6 Tips To Calm Your Anxious Dog - PetFirst
how to help your anxious dog
Pet Care & Health

6 Tips To Calm Your Anxious Dog

by MetLife Pet Insurance
2 months ago

Does your dog have limitless energy?  Is he or she unable to settle down regardless of how much you exercise them? Often a dog’s hyperactivity is a way of expressing anxiety. Keep reading as we discuss 6 helpful tips you can consider following to help calm your anxious pup.

Dog Anxiety Symptoms

Below are a few signs and body language indicators of canine anxiety. If your canine companion displays one or more of the following body language indicators, there is a good chance he or she may suffer from canine anxiety6:

  • Aggression
  • Destruction
  • Depression
  • Constant barking
  • Pacing
  • Repetitive behaviors (such as licking or chewing)
  • Restlessness
  • Panting or drooling
  • Trembling or shaking 
  • Fear related to loud noises (such as thunderstorms or fireworks)
  • Discomfort when you prepare to leave the home

Why do Some Dogs get Anxious?

Anxiety is a normal response to an unknown situation that the body perceives as threatening. While no two dogs are the same, genetics and years of breeding predispose certain dogs to anxiety7.

A recent study that looked at the behavior of dog breeds in Finland found that Wheaton Terriers and mixed breed dogs were more likely to experience anxiety related to noise. Spanish water dogs and Shetland sheepdogs were the two breeds found to be the most fearful8.  

Certain dog breeds have a tendency to be more energetic than others based on their history.  In many cases, breed-related temperament traits, including high energy and anxiety, are due to years of human breeding for selected traits9.

Regardless of the reason for your canine companion’s anxious energy, finding ways to calm your furry friend is key to a happy and peaceful existence for both you and your dog.

How to Help your Dog with Anxiety

Suppose your dog has a high energy level or displays any of the anxiety body language indicators mentioned above. In that case, it can’t hurt to do a little research into what the breed or mix of breeds was initially bred to do. You can use this information to tap into your dog’s skills by finding activities that channel his natural energy.

For example, if you have a dog who is bred to be active, such as a herding breed or a sighthound, you may just need to add some physical and mental stimulation into his or her daily routine to satisfy their natural desire for a job.

Tap into your pup’s inner calm while considering these helpful tips:

  1. Active dogs need plenty of exercise

Many people believe that physical exercise is the only way to release extra energy.  However,  exercising the mind can be challenging work! 

Walking, hiking, or jogging with an active pup is a great place to start.  However, many active and anxiety-prone dogs are also quite intelligent and require mental stimulation just as much as physical stimulation.

Not sure how to give your four-legged friend a brain workout?  Try these tips:

  1. Train your dog to work for everything he needs

Require something from your dog for everything he wants. Whether he wants a treat, wants to play, or wants to go outside, have him work for it.

You can teach him or her to sit while you walk through entrances first and require them to ‘stay’ until you give him the “okay” signal.

  1. Ditch the dinner bowl

Rather than feed your dog from a bowl, try placing his or her food in a treat pouch or plastic bag that you can easily carry on the go. Start by spending fifteen minutes a day practicing commands your dog has learned. Then reinforce his or her positive behavior with his food.

Once your dog gets the idea, introduce new commands. You can even teach tricks. This is an exciting way to keep him mentally active. Not only does it strengthen the human-canine bond, but it is also a fun way to turn mealtime into work time.

  1. Let your Dog Forage for food

Animals in the wild spend much of their time searching for food. Domesticated animals do not have to forage for food because humans took care of that job for them.  Allowing your four-legged companion to forage for food not only gives him a job but also keeps him or her mentally and physically stimulated.

There are several foraging toys like puzzle feeders and treat dispensers on the market. These toys and feeders are great options for days when you don’t have time to train with every meal.  Consider beginning with easy puzzle games, so your dog does not become frustrated and lose interest10.

  1. Try Activities that Involve a Dog’s Sense of Smell

A dog’s nose is tens of thousands of times more sensitive than a human’s nose. This is because the portion of the canine brain devoted to analyzing smells is significantly more significant than that of the human brain. Exercising this portion of your dog’s brain is going to give him a lot of mental and physical stimulation11.

Try hiding pieces of kibble around the house, and encourage your dog to sniff and find them. This activity engages both mind and body.

  1. Consider Dog Sports

Active dogs can excel at sports. Perhaps your pup could channel his energy into one of the following activies12:

  • Agility 6 Tips To Calm Your Anxious Dog 2
  • Nose Work
  • Dock Diving
  • Obedience
  • Flyball
  • Tricks 
  • Herding Trials
  • Disc Dogs
  • Canine Freestyle
  • Lure Coursing 

There are many canine sports out there for you and your pup to try. If your pup does not seem interested in one sport, keep trying others until you find one that fits your pets needs and that they can enjoy all at the same time.

If you think your dog has anxiety, consider setting up an appointment with your veterinarian. Your vet will look to rule out any underlying medical conditions and will provide the best treatment options for your dog.

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.


 1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC. 

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.

6Merckvetmanual.com

7Humanesociety.org

8Medicalnewstoday.com

9Akc.org

10Resources.bestfriends.org

11pbs.org 

12Thesprucepets.com

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