Do you want to know how to calm a dog down? Dogs become over-excited, stressed and hyper for many reasons, dependent on lifestyle, experiences and personality. Below, you will find 7 tried and tested methods you can use to help calm your dog down.
How to calm a dog down – Your starting point
If you want to learn how to calm a dog down your ultimate goal should be to help your dog self manage situations and find a calm, still place within themselves.
Dogs feed off our emotions and body language constantly. They are learning all the time we are with them, regardless of whether we think we are teaching our dog or not. They receive information through body language, how something smells, heartbeats and even facial expressions.
In my opinion, the most important tools in education and retention of information are the teacher and diet. Be quietly confident, calm, patient, and mindful. Be in the moment and focus on the here and now to facilitate learning.
Start with how you’re feeling & where you are
- Your frame of mind and emotions can help to calm your dog. Your breathing, heart rate, and adrenaline levels. Calm and confident is key- Learn about a mindful approach to dog training
- When calming your dog, ensure the area around them is calm
- De-sensitize your dog to triggers – Learn about Trigger Stacking here
- Always walk them away from their fears. Instinctive flight option for any animal
- Calming music will be a great help – Dogs and Music, How and Why it Helps
- Ensure your dog has enough sleep
- Feed your dog a well-balanced diet – Learn more on how diet affects behavior
- If you say anything, focus on gentle, long vowel sounds, hum, yawn, or sigh.
- To help calm your dog always avert your eye contact. Natural Calming signals from dog to dog and also human to human and dog is to drop eye contact and remove intensity.
Your dogs diet, calming dog food can help
Aside from the actions you take, learning how to calm a dog down includes looking at your dog’s diet. It is well known that a healthy, natural diet can have a huge impact on physical and mental health.
It is well known that a healthy, natural diet has a huge impact on physical and mental health. Overly-processed dog food contains high levels of sugar, carbohydrates, preservatives, and artificial coloring.
Dogs, like humans, react to additives and sugars. It can make them hyper, unthinking, and reactive. If a dog cannot concentrate, they cannot learn and retain information efficiently.
How to calm a dog down – 7 top tips
1. Give your dog the ability to naturally rest
All the methods below are to help connect your dog to your calm so they are able mirror your calm emotion. The first most important measure you need to instill is that of natural rest and to log off your movement and triggers around.
In ours and all other animals too, the most important factor is safety and belonging. Within any species of animal there will always be a look out. The one who will alarm the others to threats to safety. You need to show your dog you’ve got safety covered and that you also do not need a shadow.
A happy dog is one who feels supported rather than the supporter. One who can rest in the knowledge that they are safe. My method to prevent constant following, separation anxiety and also to solve separation anxiety. It is key to provide a solid base from which to start when calming a dog down by showing them they can rest until it’s time to involve them in the fun things in life.
So this “Take The Sting Out Of Leaving” is where it all starts at home. Please do make this your priority from the moment you have a new puppy or dog in your life to help them relax, sleep, and become the best version of themselves. The following techniques are to bring back calm between moves when necessary and for using when your out and about.
2. Calm a dog down by averting eye contact & staying silent
It is amazing what happens when you take your focus off what your dog is doing. No verbal or eye contact reply.
- If your dog has attention-seeking behaviors, look away, read a book, or chat with a friend on the phone, or even walk out of the room/space completely. When the actor has no audience the behavior will cease.
- When we take the pressure off our dogs (avoiding eye contact and enable them to choose a more appropriate canine behavior) they are able to relax and calm themselves naturally. We just need to give them the opportunity. Patience is key
3. Calm a dog down with a calm touch using your palm
If your dog continually paces around the room (not necessarily invading your space (remember point 2 above, no eye contact or speech) place your palm on the side of their body (close to their front legs or ribs). This will help them to calm down… sometimes they just need permission to chill.
Refrain from reaching out to grab your dog, it may make them back off. Instead, look down and touch the floor, this will encourage your dog to come closer, as dogs are naturally inquisitive! You can then place your palm on their sides with ease.
