We rely on our canine companions in times of joy, celebration, sorrow, grief, and fear. While their enthusiastic response to our excitement always assures us, their friendly face licks and snuggly snores comfort us through the hard times. But what about the times our dogs are anxious?
Unexpected noises, perceived threats, separation from you, or other scaries may cause your pup to experience uneasy feelings. In times like these, they need your support to calm their nerves, be it in the form of a change in environment, a nice massage, or a yummy CBD treat.
Read on to learn how to identify nervousness in your dog and what you can do about it.
How Do I Know My Dog Is Nervous?
If your dog has been part of the family for many years, you may have an innate sense of their moods and behaviors. You can likely tell when something is “off” with them or what kind of environments and experiences make them nervous.
But if your dog is a new member of the family, you may not be as familiar with what their behaviors mean and what kind of things make them nervous. If that’s the case, keep your eye out for these apprehension-related behaviors.1
- Your dog is growling – This is often a sign that your companion feels uncomfortable or threatened. It’s an important message that you shouldn’t ignore, and you also shouldn’t punish your pup for delivering it. Take note of the growl and what your dog growled at.
- Your dog is whining or barking – Notice the context in which your dog makes these noises. Are they hungry, ready for a walk, or greeting their favorite mail delivery person? Or is something else causing them to whine or bark, like physical discomfort, unexpected noises, or your daily departure?
- Your dog displays “calming signals” – Your pooch may use these signs to communicate unease to you and/or other dogs and to self-soothe when they’re uncomfortable. If you notice your dog yawning intensely and excessively, tucking their tail and ears, showing the whites of their eyes, panting, drooling, or licking their lips, they may be telling you that they’re nervous.
- Your dog freezes or paces – If your pup “shuts down” in response to a stimulus, that’s a sure sign that they’re overwhelmed. You’ll want to remedy the situation as quickly as possible because a “frozen” dog is unpredictable. On the other hand, if your dog begins to pace, it’s likely because they can’t relax due to a stressor.
These common signs of discomfort are often easy to spot. The better you get to know your dog, the easier it can be to tell when they’re feeling worried or nervous, whether they’re displaying these behaviors or something else.
What Causes My Dog’s Frantic Behavior?
A dog’s internal world is as vast and incomprehensible as any human’s—perhaps it’s even more incomprehensible than a human’s since dogs rely on a very different way of sensing the world than humans do.2 Plus, there’s the whole language barrier thing—although it may be less of a barrier than we once thought.3
While we can’t know for sure what’s going on in our pups’ minds, we can keep an eye out for the environments and experiences that stimulate their unusual responses. Watch out for these commonly stressful situations that might make your dog nervous.
Does your dog cause an uproar in the neighborhood every time you leave with their barking and whining? Or maybe they have indoor accidents when you’re gone, despite being perfectly potty trained. They could be destructive when you’re not around but a perfect angel in your presence. They may even become escape artists, squirming out of their kennel, chewing through the gate in the backyard, or digging under the fence.
These are all signs of separation anxiety.4
This kind of worry is often seen after a change in your dog’s living environment. For instance, if you’ve recently adopted your pup and they’re getting used to their new life as a member of your family, they may exhibit restless behaviors. Or, if you start a new job that disrupts your old schedule, your pooch may be confused and nervous about the changes.
Some dogs are sensitive to thunderstorms and fireworks.5 The loud noises, unpredictable flashes of light, and vibrations that these events cause can make your usually-calm canine a tail-tucking, unpredictable pooch.
It doesn’t require too far a stretch of the imagination to empathize with your worried companion in these situations. Fireworks are often beautiful displays—when we’re prepared for them. But dogs don’t know the significance of the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve, so the explosions in the sky might be scary instead of awe-striking.
Some dog breeds are more prone to nervous behaviors than others. This list from the Gulf Coast Humane Society details the top five dog breeds most prone to jitters:6
- Border Collies
- German Shepherds
- Cocker Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
- Labrador Retrievers
It’s important to remember that most dogs, not just the ones listed above, can experience nervousness—just like most humans have the potential to experience feelings of unease.
Aches and Stiffness
As your dog gets older, or if they become injured, normal activities might become uncomfortable. They might have a more challenging time climbing stairs, hopping onto the couch for a cuddle, or climbing into the car for an adventure.
This discomfort, and the resulting barrier to a fun and full life for your dog, could stress out your pup and lead them to nervous behaviors.7
Your Own Stress
There’s a reason we call them our best friends. Dogs pay close attention to their people, and when the people they love are experiencing stress, they experience stress too.8
So if you notice your dog exhibiting unusual behavior, like pacing, whining, or tucking their tail, it might be a sign that you should look inward. Are you facing more stressors in your life than usual? Are you having a difficult time managing them?
