How to Calm a Fearful Dog

June 29, 2016

The Fourth of July holiday is approaching and while that may mean picnics, fireworks and fun for us humans, this time of year can bring terror to the hearts of our dogs.  Plus, some dogs suffer from various forms of anxiety. Such phobias make them difficult to live with and cause them great suffering. In fact, a recent study found that over 29% of all dogs “suffer from at least one anxiety or fear issue.”  That’s nearly 23 million dogs in the United States alone. (Pet Age Magazine, April, 2016. p.56)  And 16% of all dogs suffer from multiple anxiety or fear issues.

Finding a solution for these fears is challenging.  I admit that we never did find it with our big Weimaraner who was afraid of everything, yet, there are many products on the market that can help with most dogs.  I always recommend that pet owners begin with their veterinarians. That professional will have a better idea of the problems and potential solutions.  Perhaps the most popular item with dogs is the Thunder Shirt.  This “vest” fits around the animal’s chest and is sold for both dogs and cats. Many pet owners swear by this product.  It applies a gentle, continuous pressure that comforts the animal.  I like the fact that is drug-free and not expensive.

Determining the cause of your pet’s anxieties is the place to begin. Sometimes, simply holding and petting your dog will ease it’s fears.  Other dogs need exercise to work off their anxiousness.  Each animal is different, so it is important to know what brings on the stress and anxiety. I found with Gator that giving him a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter kept his mind busy for quite awhile and kept him out of trouble when we were away from home.

It helps to know the symptoms of canine fearfulness.  Our Gator would pant and pace the floors when he was nervous. Sometimes, this 95 lb. giant Weimaraner would try to climb into my lap for comfort.  Do whatever it takes to keep them calm.

Some dogs release their fears through aggressive behavior.  Again, your veterinary professional and even a dog trainer can help with this problem. Companies now produce muzzles that are softer and more comfortable for dogs to wear, should that become necessary.

Other options are products that release certain pheromones that work to calm the animal. Some are collars and some are plug-ins for your home. There are also calming treats on the market but I would caution you to only try the all-natural ones.  As a last resort, your veterinarian can prescribe a mild tranquilizer that may work to de-stress a dog.

Finally, please be aware that your pet picks up on your own anxious behavior. If you are a high-strung, nervous type, your dog most likely will pattern that trait.  Work to display a calmer demeanor around your pet and that may result in a calmer dog.

On this upcoming holiday weekend, pay close attention to your dogs.  Find a quiet room for them to rest in and stay with them when you can to calm their fears of the noisy fireworks.



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