Your little Fido has the indomitable heart of a lion.
Is a moth fluttering dangerously close to his human? Not on his watch.
Is a squirrel deviously taunting him atop a chestnut tree? Not without some chest-puffing pup-posturing!
When it comes to slightly more intimidating stimulus, such as fireworks, a knock on the door, or being left alone, a dog with an anxious mind can quickly fester and find itself in a deep stressful fear.
What really is fear? Merriam Webster defines it as an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.
Why Does My Dog Deal With Stress?
Unless you have some kind of mental super-power, you have likely dealt with stress or anxiety at some point in your life. While dogs and humans are wildly different, we are both highly sociable and emotionally intelligent creatures. As humans, we are used to connecting the dots between stimulus and how we should react. While dogs learn through experience, they rely upon instinct more than we do.
One reason why dogs seem to have a large disposition towards stress is how much they're able to hear in the bustling world around them. A dog's sense of hearing is much greater than the average human's. It is currently understood that canines can distinguish sounds four times the magnitude of what humans can, in addition, they are able to hear frequencies twice as loud as the average human.
These sensitive floppers may not make much sense when living in an apartment with thin walls and a myriad of shouts, laughs, gravel scrapes, bottle rocket pops, and other pups yapping the night away within range of their super hearing, however their ability to snuff out sounds was the difference between being predator and prey when dogs primarily lived in the wild.
While your dog's electric fur trimmer is wired for apartment living, their instincts are not.
When thinking about how a dog is wired, consider the fight, flight, or freeze response. All dogs handle perceived problems differently. A canine with a relaxed disposition has less issues because their reality is different from that of an anxious dog.
A canine dealing with chronic anxiety may see a broom as a barracuda, a knock on the door as a burglar, you running out to grab dog food as you leaving them trapped in a door knob filled prison for the rest of their thumbless life, or the pops and whistles of a firework show as the literal end of the world.
A dog's disposition is the combination of environment and genetic factors. Often times, anxiety disorders in dogs develop from past abuse, but their stress levels can spike from loud noises, thunderstorms, and strangers encroaching on their personal space.
Stressed Dog Symptoms
When dogs are stressed, they will tend to wear that shivering heart on their furry sleeve. You know your dog's general behavior. Observe his body language during times you deem potentially stressful.
Anxious dog behavior will often begin with them pinning their ears to the back of their head with their lips pulled back tightly, indicating a hyper-awareness to the situation. In other cases, they may pant excessively or have their tail tucked between the legs.
Stress in dogs can negatively affect their digestion and can cause diarrhea. This can be harmful, as your dog is not absorbing the proper nutrients when his gut is out of whack. If you feel your dog's digestion is off from stress, look into trying out a dual-action probiotic calming aid for dogs.
How to Calm Down A Dog
Figuring out how to calm down a dog can be tricky, but fear not! There ARE ways to help your little guy live a life a little more relaxed than what he's been used to.
Separation anxiety in dogs can be equal parts frustrating and heart wrenching. When a dog believes the pack leader is leaving for good, he reacts like anyone in his postion would react - poorly. Anything from annoyed neighbors to chewed up blankets, cords, furniture, and walls can result from your dog feeling he has no other option but to try to deal with his emotions and potentially escape to find you.
As far as mammals go, negative reaction from separation is a completely natural survival mechanism. In the wild, this anxiety enables the mammal to vocalize those emotions if he has strayed from the pack and increases the chances of being found and, subsequently, surviving. In an apartment setting, you are the mother, father, sister, and brother - you are the pack.
The good news is that you absolutely can train your best friend to be mostly okay with being left alone, you just have to improve your communication skills. This communication should start when he is still a puppy but don't let that discourage you if he is a little older.
Crate training is the primary way of giving your dog a calming place of stability.
Fidobiotics has an extensive article regarding crate training your dog, we have a snippet of that article below:
"When introducing your fresh furball to the crate, make sure everything is as calm and pleasant as possible. Turn down the music, give him some smooches, and prep the crate with chew toys and an old blanket you don't mind being ruined.
Grab one of his favorite treats and guide him into the crate. As you do this, be sure to praise him and use a key word for what is happening. For example, you could say "Good crate!" or "Good boy! That's a good crate!", something in a praising tone that you will say consistently. Give him a good five to ten minutes to explore his new castle and then close the door.
It may seem like your job is done but there is still more work to be done!
Show your dog that him being in a crate does not mean that he is all on his own. Sit with him for 10 to 15 minutes at a time and praise him when he is calm and relaxed, ignore him if he barks or whines.
Ignoring him during his initial tantrums is paramount. You have to communicate to him that cries for comfort will not change anything and will only serve to tire him out. It can be tough on your heart, but it is the best way for him to learn.
After you have sat with him, make small trips out of the room. This communicates that while you may leave the room, you aren't leaving him forever."
The Calm During The Storm
Whatever the combination is, your dog is likely at his wits before the brewing storm gets in full swing.
Canines who experience anxiety surrounding thunderstorms are more likely to experience a similar reaction during firework season. In general, dogs and fireworks do not mix well.
Think about how loud and intensely sporadic most firework shows are, not to mention the late night July 5th boom you hear down the street. For dogs, they hear all of that and more, as they hear frequencies twice as intensely with a wider sound spectrum. These constant jolts of auditory explosion can be painful and anxiety inducing. The low timbre boom of a hellfire rocket, the whistling high pitched crescendo of a bottle rocket, and the feverish machine gun pops of parking lot firecrackers can feel very much like a power packed isolated thunderstorm.
Whether Fido is caught in a thunder storm or a firework show, there are ways to settle him down.
A Safe Place Is A Happy Place
A safe space for your pup can be the difference between him barking out his will and testament to you versus him poised to cuddle a fluffy duck through the storm. Much like crate training, cultivating a positive experience for your dog when introduced to the safe space is important. If your dog already has a good thing going with his crate, don't attempt to reinvent the wheel. Close the blinds, play soft music, and put his favorite toys in there for him to play with.
If his relationship with the crate is a touch more strained, then by all means, reinvent that wheel!
Find a spot that is both cozy and largely escapable. Giving a dog a sense of forced confinement during a bout of stress may only make things worse. Fidobiotics recommends giving a guest room or your basement a try. Have soft music playing, an old t-shirt of yours for him to smell, and some of his favorite toys. When showing him his new safe space, bring treats with you and reward him when he is at his most calm. Do not attempt to placate or reward him with treats when he is clinging to you for support or when he is acting out from the stress.
Rewarding him at his calmest in his new safe space will help set the tone for how he will want to behave when the scourge of storm is upon him.
Understanding how to destress a dog can be beyond tricky. You have done all you can do to give your rascal a break from his mental storm, from crate training to providing additional safe spaces. Sometimes these methods don't work the way you want them to, and you find yourself asking the questions, "What can i give my dog for fireworks anxiety?" or "What can I give my dog to calm down?"
If you know your dog does not do well around fireworks, leave him at home. If there is no way around bringing him with you, there are ways of calming your dog during fireworks. In this instance a calming supplement could be the answer for your pup.
Finding anxiety relief for dogs can be daunting. With so many companies out there, it can be hard to decide which product is best for your pooch. Like any kind of supplement you would buy for yourself, it is best to seek out products made from all natural, GMO free ingredients.
Certain amino acids, such as L-tryptophan, have been shown to work with the brain to help with stress and support a calm and relaxed mood.
Whatever your dog's situation, remember to maintain proper communication with him, and use these methods to keep your dog calm.