Resources for your Shy, Anxious or Fearful Dog
- Bach’s Rescue Remedy or other flower essences may help reduce stress.
- Resources Canine Anti-Anxiety Calming Formula Tablets are chewable tablets made of natural ingredients that may promote calm behavior.
- Animal Essential’s Tranquility Blend is an herbal tincture that may help calm animals during acute episodes of anxiety.
- Adaptil is a synthetic pheromone that mimics the pheromone mother dogs emit after giving birth to help their puppies feel calm and secure. It’s thought to have a calming effect on puppies and adult dogs alike.
- Melatonin may help reduce stress and anxiety, especially during noise-related stressful events – like thunderstorms or fireworks.
Just like swaddled babies, animals may be calmed by gentle restraint. Body wraps help calm dogs down by creating a uniform sensation of pressure. You can give your dog a body wrap using:
- An old T-Shirt wrapped and tied in the back. Create a secure wrap making sure you’re not limiting your dog’s movement. Be gentle and calm as you’re putting it on your dog. Gather the T-Shirt in the back and use a rubber band to tie it together.
- An ace bandage and safety pins to create a TTouch wrap. To learn more, read Getting in TTouch with Your Dog by Linda Tellington-Jones.
- A Thunder Shirt or other commercially produced wrap specifically designed for anxious dogs.
After you decide which wrap to use, make sure you take time to comfortably introduce your dog to the wrap. Create a good association with the wrap by doing “happy wrap” sessions: place the wrap on your dog, then give her a stuffed chew toy or engage in soothing massage, petting, or whatever she enjoys. Once you’ve done that a few times, you can start using the wrap before stressful situations.
Similar to a gentle form of massage, TTouch is a relaxation method based on light circular movements of the hands and fingers all over the body. TTouch uses a combination of specific touches, lifts and movement exercises to release tension and increase body awareness, and may help relieve fear and nervousness. Learn more about TTouch at ttouch.com.
Learn more about canine body language. Identifying your dog’s stress signals – such as lip licking or yawning – can help you be a better advocate for your dog. Check out On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas or Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff.
Daily exercise can help reduce stress. In addition, try puzzle toys and interactive feeders to give your dog extra mental stimulation. Puzzle toys can come in handy when you cannot regularly exercise your dog outside. Scent games (like K9 Nose Work) can help shy, sensitive dogs build confidence.
Use the right equipment. Walk your dog on a harness, head halter, flat collar, or a martingale collar. Use a four to six foot leash. We do not recommend using chain collars, prong collars, or electronic (shock) collars. We also do not recommend using retractable leashes. Not only do they encourage pulling, but if something scares your dog, you won’t be able to help her if she’s walking 10 feet ahead of you.
Teach your dog to “settle” on a mat. Gently praise her for lying down. If she gets up to pace or whine, call her back and use a treat to lure her into a down again. If she is on leash, hold her with approx. 4 feet of leash and wait until she offers a “settle” by lying down. Reward verbally and treat when she does this.
Seek professional help. Desensitization and Counter Conditioning is the key to modifying your dog’s behavior. We want your dog to become comfortable with the fearful stimulus, to change the way she feels about it and how she responds to it. Most people need professional help to work out a program which best fits their dog. Please contact our training department for assistance.
Need help? Call our free pet behavior help line at (503) 416-2983.