Cooped up inside?
Being stuck inside affects everyone, including your pup! Unfortunately, as we’ve learned in the last few years, there are times when it’s just not possible to get your dog out as much as they may need.
Having a few tricks up your sleeve for keeping your dog mentally stimulated, even without being able to leave the house, can make a world of difference in their (and your) life. We’ve got some tips and tricks for entertaining your dog and learning how to calm a dog down if their hyperactivity gets too much to manage.
New Games and Toys
Mental stimulation is crucial for every dog, from puppyhood through their senior years. One way you can do that without leaving your house is to introduce your dog to new games and toys designed to keep their brain sharp.
For example, try a “treasure hunt.” This activity involves hiding dog treats around the house and letting your dog sniff them out. Treasure hunts allow your dog to use their natural scenting skills while engaging them physically and mentally. If you have kids, you can even enlist them to help you set it up!
Don’t expect your dog to immediately “get it,” though. Start slow by hiding treats in more obvious places, use treats that you know your dog is motivated by, and help them out if they seem to be getting frustrated or confused. Some dogs just aren’t into this type of play, so don’t force it; there are plenty of other games to try!
You can also try a puzzle toy, which can also be used as a way to feed your dog or teach them some new moves. Both are extremely rewarding and calming for dogs while providing home-based exercise. Some breeds are better than others at learning tricks, but all dogs seem to enjoy the stimulation and interaction!
Exercise is imperative for both humans and our pets. Unfortunately, studies have shown that neither of us are getting enough of it.
While there’s no replacement for getting your dog outside for a walk or taking them to a dog park to run it out, there are ways that you can help your dog stay physically active even when you’re stuck indoors.
- Take the stairs – If you live in a home with stairs, a few trips up and down can help your dog burn off some excess energy. Try standing at the top of the stairs with their favorite treats or toy, then encourage them to run back down. The stairs may not be a great option for elderly dogs or those with orthopedic issues, however.
- Play fetch – You don’t have to go to the dog park to play a quality round of fetch with your dog. Even tossing the ball around in the living room or backyard can keep them active without requiring that you leave your home.
- Play tug of war – Your dog doesn’t have to run around to get exercise. A few rounds of tug of war can physically and mentally engage your dog, tiring them out and keeping them entertained simultaneously. Make sure not to use rope toys that fray, as they can quickly become hazardous.
Involve your dog in your yoga practice – Dogs doing yoga is a common sight on social media these days, and dogs love to be included in anything you do! While they won’t be able to do the same poses you do, they’ll definitely get in some activity and maybe even a greater sense of calm.
Keeping senior dogs engaged and calm presents its own set of issues. Older dogs can be extremely restless and have difficulty relaxing, especially at night. Many senior dogs have a tendency to pace, pant, and become agitated after the sun goes down, which can be equally as stressful on us as pet parents.
Learning how to calm down a dog that has entered their senior years can be challenging. However, you can easily adapt many of the same techniques used in younger dogs to help your older dog. The key is knowing your dog’s limitations and working with them, not against them.
One factor in helping your dog relax is ensuring they have a comfortable area to do it in. While younger dogs can and do sleep anywhere, older dogs need a lot more support. Orthopedic beds can help dogs with joint, hip, bone, and mobility issues sleep more comfortably, and better rest translates into a greater sense of calm during the day.
Your dog’s anxiety may also increase as they age due to a natural decline in their hearing and eyesight. Think about it — if you had a harder time seeing or hearing, you’d probably be a lot more nervous about what’s happening around you, too! While you can’t “fix” those issues, you can make sure your house is an accessible and safe place for them to get around and try hard not to accidentally sneak up on them (especially when they’re asleep).
What Are Some Signs Your Dog May Be Stressed Out?
Dogs can be hard to read sometimes, and every dog will show signs of stress differently. Learning how to identify your dog’s specific signs can help you get ahead of things, helping your dog calm down before their anxiety gets too out of control.
- Whining or barking – All dogs “talk,” but consistent, unrelenting whining or barking is a tell-tale sign that your dog may be experiencing a higher level of stress than normal. Sometimes, your dog may be whining or barking at the source of their anxiety, which can give you an idea of where to start helping to reduce it.
