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You’re obsessed with the news. You’re not sleeping. Instead, you’ve binge-watched the first three seasons of Game of Thrones in one sitting. Your spouse (who’s working from home) is getting on your last nerve. To top it all off, your dog weirdly paces non-stop and just peed on the living room rug. Arrrgh!
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us can describe ourselves as freaked out. But what’s that got to do with your dog’s new behavior? He’s caught a whiff of your anxiety.
“Dogs sense our angst and can catch it,” explains Mary Beth Knowles, MA, CPDT-KA, owner of Canines Content Dog Training since 1994 in San Diego’s North County coastal area. “Years of cutting-edge research from Dr. Brian Hare at Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center has repeatedly shown that dogs are empathetic and experts at reading our body language and facial expressions. They know when we’re upset or anxious. Recent research also shows that dogs and their human’s cortisol levels—a hormonal stress marker—rise and fall in tandem.”
Things You Can Do Right Now to Soothe Your Dog’s Anxiety—and Yours, Too!
These simple ideas not only help your dog but will take your mind off what’s going on and provide some mutually mollifying activities:
- Stick to Your Routine: “Routine and consistency are essential for canines,” Knowles points out. “While routines are different now, being home all day and doing some fun things with your dog means that these times can be different in a good way.” Knowles recommends sticking to your regular walking, feeding, and play schedule, and if you can, add some more. Get outside as much as you can: a change of scene, fresh air, and sun will do you and your pup a world of good.
- Exercise Your Dog’s Brain: “Mental stimulation breaks the anxiety cycle,” recommends Knowles. “Try games like Hide and Seek and teaching vocabulary words associated with specific toys are good puzzles to help your dog think. Training sessions to learn new behaviors can keep your mind off your troubles and help your buddy.”
- Get (Even More) Physical: If you can’t go out as often as you’d like because of work duties, inside game breaks are the way to go. Knowles recommends simple things like toy toss and fetch games. Here’s an added treat: Pour a little chicken broth or dab some peanut butter into a KONG and freeze it overnight. Roll it, throw it, and then let your dog settle down and enjoy it. “Dogs love a Kong-sicle,” jokes Knowles. “And don’t forget to add some extra hug and petting time during the day.”
- Apply Gentle Pressure: If your dog is super-anxious, you can provide a long-lasting hug with a ThunderShirt or a soft human shirt tied snugly around your dog to provide some extra comfort.
- Natural Remedies: “In my work with dogs, I’ve found that vet- prescribed Omega-3 can act as a kind of natural Xanax,” says Knowles. “I also use lavender products or lavender diffusion products to calm even the most wired dogs. Natural pet-specific products provide the right dose to cool down your pup’s raw nerves.” There’s more to know—check out more information about Natural Remedies for Dog Anxiety.
- Aromatherapy: While playing with and caring for your dog can help, ultimately, you need to manage your stress. After all, your dog is picking up your energy. Aromatherapy can help calm and ease tension in both of you. When used correctly, it’s perfectly safe for your dog. You probably already know that lavender is great for creating a calm atmosphere. Did you know that you can also use vanilla, tangerine, and cypress oils to alleviate stress? Read theUltimate Pet Aromatherapy Guide for Dogs and Cats to learn how essential oils can help you and your pet.
Knowles has some last suggestions for humans, “Make a plan now and recruit a dog-loving friend or professional caretaker—it’s one less thing to fret about if you’re not well. And remember, most people come through Covid-19 just fine, and when you do, your faithful companion will celebrate getting back to normal with you.”
A devoted pet lover and fragrance expert, Gerrard Larriett uses his over 10 years of experience in the cosmetics industry to create a spa-inspired line of pet care products.