How to Calm Down Anxious and Distressed Dogs

Sad, pit bull dog, anxious and distressed dog

Most devoted owners will tell you their dog is like a family. They let their pets sleep with them and buy them gifts on birthdays and Christmas. These pets are every breed imaginable. But it is not all love and hugs. Pets need to be trained, both in the behaviour and rules of the house. Sometimes, your pets will become upset, so How We Can Calm Down Anxious and Distressed dogs?

Does Breed of Dog Make A Difference

Research indicates that some breeds show more depression, anxiety, and separation stress than others. Among these breeds are Basset Hounds, German Shepherds, Border Collies, Jack Russels, Australian Shepherds, Spaniels, Bichon Frise, and Labradors.

On the flip side, according to the American Kennel Club, there are some breeds that are considered calm and suitable to have around people, including children, or therapy dogs. These are:

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Tibetan Spaniel, Irish Wolfhound, Pekinese, Bergamasco Sheep Dog, Great Pyrenees, English and French Bulldogs, and Saint Bernard.

I can vouch for Saint Bernards. My daughter is raising four children and has had two Saint Bernards. They are big galoots who constantly want to shower you with slobbering affection!

Studies on Stress and Anxiety

According to Scientific Reports, in a study on canine anxiety in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs, it was discovered many dogs experience stress. In fact, more than 70% suffer from anxiety. The study was based on seven behaviour traits – sensitivity to noise (most common at 32%), fearfulness, fear of heights, restlessness/impulsivity, obsessive behaviour, separation anxiety, and aggression.

The study concluded that anxiety, stress, and behaviour issues are common in all breeds, affecting the welfare of millions of dogs in the United States and Europe.

What Causes Anxiety and Stress

 Dogs can be anxious or stressed for a number of reasons:

  • Loud noises

While it is quite common for dogs to be afraid of thunder and lightning, there are several other unexpected noises that will leave them anxious such as fireworks, gunshot bangs, vacuum cleaners, machineries such as lawnmowers, vehicles on the road, loud televisions, sirens and alarms.


anxious and distressed dog, woman vacuuming,


The size of the dog doesn’t mean anything. We looked after this beautiful Samoy who would try to climb in my husband’s lap during a thunderstorm, no easy feat considering the size of the dog!

  • Separation Anxiety

One Science News study claims that underlying frustration symptoms need to be addressed instead of focusing on a diagnosis. Understanding the symptoms could lead to better treatment.

Dogs with separation anxiety, upon being left alone, will sometimes destroy surroundings, bark loudly, urinate or defecate, and may even try to escape. They feel agitated when their owners leave and shower them with affection when they return.

  • Relocation

Dogs enjoy routines and uprooting them from their home could cause distress and anxiety. They eat and sleep in favoured locations; they even have their own walking routes. All of a sudden, they are in a new home and area and nothing is familiar to them. They become anxious and uncomfortable.

  • Changes in Family Members

A member of the family leaving or the arrival of a new one such as a baby can sometimes upset a dog. His routines or schedule may change, he may get less attention, and he may even experience a form of jealousy.

  • Abuse from Previous Owners

Your dog may come with some baggage, such as previous abusive owners so he is anxious and unsure of you and your kindness. It will take you a while to earn their trust and for them to become receptive to you. As the owner, you will have to have an abundance of patience and keep a calm environment around them.

  • Fear


Dog hiding. anxious and distressed dogs


What causes fear in a dog?  The fear can be caused by a thing, person or even a situation. Signs that your dog could be afraid are shaking, hanging back, barking, whining or hiding. A dog with unreasonable or excessive fears becomes unhealthy, displays unwanted and dangerous behaviours, or becomes agitated and anxious.

  • Travel

Contrary to popular opinion, not all dogs love car rides, with their heads hanging out the window and having the wind wildly blowing their fur about. Some dogs experience motion sickness just as some adults do.

Besides feeling sick from the motion, they can vomit, defecate or urinate, drool excessively, shake, bark, and even try to escape.

  • Visits to the Vet

Many dogs have a fear of the vet – from the unfamiliar surroundings and people to being poked and prodded on the exam table. No wonder your dog is upset. As humans, I think we can relate.

What are the Signs your Dog is Stressed

 There are certain common behaviours that signal a dog is in distress such as:

  • Whining or barking excessively
  • Panting
  • Licking their paws
  • Pacing and wandering
  • Growling
  • Body language and expressions such as ears standing up or tucked tail
  • Itching and scratching

As Owners What Can We Do?

You feel for your pets and want to do the most you can to help them deal with their anxiety and stress. As an owner, there are several ways you can help.

  • Exercise

Dogs love routines and it is a great way to keep bonding with your anxious dog. Any exercise will be beneficial – playing, walking, even swimming.

  • Security blankets or favourite toys

Sometimes, just having their favourite toy or being snuggled in a blanket is enough to calm them down. Even a piece of clothing belonging to a beloved family member is comforting and familiar to them (as long as you don’t mind it being slobbered on or covered in dog hair).


dog under a blanket. anxious


  • Patience, and lots of love

This is the best way to show your dog you are there for them. Petting them, talking softly to them, or even picking them up if you can, and hugging them helps to soothe an anxious and stressed pet.

  • Background music (preferably classic)

Like humans, dogs too can benefit from relaxing and calming music. Not only is it soothing, but it can also help to drown out other unwanted and frightening noises.

  • Secure, safe environment

Sometimes, none of the above will work. In that case, a safe quiet environment where your dog can unwind and have some alone time may help him. Some soothing background music might also calm him and leave him feeling less anxious.

  • Get them used to crates or carriers.

Sometimes, dogs have to travel or go to the vet so getting them used to these will make trips a little less stressful. If the crate is large enough, it can also be used as a quiet, safe place.

  • Alternative methods

Before giving your dogs sedatives, check with your vet. Safer remedies might include music therapy, massages, aromatherapy, and supplements such as CBD for Dogs.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, having a distressed dog can be quite a challenge. By providing ways to comfort them and having an unlimited amount of love and patience, you will be able to calm your anxious or distressed pet.

If none of these suggestions work, it may be time to call the vet and get some help.

What works for you when your dog is distressed? Please let us know in the comments below.




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