How To Calm an Anxious Dog With Training & Medicine

4 min read
Aug 07, 2023

Does your dog have limitless energy? Are they unable to settle down regardless of how much exercise they get? A dog’s hyperactivity can be a way of expressing anxiety. The good news is there are plenty of ways to help your anxious dog. Read more to learn what anxiety looks like in dogs and how to calm an anxious dog.

How To Recognize Anxious Dog Symptoms

Your dog’s body language can tell you a lot about what they’re feeling or experiencing. If your canine companion displays one or more of the following behaviors, there’s a chance they may suffer from canine anxiety:1

  • Aggression or destruction
  • Depression
  • Constant barking
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Repetitive behaviors (such as licking or chewing)
  • Having accidents in the house
  • Anorexia
  • Panting or drooling
  • Trembling, shaking, or low body posture
  • Fear related to loud noises (such as thunderstorms or fireworks)
  • Discomfort when you prepare to leave the home

Why Do Some Dogs Get Anxious?

Anxiety is a normal response to an unknown situation that the body perceives as threatening. While anxiety can have many triggers, the most common causes of dog anxiety are separation from their owner or family members, aging that causes cognitive decline, and general fear.1 Keep in mind that, while no two dogs are the same, genetics, maternal separation, lack of socialization, and previous encounters with unpleasant stimuli can all influence a dog’s propensity for anxiety.1

What are some anxious dog breeds?

A recent study that looked at the behavior of dog breeds in Finland found certain breeds to be more prone to anxious behaviors. While specific behaviors can vary between breeds, you may find that mixed breeds, miniature Schnauzers, Shetland sheepdogs, Lagotto Romagnolos, Wheaten terriers, Spanish water dogs, and various shepherd breeds can be more anxious.2

Certain dog breeds can have a tendency to be more energetic than others. In many cases, breed-related temperament traits, including high energy and anxiety, can be due to years of human breeding for selected traits.

How To Help an Anxious Dog

If you think your dog has anxiety, consider setting up an appointment with your veterinarian. Your vet will attempt to rule out any underlying medical conditions to provide the best treatment options for your dog. Treatment may include medications, training, or both.

Medication for anxious dogs — like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or antidepressants, such as Trazadone — may be prescribed to help fearful pups settle.1 They may be given regularly for general anxiety or as-needed if you know your dog will encounter an anxiety-inducing situation. Your vet may also recommend natural remedies like pheromone therapy, aromatherapy, or special diets and supplements to help reduce anxiety.1

Your dog’s treatment plan will likely begin with identifying what triggers their anxiety so you can prevent future anxious behaviors. If triggers can’t be avoided, knowing how to calm down an anxious dog through training can help you provide a happy and peaceful existence for both you and your pup. Easy fixes like weighted blankets, body wraps, or letting your dog eat grass can help calm them down in the short term, but they may not be effective long-term solutions. Here are five helpful tips for managing your anxious dog at home.

1. Tap into your dog’s breed instincts

Do a little research into the history of your dog’s breed or mix of breeds. You can use this information to tap into your dog's instincts by finding activities that harness their natural energy.

For example, if you have a dog who’s bred to be active — such as a herding breed or sighthound — you may just need to add some physical and mental stimulation into their daily routine to satisfy their natural desire for a job. Put them to task and watch them thrive!

2. Provide physical and mental stimulation

Many people believe that physical exercise is the only way to release extra energy, but it’s best to challenge the mind along with the body!

Walking, hiking, or jogging with an active pup is a great way to tire them out and release some of that anxious energy. However, many active and anxiety-prone dogs require mental stimulation just as much as physical exercise. Try some physical play that forces your pooch to think or figure out a small puzzle to engage both their brain and muscles.

There are also many canine sports out there for you and your pup to try. If your dog doesn’t seem interested in one sport, keep trying others until you find one that fulfills your pet’s needs and brings them joy.

3. Train your dog to work for things they want

Require something from your dog before they get what they want. Whether your dog wants a treat, to play, or to go outside, have them work a little bit for it. You can teach them to sit and stay while you walk through entrances first, then give them the “okay” signal to follow. Or you could have them do a trick before you give them their favorite treat. The mental stimulation will keep them focused and on their toes — helping to keep anxious tendencies at bay.

4. Ditch the food bowl

Rather than feeding your dog their entire meal from a bowl, bring their food with you and work on some training. Start by spending 15 minutes a day practicing commands your dog has learned, then reinforce their positive behavior with their food.

Once your dog gets the idea, introduce new commands, tricks, and other skills. This is an exciting way to keep your dog mentally active and less focused on anxiety triggers. Not only does it strengthen the human-canine bond, but it’s also a fun way to turn mealtime into active time.

You could also try using toys like puzzle feeders and treat dispensers. They’re great options for mental stimulation on days when you don’t have time to train with every meal. Consider beginning with easy puzzle games, so your dog doesn’t become frustrated and lose interest.

5. Try activities that involve your dog's sense of smell

A dog’s nose is tens of thousands of times more sensitive than a human’s nose. This is because dogs have significantly more scent receptors than we do. Exercising this portion of your dog’s brain is a good way to round out their daily stimulation. Try hiding pieces of kibble around the house, and encourage your dog to follow their nose. This activity engages both their mind and body.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Anxiety Medication & Treatment?

Whichever methods you choose to help manage your dog’s anxiety, you’ll likely need to budget for them. Dog vet exams can cost between $50 and $250. Medication for anxious dogs, like Trazodone, along with alternatives, like CBD treats and oils, can become a monthly expense. And if you want to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer, that could cost around $150 – $4,000.

A MetLife Pet dog insurance policy could help cover some of these costs, and our optional wellness plan may offer coverage for behavior training related to anxiety.

For example, a MetLife Pet member in California was reimbursed nearly $3,200 for their dog’s behavior training.3 Another member, located in Virginia, gets about $280 reimbursed for their dog’s recurring anxiety medication.3 Fetch a free quote today to see your personalized rates for a MetLife Pet Insurance policy.

Help Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy


**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Behavioral Problems of Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual

2 “Prevalence, comorbidity, and breed differences in canine anxiety in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs,” Scientific Reports

3 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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