I live with an older dog that has dementia. Similar to dementia in people, he gets anxious and confused later in the day. Because of this, I've been looking into ways to help dogs destress naturally, and as it turns out, there are quite a few options. From CBD oil to compression wraps, you can help your four-legged friend feel less anxious by using things you likely already have at home.
In the late afternoon and evenings, my canine roommate whines excessively, paces, and sometimes barks for no reason. Other signs your dog is experiencing stress include shaking, yawning, drooling, excessive licking and shedding, panting, hiding, and changes in bodily functions, according to Dr. Lynn Buzhardt on the VCA animal hospital blog. While dogs can absorb stress from humans, sometimes other factors are at play.
The American Kennel Club cited things like separation anxiety, fear, and aging as the most common causes of stress in dogs. And while dealing with a stressed-out pup can make you feel stressed and anxious too, once you understand what's making Fido freak out, you can work toward removing the stressor and doing some simple things to ease your dog's discomfort. Because a happy dog equals a happy human.
1. Compression Wraps
This one works like a charm. Whether it's fireworks, general anxiety, or anxiety brought on by doggy dementia, wrapping your dog using a compression wrap or anxiety coat really does work. If you don't want to buy a coat or shirt for Fido, you can easily make your own with an ace bandage or even a scarf. It works by applying gentle pressure to your dog's body in order to induce feelings of calm and contentment, similar to swaddling an infant. This is what I use when my aging dog starts sundowning, and it provides instant results.
2. Classical Music
When you're stressed, perhaps you turn on some music in order to chill out. This works for dogs, too. According to PetMD, studies have found that playing classical music for your dog, like Bach, can help Fido calm down. “The researchers observed two groups of dogs — one that had classical music played into their kennels and another that was observed in silence,” PetMD explained. “After a week, the conditions were switched, and in both cases, the kennels with the music housed dogs that had less observable stress.” You can easily find a classical music channel on Spotify or Pandora.
3. CBD Oil
This is another go-to at my house. CBD oil is an all-natch way to calm your dog, and you can find it pretty much everywhere these days. What's more, myriad pet companies sell CBD oil treats and tinctures made specifically for pets. Even Martha Stewart is getting into the CBD pet space. In addition, CBD oil is a natural anti-inflammatory and can also provide moderate pain relief for aging pups with achey joints.
All dogs need exercise. However, some breeds need more exercise than others. There's a saying: A tired dog is a happy dog. If your dog is feeling bajiggity, they might not be getting enough activity. “As with humans, exercise can be a great stress reducer,” Dr. Buzhardt wrote for VCA. “Physical activities like walking or playing fetch help both you and your dog release tension.”
Even if you have a yard, it's still a good idea to take Fido on a walk every day. What's more, walking your dog gives them a chance to explore and smell things outside of their home, which can stimulate their senses. I call this checking the pee mail.
Just like with humans, touch can help relieve stress in dogs. If Fido is stressed, you might not be giving him enough physical contact. “Some locations on a dog’s or cat’s body — like the feet, the ears, and the top of the head — are natural pressure points where as little as 15 minutes of massage will make a world of difference for your pet’s stress level,” PetMD reported.
In addition, dogs are pack animals. Your dog needs to spend time with you. No matter how busy you are, make sure you take time every day to give Fido your undivided attention.
6. Mental Stimulation
Some dogs were historically bred to work. If you have a working dog, Fido probably wants a job. While some dogs like nothing more than to lazy around all day, others get anxious if they don't have anything to do. My dog is like this, and if she doesn't get enough mental stimulation she gets hella stressed.
Same? Take some time to teach your dogs tricks and skills. You can also get a membership at a dog training gym where Fido can participate in agility and scent training and play groups. Another thing you can do at home is wrap treats up inside a blanket and have your dog find them. This stimulates your dog's hunting instincts while also giving them a rewarding challenge.
7. Avoid Stress Triggers
An easy way to keep your pup stress free is to avoid putting Fido in situations that cause him distress in the first place. For example, if your dog hates fireworks, don't take him outside when they're going off. In addition, if it's a holiday and you know there will be fireworks, put on the compression wrap, give Fido CBD oil, and put him in an interior room with classical music before the noise begins. If your pup gets anxious in crowds, don't take him to a parade.
“Once you know your dog’s triggers, you can prepare for these situations ahead of time,” the American Kennel Club noted. “Understanding these important facets can help you, as an owner, know the best ways to help your dog in anxiety-inducing situations.” If you try everything on this list and nothing works, it might be time to see your vet to discuss other options like acupuncture or medication.