Have you also noticed that your dog loves the inside of their back leg touched or massaged? Place the palm of your hand here also and you will see their head droop in calmness.
Remember, eye contact and voice are disruptive to create calm and stillness. Hold your friend and be there for them. Human and dog.
4. Calm your dog down with movement – The calm walk
In your home or out and about. Pop your dog on their lead and gently move from side to side away from the trigger of alarm. Do not pressure or drag your dog. If they stop simply angle the lead down, keep pressure on and avert eye contact.
They will decide to move. At home, If they lay down then job done. If they get up again continue and guide towards their rest place. Slight tension on the lead and they will lay down. Keep hold for a few moments then drop the lead to the floor gently. When you’re out on a walk you’ll need to move your dog and so walk in and round which will encourage them to get up and get going again.
When they walk with you, gently and connected, give them calm verbal praise (elongated words with soft vowel sounds), gentle touch or both. You will find what works for your individual dog best as you proceed.
“I find using long vowel sounds and zero eye contact very effective when calming your dog. It’s natural action dogs do when they calm possible heated situations down, so taking a leaf out of the canine language. But we as humans do it too, we drop eye contact to prevent us looking too intense or impatient, and when we take a pause to think. We are so much like dogs and dogs so much like us”Caroline Spencer, B&D Behaviourist
For some dogs, your voice, touch, and eye contact all at once may be too much. Perhaps limit it to one of these, to begin with.
5. Gently ‘step in’ towards your dog to calm them down
When your dog jumps up, gently step in. No eye contact no verbal correction. They will step down.No attention for the behavior and they will modify their approach to a more respectful encounter. Keep going it takes time for some. Dogs jump up when they are over-excited or stressed. More info on how to stop dogs jumping up
6. You may need to remove yourself from the situation
If your dog does not get the message when you enter and continues to jump etc. and calm walk turns into a tug of war. The best move you can make is to leave the room and shut the door. If your dog darts in front of you through the door, simply shut the door. You’re separated.
If behavior like this is arising out and about You will need to bring education right back home and into the house and garden and move out slow but sure into the wider world as you and your dog connect and understand each other better. Concentrating on “The Five To Thrive” in my book “Why Does My Dog Do That?” Which gives you a huge understanding of how dogs see the world and how best to make their lives complete.
7. Walk your dog away from their fears
To calm your dog down, you need to remove them from the triggers of their anxiety. Whether a dog barks or lunges, they are reacting to a trigger, whether in excitement or anxiety.
We need to help our dogs exhibit more self-control to avoid undesirable behaviour and give them the space and ability to choose a more appropriate canine behaviour. Distance is key when we talk about socializing in the outside world and even in our homes when the postman calls or friends visit.
Flee, freeze, fiddle / faff about and Fight is what keeps us all safe. However it’s always desirable for human or dog to chose the option that keeps us out of harms way. Distance from new things or triggers will help you and your dog assess from and safe place and then carry on with you day and move away.
If a friend then to approach in a respectful manner. Remember your friends may not be your dog’s friends for whatever reason. Respect space and ask your friend not to bend down and stroke your dog unless they step back and call. If the dog accepts the invitation all good. If they do not it’s also all good. Hear your dog, be your dog’s guardian and mentor.
How to calm a dog down on a walk
- Walk your dog away from triggers of anxiety before your dog reacts. Help them remain focused on you
- Work at home with the above methods and your dog will become more sensible when out and about
- Work on a great mental connection with your dog, as this helps them to connect much more with you Teach Your Dog to Stop Pulling on Their Lead
- Proceed in low stimulus locations and build up to higher stimulus locations as your dog’s connection with you gets stronger. Be prepared to go back a step or two to revise and consolidate learned behaviors
Why isn’t my dog calm?
If you want to know how to calm your dog down, you need to establish the root cause.
Dogs need to feel safe and understood. To truly connect with them on their level, we need to do more and say less. The Five To Thrive in Caroline’s Book “Why Does My Dog Do That?” is the foundation to help a dog become calm and content in our world.
