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August 6, 2021

3 Tips on How to Calm Down a Dog

  • How To
  • Body Language
Black Lab being hugged looking over owner's shoulder

Your dog is your best friend. Your partner in crime. Your go-to companion for every adventure. Your sidekick. Your family.

And when something is bothering them, you can tell, even if your dog can't tell you in so many words.

Whether you've got a stressed dog who's afraid of fireworks or an anxious dog who ties himself in knots, here's what you need to know to identify stress in dogs and help calm your dog down..

Signs of Stress in Dogs

First, it's important to recognize the signs of stress in dogs. You know your pet, but all dogs show stress differently. Plus, dogs communicate through body language.

A few subtle signs of stress include:

  • Yawning (if your dog isn't tired)

  • Panting (with a curled tip of the tongue)

  • Showing the whites of their eyes

  • Pinned ears

  • Licking lips

  • Pacing

More obvious signs of stress include:

  • Growling

  • Whining

  • Loss of appetite

  • Shivering (when they're not cold or excited)

  • Shrinking down or crouching

In the worst case, where your stressed pet feels like they have to be defensive, they may show their teeth, snap, or bite.

Closeup of French Bulldog being pet on the head

Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Shredded pillows. Strewn trash. Gnawed furniture. Incessant howling or crying.

One of the most common complaints for pet parents is separation anxiety, and it shows up in a number of ways.

Common examples of separation anxiety:

  • Barking
  • Howling
  • Crying
  • Chewing (not on toys)
  • Digging
  • Pacing
  • Destructive behavior
  • Trying to escape
  • Urinating or defecating in the house

If you have a new puppy who you're still house-training, the easiest way to tell if using the bathroom indoors is a sign of separation anxiety is whether or not your puppy does it around you. If it happens around you, it probably isn't the result of separation anxiety.

How to Relax Your Dog

Do you see your stressed pup in those descriptions?

Here's the good news: your dog isn't trying to be deliberately destructive. If you give them a constructive outlet for their anxiety, they'll use it--and both of you will be happier and healthier for it.

Here are a few ideas to give your dog some much-needed stress relief.

1. Make a Safe Space

Do you have a spot where you curl up when you've had a bad day? A favorite t-shirt you don when you need to feel better about life? A favorite TV show you watch with your favorite four-legged Netflix buddy?

These are all components of a safe space. And just like your safe space helps you, a safe space can help your dog too. It just looks a bit different.

The most straightforward way to give your dog a safe space is crate training. This isn't imprisoning your dog--dogs are den animals, and small, enclosed spaces make them feel safe.

The key is having the right mindset--if your dog sees that you're calm when they go in the crate, they'll associate it with calm. Start by putting your dog in for ten minutes at a time, then build up from there and reward them with praise and the occasional treat afterward.

2. Exercise

You know that relaxed feeling you get after a great workout, or even after you take a short walk around the block? That's from a release of endorphins, and your dog gets the same effect after exercise.

Notice we said exercise, not a walk. It could be a walk--if that's your dog's happy place, then give your dog some joy. But if your dog isn't much for walks, there are plenty of other ways to exercise, including:

  • Playing fetch in the yard

  • Playing tug-of-war with a stick

  • Going for a swim

  • Quality time at the dog park

You can also bring your dog along to your exercise routine. If you're a runner, take your dog with you. If you do yoga, encourage your dog to participate.

If your dog has a favorite game that keeps them active, then schedule playtime on the calendar every day. It gives your pup something to look forward to (playtime with their favorite person!) and a healthy way to work out that nervous energy.

Dog with basketball toy

3. Give Them Something Else to Think About

If you have a dog who's stressed out by a specific situation, the best spot-remedy is to give them something else to think about.

In this case, toys are a great investment. The type of soothing toy depends on your dog. Vets all over the world love the KONG!, a puzzle feeding toy that can also double as a chew toy.

If your dog is a snuggle bunny, give them something to cuddle with. This works even better if you leave it in some dirty laundry for a while--then it smells like you when you're not there. Plus, it keeps your dog from shopping in your underwear or dirty socks.

This trick also works for puppies newly separated from their litter--leave a bear overnight with the litter. It might be in tatters by the next morning, but it smells like siblings. Don't be surprised if a bear remains your puppy's favorite toy from then on!

More Tips and Tools for a Stressed Dog

Soothing a stressed dog is a lot like soothing a stressed person--you have to redirect their energy and give them something to help settle them down. But for long-term, sustainable stress relief, good health is key to everything.

Our idea is simple: pets deserve food with made with the same love and care your grandma would put into your favorite dinner. After all, when you're feeding a family member, you can taste the difference.

If you're looking to take care of your pup's health the same way you take care of your own, make sure to check out our dog food recipes, all , approved, and adored by dogs.



Now Fresh Team

A Team of Dedicated Pet Parents + Nutrition Experts

We all want our cats and dogs to lead happy, healthy lives. We’re here to help you, with easy-to-understand information about your pet's daily care and feeding.