I believe pets are among God's greatest gifts to us. They offer not just companionship but also unconditional love.
Help! My Dog is Driving Me Nuts!
When I first brought my dog home from the animal shelter nearly a decade ago, he immediately began to show his true colors. What happened to the calm, quiet pup I had visited for seven days straight before I was allowed to officially adopt him? He had transformed into a hyperactive creature I didn't recognize and wasn't sure I could cope with.
If you've read my article, Ways to Tire Out Your High-Energy Dog (Before You Lose Your Mind), you may know a little of my story.
Once I realized my predicament, I spent hours surfing the internet for help, and consulted over the phone and in person with several professionals.
I can't say it was easy, but my pup did slowly but surely (emphasis on slowly) learn to calm down.
Here's what worked.
7 Ways I Calm Down My Dog
- Routine and consistency
- Exercise (mental and physical)
- Give him attention
- Keep him healthy
- Calm myself
- Relaxing music
1. Provide Structure
I notice that my dog feels more at ease when he knows what to expect. This means having a regular and consistent routine and home environment.
Here's what an average day looks like for my canine:
- Between 5:00-7:00 am (depending on when I wake up), I feed him breakfast.
- About 20 minutes after he eats, I take him for a 20-30 minute walk.
- Right after his walk, he gets a frozen bone stuffed with something healthy like plain yogurt or mashed sweet potatoes (I keep a stash of these in my freezer). This will keep him occupied for a good 20 minutes.
- Next, I give him a hemp supplement to help relax him.
When I get home from work
- I give him a doggy biscuit.
- I play with him (fetch, hide and seek, or both).
- I brush him.
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- Between 3:00-5:00 pm, I feed him dinner.
- About 20 minutes later, I take him for another 20-30 minute walk, only if he seems interested.
- Right after dinner (or after his walk), he gets another frozen bone.
- Before bed, I give him a small dental chew to help keep his teeth clean.
Consistent Home Environment
Just like routine helps keep my pup calm, so does a consistent home environment. This is especially important for my furball as he approaches his senior years and may start to lose some of his senses.
A consistent environment means:
- Keeping his bed, water and food bowls in the same location all the time
- Using the same words as commands (for example, I say "quiet" when I want him to stop barking, rather than a mix of "stop," "no," and "quiet," which may confuse him)
- Turning on the radio every morning before I leave for work
2. Give Him Plenty of Exercise
Dogs need lots of exercise! Exercise allows my pup to release energy, which results in a calmer dog.
Taking my canine for long walks is hands-down the most effective way to tire him out. Walking outdoors not only allows him to release energy and anxiety, it also offers him a ton of mental stimulation. To keep walks interesting for my pup, I occasionally turn a different corner or explore a new part of the neighborhood with him.
When I walk my pup, I allow him to sniff. I learned that dogs obtain loads of information about their surroundings by sniffing. For example, by sniffing a tree, they can determine the gender and age of other canines that recently marked that tree. Allowing my mutt to sniff keeps his mind busy!
Some other ways to stimulate my dog's mind:
- Dog puzzles
- Treat dispenser toys
- Playing hide-and-seek with him
- Teaching him to fetch toys by their names
- Buying him a new toy that makes a novel sound
- Keeping his toys in a basket, and periodically switching out the ones I leave out for him to play with
- Offering him a different kind of chew or flavor
- Stuffing hollow bones with unfamiliar (but healthy) foods
Long-Lasting Chews or Bones
If I have a project I'm working on or just need to relax, I give my dog something to lick or chew to keep him occupied. Some chews keep him busy for an hour or longer!
When I offer my pup a new kind of chew, he'll sometimes play around with it for a while, as if fascinated by his novel treasure, before he begins to nibble on it.
Some things I give my dog to lick or chew on:
- Himalayan chews
- Elk antlers
- Bully sticks
- Rawhide free chews
- Frozen hollow bones stuffed with plain Greek yogurt or another healthy food
3. Give Him Attention
When I walk my dog, I give him my full attention. This means I'm not on my phone. (My phone is always on me, but it's put away.) My pup's daily walk is likely the most interesting part of his day, so I want him to enjoy it!
