressful situations can be predicted by specific events, to which the dog can be desensitized. For example, if your dog starts to get worked up anticipating you leaving when you put on your shoes and pick up your car keys, you can desensitize them to these events by unpredictably putting your shoes on and picking up your car keys throughout the day, without actually leaving them alone. This can eventually be extended to stepping out the door and coming back in, stepping out and waiting a few minutes then coming back, etc. Desensitization uncouples the 'trigger' event from the negative situation (being left alone) and eventually your dog will no longer react when you put your shoes on and pick up your car keys, because this stimulus no longer has a predictable negative outcome.

Counter conditioning:

Re-wiring your dogs brain to associate triggers with a positive outcome instead of a negative one can help them overcome anxiety surrounding certain events. Using the desensitization example again of a dog who gets anxious when you pick up your car keys: counter-conditioning in this situation would involve teaching your dog that whenever the keys are picked up, something good happens to the dog. Car keys get picked up and maybe your dog gets a scatter feed on their bed, a snuffle mat or puzzle toy to work through, or a hollow toy filled with food. This eventually leads to your dog associating what was previously a stressful event with a positive outcome.

Positive Reinforcement Training:

Training techniques based on positive reinforcement can help redirect your dog's focus and build their confidence. Rewarding calm behavior and teaching them behaviour cues like "sit," "stay," or "relax" can provide mental stimulation and focus, reducing anxiety. Having reliable well established training allows for these behaviours to be cued prior to or during what could be a stressful situation. For example, if your dog gets worried about door knocks, teaching them to sit and stay on their bed or in their safe space allows you to control the situation and gives them something to focus on other than who could be at the door.

Regular Exercise:

Engaging your dog in regular physical exercise is essential for their overall well-being. Dogs require outlets for their energy and both physical and mental exercise are necessary for them to engage in their natural behaviours. Furthermore, exercise helps release endorphins, which can naturally reduce stress and anxiety. Structured activities like walks, runs, or interactive play sessions can help channel their energy in a positive way.

Music or White Noise:

Playing soothing music or using white noise machines can create a calming atmosphere for your dog. Gentle classical music or specially designed calming music for dogs can help mask external noises and promote relaxation.

Natural Calming Supplementation:

Providing natural soothing compounds regularly in your dogs diet or as required prior to stressful events can help to promote calmness and comfort. Look for supplements that contain the following evidence-based ingredients:

Magnolia and Phellodendron extracts: Together, these active botanicals have been demonstrated to reduce fear-related behaviours in dogs.
Ashwagandha: This herb helps to regulate stress-associated hormones and cytokines in the nervous system and increase calming serotonin.
Chamomile: Known for its calming properties, chamomile is also anti-inflammatory and can help soothe your dog's nerves and reduce anxiety.
Vitamin C: This nutrient is an antioxidant and helps to scavenge free radicals and avoid oxidative damage associated with chronic stress and anxiety.
L-Theanine: This amino acid promotes relaxation by increasing the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
L-Tryptophan: Tryptophan is one of the few nutrients that can cross the blood-brain barrier and is used to produce calming serotonin as well as melatonin, the hormone that helps maintain restful sleep.
Valerian: Valerian root is reported to have anti-anxiety properties that can help dogs relax during stressful situations.


Understanding the causes and behaviors associated with anxiety in dogs is the first step towards helping them live a happier, calmer life. By identifying triggers and utilizing effective solutions like nutraceutical calming supplements, you can support your furry friend in overcoming anxiety and fostering a stronger bond between you both. Remember, each dog is unique, so it's essential to consult with your veterinarian and/or veterinary behaviourist to determine the best approach for your four-legged companion.

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