If the answer is yes, thank your dog for bringing this to your attention with a cuddle. Petting your pup has tons of health benefits. It’s been proven to lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone, and heighten oxytocin levels, the feel-good chemical your body produces.9 Snuggling could help both of you relax!
How Can I Help My Dog Relax?
Your dog brings all sorts of benefits to your life, like on-demand entertainment, an excuse for exercise, a reason to leave an awkward party early, and comfort and solace in your times of need.
When your dog is experiencing stress, you have the chance to return the favor. Try these stress-reducing activities to help your dog relax.
General nervousness and nervousness that stems from separations can result from excess energy. Here are some inspiring exercise suggestions for you to do with your dog:
- An extra-long walk or a challenging hike
- Throwing the ball for them in a big park
- Letting them play at the dog run with other pooches
Burning this extra energy could be the key to reducing their stress.
CBD Treats from Canna-Pet
Some vets, like Jeffrey Powers, the vice chairman of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents, recommend CBD for dogs.10
CBD dog treats may help pets feel less nervous and ease aches or joint stiffness that may be causing your dog stress.11
CBD for dog anxiety comes in many different types of CBD products:
- CBD oil capsules
- Liquid CBD oil in a tincture
- CBD treats and soft chews
When shopping for a CBD oil product, keep in mind that:
- There’s a difference between pet CBD and human CBD oil products. The best CBD for your pet is CBD that’s tailored specifically for them.
- How CBD affects cats and dogs varies by each pet; ensure proper CBD dosage.
- Products labeled “hemp oil” or “hemp seed oil” do not contain CBD as they are not the same.
Petting and massage
Your touch comforts your dog, so when you notice that they are nervous, you can cuddle with them, pet them, and even give them a good body rub.
Dogs hold stress in their bodies in a similar way to humans, so you may be able to find tight muscles that need releasing. Watch your dog’s face for goofy expressions that signal they love your massage. You’ll know you hit the spot.
Drown out frightening noises with calming ones, or distract your dog from their unease with soothing music.
Check Youtube for video playlists designed to calm your pup during storms, fireworks displays, and while you’re away from home.
Kennel or bedroom time
Removing your dog from a stress-inducing situation may give them the space they need to relax. This form of isolation isn’t a punishment. It’s a chance for your dog to regulate. Make sure they are comfortable in the space so they can take full advantage of their time out:
- Keep the lights low
- Use relaxing aromatherapy
- Play calming music
- Run a fan on a low setting
Take these relaxation measures to let your dog know they’re in a safe place.
Help Your Canine Stay Calm and Collected with Canna-Pet
As a dog owner, we know how stressful it can be to see your dog experiencing stress. But helping your anxious pet chill out doesn’t have to make you jittery, either. For excellent pet care, explore our line of CBD dog treats and other dog CBD products. Our CBD for pets is veterinarian recommended and comes with a money-back guarantee.
Join the Canna-Pet community, a group of veterinarians, scientists, retailers, and passionate pet owners just like you.
- American Kennel Club. How To Tell If Your Dog Is Stressed. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/advice/how-to-tell-if-your-dog-is-stressed/
- Ed Yong. An Immense World. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/616914/an-immense-world-by-ed-yong/
- American Kennel Club. How to Teach Your Dog to “Talk” Using Buttons. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-teach-your-dog-to-talk/
- ASPCA. Separation Anxiety. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/separation-anxiety
- American Kennel Club. How to Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-keep-your-dog-calm-during-fireworks/
- Gulf Coast Humane Society. Dog Breeds Which Suffer from Anxiety and Depression – And How You Can Help. https://www.gulfcoasthumanesociety.org/blog/dog-breeds-which-suffer-from-anxiety-and-depression-and-how-you-can-help
- Assisi Animal Health. The Relationship Between Pain and Anxiety in Dogs. https://assisianimalhealth.com/library/relationship-between-pain-and-anxiety-in-dogs/
- Inverse. HOW YOUR PERSONALITY TRAITS AFFECT YOUR DOG’S PSYCHOLOGY. https://www.inverse.com/science/how-personality-affects-your-dog
- John Hopkins Medicine. The Friend Who Keeps You Young. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-friend-who-keeps-you-young
- Washington Post. CBD for pets’ ailments? Many people swear by it, but there’s very little animal research. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cbd-for-pets-ailments-many-people-swear-by-it-but-theres-very-little-animal-research/2019/02/15/f01beef2-2f07-11e9-86ab-5d02109aeb01_story.html
- Canna-Pet. CBD, Cannabinoid & Hemp Research. https://canna-pet.com/about-us/cannabinoid-terpene-research/