When I walk him, I am very much in the moment. In today's terms, I am "practicing mindfulness." I'm basically appreciating the time I'm spending with my furry friend.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a designated time of the day when I play with my dog. It's after I get home from work.
We go upstairs and play fetch with his favorite toys (Greenie, Squeekie, Crackle). He knows them by name. If I say, "Get Crackle," he gets the one that makes the sound of a plastic water bottle. I'll play a few rounds with him. Again, I'm very much in the moment, enjoying our time together.
Giving my pup my undivided attention during his walks and playtime helps him feel secure and relaxed.
4. Keep Him Comfortable
Another way I keep my canine calm is by making sure he has everything he needs.
My canine's needs include:
- Fresh water always available
- A healthy diet
- Clean puppy pads
- An open crate in a quiet location, where he can retreat to if he wants
- A comfortable bed
- Doggy steps or a ramp as needed
- A comfortable harness that fits him properly
- Keeping his vaccines up to date
- Yearly visits to the vet
When my pup is well cared for, he is more relaxed.
5. Stay Calm
My dog feeds off of my energy. When I'm anxious, he seems anxious, too. If I'm calm, he seems more relaxed.
When I stress out over his behavior, this only increases his anxiety, as well as my own. It's completely counter-productive and self-defeating.
For example, when I used to come home from work, my furry friend would jump on me because he was super excited to see me. I would become annoyed when he jumped on me, which would increase his anxiety and energy level.
I had to be intentional about changing my reaction to his behavior. I learned to ignore him until he calmed down. Once he simmered down, I rewarded him with a doggy biscuit. Problem solved.
When I give him commands, such as "Stay" or "Quiet," I use a firm voice, but not a harsh one.
By staying calm, I can better control my canine's behavior because he feeds off my calmness.
6. Give Him a Supplement
I used to gravitate away from supplements for dogs because I was suspicious of what they might contain. However, after finding supplements made of ingredients I was comfortable with, I gave them a try.
I buy Hemp Mobility hip and joint supplements for Senior Dogs for my pup. I like them because they don't contain any harsh preservatives, harmful steroids or GMOs. They are made of natural ingredients like turmeric, green lipped mussel, and organic hemp oil. My little ball of energy seems to mellow out after I give him his daily hemp supplement.
Research shows that hemp is well-tolerated by canines and can be very beneficial.
Some Benefits of Hemp:
- Reduces stress
- Relieves pain
- Improves coat and skin
There are a ton of supplements for dogs out there. Make sure you research them carefully, and consult with your vet to make sure they are a good choice for your pup.
7. Play Relaxing Sounds or Music
I love to listen to nature sounds or calming music to help me relax. An added benefit is that they seem to chill out my pup, too.
I have a sound machine with soothing nature sounds, such as ocean waves and birds chirping.
White noise is effective also, because it blocks out sounds from outside that may stress my canine and cause him to bark.
There are also some amazing calming music videos on YouTube which I often play. The one posted above is one of my favorites!
Consider Adopting a Second Dog
An additional way to calm your dog down is to adopt another canine.
Intentionally selecting a second dog with a calm demeanor will provide your furry friend with a model of the behavior you want him to display.
Talk to your vet and do your research to help you determine whether or not this is a wise decision for you and your pup. Your local animal shelter may be able to assist you in finding a second pet that is a good match for your current one.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Please don't ever feel ashamed about asking for help in caring for your dog. There are many rescue organizations and professionals who can offer you sound advice for your pup, and help you find him a home if you're unable to care for him.
Asking for help is a strength many people don't possess, and can lead to positive changes for both you and your canine.
It took me a long time to be consistent in following the tips I shared in this article. Through it all, I have learned to be patient not only with my furry friend but also with myself.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Madeleine Clays