It’s heart breaking seeing our older dogs stressed and nervous, and not knowing how to help. The good news is, there are options!
Some of the natural options you may want to look into include Rescue Remedy, Valerian, Adaptil, a Thundershirt, acupuncture and the best dog calming music that worked for us – Through a Dog’s Ear.
You may be wondering if one or more of the selections I’m going to talk about can benefit your dog. Well, here are some of the dogs that can be helped:
- Rescue getting used to a new home
- Dog of any age who got spooked by something/loud noise, and is now anxious
- Dog that wasn’t socialized so never got used to daily life in our world
- Scared on walks
- Anxiety caused by vision/hearing loss
- Older dog suffering from dementia
- Suddenly become nervous or frightened but you can’t figure out why
This should not replace veterinary advice, nor prevent you from giving prescribed medication. This list presents you with options that can often be used in conjunction, and over time may even allow you to reduce the dosage needed…only on the advice of your vet of course!!
NOTE: Before you give your dog any supplements, please check with your vet to make sure he or she feels it is safe, and won’t interfere with any medication given.
NOTE: The products below have all been recommended by owners of anxious dogs. It’s important to mention, not every product will work on every dog so sometimes it’s a case of trial and error, as well as finding the right combination for your pup.
NOTE: There may not be a lot of scientific evidence to back up efficacy claims for natural products, but there is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence.
NOTE: There are affiliate links here, so if you buy something I may receive a small commission. This has no effect on the price you pay, but does allow me to keep bringing you helpful content.
22 Ways to calm your anxious dog naturally
The Thundershirt is a calming wrap that creates gentle, constant pressure to calm anxious dogs (and cats!). I know many people who have used it for their anxious dogs and have seen big improvements. It’s definitely worth looking into.
Rescue Remedy Pet
A liquid blend of 5 Bach Flower Remedies, this is an all-natural alcohol free product that helps calm stressed and anxious dogs. To learn more about Rescue Remedy Pet visit their website. For general information about Bach Flower Remedies, and their full product line (including for adults and children), please click this link.
CBD oil or Cannabidiol, comes from cannabis, and even though it comes from the marijuana plant it won’t get your dog high because it doesn’t contain THC.
One benefit many dog parents have found is a reduction in their dogs’ anxiety levels.
It’s important to note not all CBD oil is created equal, and a lack of regulation means quality will vary. When searching for a brand, be sure to choose one that is third party tested. A holistic vet I spoke to recommended organic.
The brands I’ve listed below are all recommended by real users, but you should still do your own research.
NOTE: Not all brands will be available where you live
- American Shaman
- Blooming Culture
- Bluebird Botanicals
- Canna-Pet (they also have biscuits your dog may prefer)
- CBD Brothers (UK)
- Creating Brighter Days (Canada)
- Endo Blend
- Hemp My Pet
- Lazarus Naturals
- Pet Releaf
- Pure Life (UK)
- Simply CBD (UK)
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea leaves, and has been shown to reduce anxiety in dogs. “It is thought to increase levels of dopamine and GABA in the brain, though there is differing opinions on how the substance affects serotonin levels. These chemicals play a role in mood, and can affect how anxious a dog feels.”
A UK natural supplement to help anxious dogs. When my dog Red was anxious due to dementia, this is one of the products I used. For more information about this and other products in their line, visit their website.
“A dog-friendly plant with a distinctive lemon-mint fragrance and flavor, lemon balm is best known as a nervine, a calming herb that soothes and relaxes.”
Read this ⇒ “Ways to Use Lemon Balm on Dogs“
Adaptil mimics the dog appeasing pheromones released by mothers that help calm puppies. It is available as a plug in, spray or collar. The plug in refills last for 30 days before they need to be replaced. It should also be used in the room where your dog spends the most time. Visit their website to learn more about their range of products and how they can help.
Relax Herbal Supplement by Dr Harvey
Easy to use powder sprinkled on food, containing a blend of ingredients such as: Alfalfa, Kelp, Flaxseed, Spirulina, Chamomile, Catnip Leaf, Valerian Root and Skullcap. I know a lot of people that love the Dr Harvey range, so please visit their website to learn more. You can also purchase this supplement directly from there.
Calm by JustFoodForDogs
This is another popular calming supplement, and one which many senior dog parents I know see great results with. It’s not just for old dogs though! Please visit their website to learn more and to order.
Lavender essential oil
“Well known for its incredible calming properties for humans, lavender is one of the best essential oils to use with an anxious, depressed or hyperactive pup – and is also an excellent sleep aid if your dog has insomnia. It can be used to condition dogs to a safe space too.”
