Calming pet anxiety should start before the anxiety starts.
Animal Anxiety Much Like Human Anxiety
Pets are like people in that their anxiety comes from many of the same triggers as humans. Calming pet anxiety starts with understanding where that anxiety comes from.
- Sudden change of circumstances or environment (loud noises, a move, a trip to the vet)
- Angry voices
- Lots of new people (or other animals)
- A sense of danger
- Poor health
- Circumstances beyond their control
- The anxiety of those around them
As you develop a relationship with your pet, you learn what anxiety looks like in your animal. Now what do you do about calming your pet’s anxiety?
Calming Pet Anxiety Before It Starts
Teaching an animal to be calm during chaos starts during training. Let’s use our current dogs as an example.
We traveled several hours or days to bring both dogs home as 8 week old puppies (Not puppies at the same time, although Libby went with us to pick up Donnie). Both trips involved driving through severe storms that frightened already scared puppies. In both cases, the puppies had calm humans to cuddle them, even though we weren’t bonded yet. At the beginning of their training both dogs were afraid of loud noises and bright lights.
Make Calming Down Part of the Training
All dog trainers teach dogs to focus as part of early training. Working calmly is part of that training. Libby was trained to be a hunting dog. It wasn’t long before CRASH-BOOMS were fun and exciting, even fireworks!
Donnie’s job has always been Psychiatric Service Animal. Unfortunately, loud noises are one of his human’s triggers. So, we also had to fight the anxiety that surrounds loud noises.
How did you train your dog to sit? Praise, treats, patience, love, and practice-right?
That’s exactly how both dogs learned to do their job through the anxiety until the anxiety has been replaced by their excitement for their job. In Donnie’s case, we did need a calming influence to sit with him and his human through storms for a while.
One way to calm anxious pets is also to groom them. Here is our post about that value.
Calming Pet Anxiety Hint: Keep Something Familiar
- Blanket or toy
- Training tool
Going into a stressful situation, keep something that is familiar to your pet. Something familiar can really help with calming pet anxiety. We use some of these objects at home or away.
- Kennel-our pet’s kennels (including the cat) are their safe place. They often kennel themselves when there is too much going on. They have never been kenneled for bad behavior and there are only good memories associated with the kennel.
- Blanket or Toy-sometimes even animals that give comfort need comfort and that comes in the form of something that has always been theirs.
- Training Tool-when there is chaos in the house or many new people about, we put the leash or the harness on our dogs. Whenever we train, we start out with a leash or a harness for control. Calming pet anxiety is a return to basic control. To our dogs, the leash and harness do not mean going outside as much as they mean going to work.
- Your Pet’s Human-You are the calming influence in your pet’s life. Use your training voice or your praise voice when giving commands during stressful situations. Bring your relationship with your pet to stressful situations.
Things Won’t Always Go Perfectly
As long as live creatures (human or animal) are involved, even the best-laid plans will get way-laid. We aren’t going for perfect! At the most inopportune times, bodily fluids will end up on the floor. I could give you so many examples but it is just not funny, so I won’t. One thing I have learned is that everyone will survive. Our goal is the best experience we can give to all involved.
Remember your pet’s needs as you would anyone else’s. Calming your pet’s anxiety should start before the anxiety does.