- Pacing – Anxiety comes with a lot of excess nervous energy, which is a major part of why exercise is crucial for helping your dog stay calm. If your dog doesn’t have a good avenue to channel their anxiety, they have to release it in other, less healthy ways. Pacing is just one way a dog uses their body language to show just how high their anxiety is.
- Changes in behavior – A relaxed dog and a stressed-out dog look different when compared side by side. While a relaxed dog will wag their tail and occasionally make eye contact with you, a stressed dog will often tuck their tail and exhibit something called “whale eye,” where they open their eyes wide enough that you can see most of their sclera (the whites of their eyes). Your dog’s ears may also be pinned back flat against their skull.
- Hiding – Stressed dogs may also hide, either behind their owners or in an out-of-the-way area. This dog behavior is most often exhibited when there is a specific situational trigger, like a repetitive loud noise.
- Panting – One final sign of stress in dogs is panting, especially if it isn’t hot in our home or outside. In this situation, it has nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with hyperventilation. Hyperventilation (or rapid breathing) is also common in humans with anxiety, so if your dog is panting for no apparent reason, they may be dealing with stress.
How To Calm Down a Dog
If you have a naturally hyperactive or anxious dog, it’s imperative you know how to help calm them down. While many dogs develop their own ways of self-soothing, these coping mechanisms are often unhealthy and may even become harmful if allowed to continue long-term.
A good place to start is by evaluating your dog’s environment to find what may be increasing their stress level. Different dogs have different triggers, and it may be worth consulting a canine behaviorist if you can’t figure out an apparent cause.
Once you’ve determined a cause for your dog’s hyperactivity or anxiety, the next step is to counteract it.
For example, does your dog have separation anxiety? They may benefit from desensitization and counterconditioning, techniques used to help reduce their response to being left alone. You can also try playing classical music when you’re gone, which can help them relax while blocking out loud noises that may trigger them. Kongs filled with peanut butter can also be a distraction, giving your dog something else to focus on rather than how much they miss you.
Does your dog feel scared during fireworks or thunderstorms? Try a Thundershirt, which helps calm the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and back your dog out of their “fight or flight” response by providing a soothing “hug.” Combine this with putting on some music or a white noise machine and moving your dog to an inner room, if possible, to reduce their exposure to their trigger even further.
Some dogs even benefit from touch therapy. Massaging your dog at specific pressure points known for increasing their sense of relaxation, like at the base of their spine, may help. Use firm, long strokes instead of quick pats, and always ensure your dog sees you coming and is comfortable with your touch. Don’t chase them if they try to get away from you at any point. Anxious dogs can quickly become fearful ones and may bite to protect themselves.
And finally, some people have luck using calming pheromones in the home to promote an overall sense of calm that works 24/7. These dog-appeasing pheromones can be used in a diffuser or as sprays, providing a calming effect. Certain essential oils can also help.
The Benefits of CBD + CBDA
CBD and CBDA can be beneficial in helping to learn how to calm down a dog. While it has been scientifically proven to help soothe feelings of stress on its own, it works even better when combined with creating a supportive environment for your dog. A multi-faceted approach is always best for helping your pet with any health or behavioral concern.
Different CBD + CBDA products work in different ways. Some are meant for temporarily stressful situations, like thunderstorms or vet visits, while others can be used more regularly to keep their day-to-day stress under control. However, neither of these products will cause sedation, making them the perfect wingman.
If you have questions about whether CBD + CBDA is right for your pet, check out our FAQ page or reach out. We’d love to answer any questions or just hear your stories about the difference that CBD + CBDA has made in your pet’s life.
To Sum It Up
All dogs have the potential to become hyper or stressed out, whether they’re young, old, or anywhere in between. Knowing how to calm down a dog when they do become anxious or hyperactive is a crucial part of pet parenthood.
After all, you’re the one your dog looks to for everything because, to them, you’re their whole world. While dogs can be hard to read, learning the signs of restlessness or stress in your pet can help you act quickly to return them (and you) to a state of calm.