4 Easiest Ways to Get a Dog to Relax
Tension, nervousness, and hyperactivity—these are issues with dogs as well as with people. Anyone who has been blessed with a nervous little Chihuahua or a hyperactive Boxer might even say that that the problem is even more severe with dogs. When dogs get tense, they start doing things like licking their front leg down past the hair, down past the flesh, and right to the bone. Nervousness and hyperactivity lead to holes in the yard, holes in your couch, and holes in the drywall.
So how do I get my dog to relax?
1. Comfort Food
This is a lot different than what would make me feel good. When I get tense, I like to buy a large dark chocolate bar, a juicy pineapple, or bring home some really good ice cream. My dog doesn’t want or need any of that. Her idea of comfort food is a raw chicken foot, some beef fat trimmings, or the ultimate—a nice beef knuckle bone that has been left out on the butcher´s counter a few days. Your dog may be different and may have other types of comfort food. You just need to play around and find out just what she needs to mellow out.
(Do not overdo this. Just like with people, too much comfort food leads to obesity.)
If your dog is nervous and suffering from separation anxiety, one method that may help is to give her some comfort food before you leave the house. Her stomach will be full and she will be more likely to sleep. This does not work with all dogs, as some will even refuse their favorites when nervous.
2. Good Music
I´ve had some talks with my dog on the subject and our tastes in music do not really match. I like to listen to country, blues, or alternative rock. My dog likes that slow piano music like they pipe into the animal shelters to calm the dogs.
Take a few minutes and find out what your dog likes before it comes time to help her.
According to the website Throughadogsear.com, research projects have shown that 70% of anxiety behavior is reduced with pyschoacoustically designed music. Purchasing one of these dog friendly CDs may not be the answer for all dogs, but it certainly seems to help a lot of them.
3. A Nice Massage
Canine massage therapists are availble in many large urban areas now. If you cannot find one, ask a vet that deals with senior dogs suffering from arthritis.
Years ago I bought the Tellington touch book and learned the technique to help out some of my overstressed canine patients. Whearas acupressure and acupuncture are more likely to help dogs with musculoskeletal problems, Ttouch was designed to help nervous and tense dogs. Does it help them relax?
I think so, as do my dogs. One of my dogs really takes advantage of this—you need to try it on a really tense dog and see how much it helps.
4. A Walk on the Beach
A long walk anywhere, actually.
This is really the ultimate way to calm any dog down. Any dog that walks far enough is going to be tired, and any tired dog is going to relax and fall asleep. Even a mellow dog needs at least one 30-minute walk a day, and if you can walk your dog three times a day, she will thank you for it.
A hyper dog with a loaded backpack, of course, will tire out that much sooner, and reward you when you arrive home.
In my opinion, the beach provides an excellent location to practice meditation, but you do not need to live on the beach to provide your dog with long walks. Alexandra Horowitz, in her excellent book Inside of a Dog, recommends dogs be taken on an occasional “smell walk”. This is a great idea if you have a geriatric Golden Retriever, not so good if you have a young Jack Russel terrier that you want to sleep before Leno is over.
Get out and walk your dog. Both of you will benefit from it.
Even if you have mastered all of these techniques and practice them every day, do not be disappointed if your dog still does not relax. Some dog breeds are just born “on edge” and nothing but a few valium are going to work. Maybe you can get some acepromazine from your regular vet.
Give all these methods a try first, though. Who knows?
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© 2012 Dr Mark