By Lisa Smalls
Getting a new puppy is an exciting experience - until you realize they are suffering from anxiety, be it generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, or anxiety related to specific triggers. For instance, you may have realized when bringing your puppy home that car rides were going to be an issue, or maybe a clap of thunder sent them into a panic. You might have also come home to an obliterated couch cushion the first time you left your puppy alone. Having a pup that struggles with anxiety can be distressing for both of you, however, there is hope if you have a high-strung pet. Here are some sure-fire strategies to help your new furry friend to relax.
This tactic can be tried both when you’re away and as a calming exercise for your puppy when you’re around. Try putting on some soothing music when you leave the house to see if your pup is more relaxed when you get home or try shutting them in a dark room with the music for a bit when you’re there. If you want to try music that is specifically designed to counteract your puppy’s stress response, there is a series of albums entitled Through a Dog’s Ear.
The Thundershirt is a compression vest that simulates being hugged or cuddled. The company that produces the Thundershirt says that it helps with a wide range of phobias and is effective in reducing anxiety in about 80% of pets. This product is also available for cats.
Sleeping with Your Pet
Sleep experts recommend sleeping with your puppy to relieve anxiety (for both of you) due to the release of oxytocin and serotonin that happens when you cuddle up. Furthermore, sleeping with your furry friend lowers levels of cortisone, the primary stress hormone released when a pet or human is in “fight or flight” mode.
When your puppy was nursing, its mother likely released a calming pheromone that relaxed them and encouraged them to stay still for feeding. There is a synthetic version of this pheromone available on the market in the form of either a diffuser or a collar by a company called Adaptil.
According to San Diego veterinarian Jessica Vogelsang, sometimes you can train the anxiety-driven reactions out of your pup’s behavior entirely. In a process known as desensitization training, you gradually introduce stressful noises to your dog while giving rewards. This technique takes a lot of diligence and work, but it is a long-term solution if found to be effective. If you think you would like to try this approach, you might consider hiring a trainer.
If your puppy gets worked up before a storm, this means that they are being triggered by the static electricity that occurs prior to a thunderstorm. Marty Becker, founder of Fear Free, recommends rubbing down your pup’s trunk with an unscented dryer sheet when you know a storm is coming.
Having an anxious puppy can be difficult, but there are steps you can take to keep them as healthy and happy as possible. Keep our tips in mind and start working on your dog’s sense of security today.