It’s worth reading this study about the effects of lavender on dogs that are anxious on car rides – “Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs”
This article from the Sonoma Lavender Co gives examples on how best to use it
Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy
Valerian/Valerian and Skullcap
Valerian root is known for its sedative qualities, Skullcap is a plant with anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacteria, anti-histamine and sedative properties. Valerian can be found on its own, or with Skullcap, which may be more effective for very anxious dogs. It is available in human and pet formulations, and while human valerian can be given (check with your vet!!), it’s usually easier to measure dosages with the pet varieties.
It can be found in most health food stores, and do a search for where to find it in your local area.
For UK readers, visit the Dorwest Herbs website to see their full range of natural products, including Valerian.
Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body, and when taken as a supplement can help with anxiety. It is safe to give your dog the human variety, or you can buy treats that contain it. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian first to discuss brand and dosage, and to ensure it won’t conflict with any other medications your dog is taking.
“Zylkene is a calming supplement that contains a natural ingredient derived from a protein in milk called casein that has clinically proven calming properties to help relax cats and dogs.” This is another supplement I used for one of my anxious dogs, and it did help. Visit the manufacturer’s website for more information.
Through a Dog’s Ear
Through a Dog’s Ear is bio-acoustically engineered music, proven to help calm anxious dogs. This was a game changer for me in dealing with my dog’s dementia induced anxiety. The picture above is of my dog Red, sleeping after just a couple of minutes of listening to this CD. A 13 minute snippet can be found on Youtube, so try before you buy. Buy on Amazon
Quiet Moments Dog Calming Aid Soft Chews
These dog calming aids contain a variety of natural ingredients, including melatonin. Highly recommended by owners of anxious dogs of all ages, it comes with a money back guarantee. Follow the link to learn more about the product and company. Buy on Chewy.com or Amazon (only chewable tablets are available, chews are not in stock)
An essential oil with many health benefits, including managing stress, here’s how Dr Janet Roark, the “Essential Oil Vet” on FB recommended someone I know use it: 1 drop of oil in their food up to 3 times a day. Please consult with a holistic vet or an experienced canine herbalist for advice specific for your dog. This article will give you more information.
Sometimes anxiety is due to a lack of exercise, so take a look at how much your dog is getting. The frequency and intensity will depend on the individual dog, but ideally, aim for 2 good walks a day (20-30 minutes), not including any pee breaks an older or unwell dog may need. You will be amazed at how much that will help. Even when lack of exercise is not the cause of your dog’s anxiety, a walk or hike can definitely help!
There are an unlimited number of articles about the calming effects of massage on dogs. I’ve also known several people who massage their anxious dogs, and see significant improvements. Learn techniques by watching videos, ask your vet for advice, or hire a certified canine massage therapist to massage your dog regularly or show you how.
Visit The International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork / Association of Canine Water Therapy (IAAMB/ACWT) to find a practitioner near you.
Acupuncture is becoming more and more popular as a way to treat a variety of health conditions, most commonly joint pain. Did you know it can also help with anxiety? There are so many articles discussing the benefits, but this one was written by a vet discussing her experience, so I’m sharing it with you: “Acupuncture Helped My Anxious Dog”
Many vet practices offer acupuncture as part of their services, but if yours doesn’t or you’d like to choose your own, here are some good places to start.
Reiki (pronounced ray-key)
According to the International Center for Reiki healing – ”Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words – Rei which means “God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power” and Ki which is “life force energy”.
If you do an internet search for reiki for dogs, there is no shortage of testimonials on the wonders of this practice (on dogs and humans!) and its healing abilities both physically and emotionally.
Here are a couple of articles that may interest you:
To find a reiki animal practitioner near you, please visit Animal Reiki Source
NOTE: Use this as a resource only. Be sure to conduct your own due diligence on any practitioner you’re interested in working with.
If your dog is nervous in certain situations such as fireworks or thunderstorms, or even being in a crowd, then distraction can work wonders. Engaging your dog’s brain in work will help him focus on you and things he knows, rather than on the unknown around him that’s frightening him. While it isn’t the time to begin new training, it is a great time to practice tricks your dog knows and can earn rewards for. Try rewarding your dog with treats for simple commands like sit, stand, lie down, roll over and other tricks he enjoys.
Another possibility, especially for dogs who are highly food motivated, is distracting your dog with puzzle toys like a treat ball, a frozen Kong stuffed with peanut butter or a snuffle mat. This can also help him associate frightening things like loud noises or strangers coming over with highly valued rewards, so that the event goes from being scary to being at least tolerable.
So there you have it! My 22 ways to naturally calm your anxious dog. I’d love to hear what you try and how successful it was. Sharing helps others, so please let us know below.
If there is a product, or more than one you use that isn’t listed here, leave that below as well.
I am a dog trainer and pet bereavement counselor, offering a senior dog care support service. I help with everything from health and wellness advice and training tips, to preparing to say goodbye and grief counseling.
All sessions are conducted via Zoom, at a time convenient for you.