How can I help my dog feel safe and calm and reduce anxiety?

With today's busy lifestyles, home can be a chaotic place - people coming and going, loud noises, children playing - it can often be far from quiet. For any dog, especially one new to your home, be it a puppy, adult dog or rescue dog, this can be stressful. But you can help by creating a safe haven; a place for your dog to escape to if someone or something worries her. It can be her bed where she sleeps at night, or a newly created space. Our ‘Bow Wow’ Dog TeePee’s were created with exactly this in mind – a dog product created and made with calm in mind.

A haven provides your dog with a choice and the option of escaping from a situation. She may not always choose to leave but knowing there is such a place can build confidence. It’s all about providing a choice.

An anxious animal is often a reactive animal where the opportunities are limited; it's often fight or flee. Every dog should be given the choice to flee during any stressful situation. If a dog feels trapped, there is a distinct possibility she will warn with a growl, and if ignored, a bite. This is an obvious danger to people and to the dog. Long-term stress can be damaging to any animal so it makes sense to provide your dog with a place to which she can escape when she finds that things are getting just too much.

What causes anxiety attacks in dogs?

Common causes can include:

  • Loud noises (fireworks/ vacuum cleaner/building work/outside traffic).

  • Change of routine (owners leaving/arriving at different times).

  • Unfamiliar visitors.

  • Other pets.

  • Children playing (lots of movement and excitement).

  • Domestic arguments.

Do dogs have a stress hormone?

Yes! Any animal (including humans!) who doesn’t get quality rest will have higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in their body. Cortisol is useful in small doses, but a constant amount suppresses the immune system. Therefore, high levels over a long period can lead to health issues for your dog.

Signs of stress to look out for in your dog:

You may think your dog or puppy is confident and happy. However, as humans, we often miss the very subtle signals which an uncomfortable and anxious dog may display. It helps to consider each one of these signs in its context. A yawning dog may, of course, just be a tired dog; a panting dog could be an active dog, but if you have someone in to mend the washing machine and your dog is panting, he may be feeling worried. Seeing more than one of these signals together means it is likely that your dog is stressed.

  • The stress yawn - often more intense than a relaxed, sleepy yawn.

  • Panting - open-mouthed breathing in normal temperatures.

  • Ears back - so they look flat against the head.

  • Low tail - hanging lower than usual or clamped between the legs.

  • Avoidance - glancing away and turning the head or whole body from you, or a particular person or situation.

  • Growling - is a way for your dog to show you he feels threatened and needs space. It has a very different meaning from enthusiastic growling during play.

  • A stiff body - stiff, tall posture is a clear

sign that the dog is alert and stressed.

Every week our dogs always go a bit crazy when the bin lorry arrives. Because Murray, the older dog starts barking, Denzel the puppy runs around in a panic. You can clearly see the signs of stress, albeit, short lived. Luckily, they now know that they can run off and hide in their own space until the noise and uncertainty is over.

As humans, when things get on top of us, we can go to another room, shut the door and rest, but a dog may not know that is an option. There are times when she may not want to be the object of the children's games, be chased by the other family dog, or be near a noisy lawn mower. And if she is quietly resting in the living room and a child disturbs her or someone accidentally treads on her tail, she will start to get anxious.

Let’s create a safe space for your dog …

Provide a blanket, bed, snug teepee or crate in a place away from well-walked areas. Your dog may have already chosen a place she takes herself to, such as under a table or by the side of the settee. If this is the case you can simply put the blanket, bed, or open crate there. This now becomes your dog's safe haven.

For multi-dog households, each dog would need his or her own.

Educate everyone in your home that when your dog is in her haven, she is left completely alone and paid no attention. You can tell the children that when she is in this location “pretend she is invisible, and you can't see her”.

When she wants attention, she will undoubtedly get up and find it! Even if you think your dog is bomb proof and not in the least bit nervous, there will be times when she will need a place to escape.

A safe haven also provides feedback! If your dog takes herself off to her safe location, you can work out what may have been making her unhappy and so prevent it happening next time. For example, if you get the hoover out and you notice your dog quickly moving towards her safe space, it is likely she is nervous of that object. So next time you could help her out and avoid that situation, by giving her a tasty treat in her bed before you start to do the hoovering, helping reduce stress levels.

Here's to happy, stress free dogs!

To see our range of Snuggle Blankets and Teepee’s visit

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