Reactions can be as a result of one or more of the following reasons:
Processed food containing high levels of sugar is one reason that your dog may not be calm.
Calm canine signals
Dogs talk to each other using many simple and intricate signals. Their communication encompasses the whole body, from nose to tail. We can help our dogs feel less anxious by using a few of these communication techniques to our advantage.
Face away from your dog, leaving them with a side-on view of your face. Yawn and take a deep breath followed by relaxed release of air from your lungs. This is similar to the one dogs do when they lay down to chill.
A yawn can also mean your dog is stressed. It’s your whole stance, feel and smell that makes a difference in the message you wish to convey.Brenda Aloff
If you’d love to learn more about these signals do look at Brenda Aloffs Book “Canine Body Language”
Paws for thought: Watch dogs communicate with each other, observe their body language. Humans communicate using body language more than we consciously accept. Dogs can tell when you aren’t calm, which will perpetuate their anxious or hyper behaviour. Keep calm and make great decissions.
Natural dog calming products
When dogs are showing signs of stress, anything from salivating excessively, pacing, whimpering, howling, jumping up, tail chasing, and being huddled in a corner, it’s worth looking for extra help. Here are a few examples of my favourite dog calming products:
A lady by the name of Temple Grandin wrote a book called “Animals make us Human”. An absolutely fascinating read. Temple is an expert in the therapeutic benefits of a hug and the inspiration behind the T Touch body wrap. You can read more about the wrap here.
Calming herbs can help many an anxious dog during stressful times. These can be particularly useful during firework season and throughout thunderstorms.
Studies show that certain types of music can help to calm and relax a dog. Classical music, and especially Mozart, has the right sound waves, as well as Lisa Spector, pianist, and co-founder for “Through A Dogs Ear”. For more explanation on this, view the video from Joshua Leeds where he explains how they came up with the idea and how it works. When you listen to music, you too will get that super calm feeling. Pop it on and see how it helps your pooch.
Common behaviors of anxious & hyper dogs
Over-stimulated and anxious, jumping up or biting in play
We hear stories of play getting out of hand with dogs all the time. When we play a highly stimulating game for too long, it can become too much to handle for certain personalities and ages. For example, if you play fetch too much, your dog can suddenly go from being happy and playful, to a hyper, biting bundle of fluff. This is because it has gone from thoughtful play to feeding the urge to prey or hunt.
Ensure you allow for calm time with your dog too. If your dog is obsessed with a game, play it once a week and find alternative interactive, calmer games to engage their thinking brain as opposed to only their reactionary side.
Respectful play between two dogs is a non-contact sport, with intermittent break off time when it seems to get a little heated. Play fair and remain mindful of how your dog is responding to external stimuli.
Do you have or know a dog that barks at anyone coming home or at any visitor entering or passing by your house?
This dog is highly alert to change and possibly concerned about the outcome. They may also be an attention seeker who needs to be involved in any situation, one with no social skills, or lacking patience.
Aggressive behaviors, lunging or biting
Some owners say their dog is random and unpredictable in their behaviour towards only some people and some dogs. They show aggression or intimidating behaviours such as barking, jumping up and mouthing or lunging towards them. Some will stare and hold themselves still. Other dogs will resort to a bite, or a full on attack.
These behaviours can be triggered by proximity, the shape of a dog, or the scent of that particular dog. There are even dogs who get upset when people wear a hat or sunglasses. Dogs read our faces and if they can’t see them it’s a big problem for some. Consider how difficult you find it to talk to someone with very dark sunnies. It is so much more intimidating for a dog.
We can’t all like everyone and everything we encounter, nor should we. Nor should dogs. We expect too much. Walk away from triggers of fear with whoever you are with, using your dog’s likes and dislikes as a guide. We all instinctively use flight and fight responses to varying degrees, whether it is verbally or physically.
Scared and anxious dogs
Whether your dog is scared of fireworks, bins, vans or other dogs, they will exhibit behaviours that tell you subtly something is wrong. When the trigger of your dog’s anxiety is too close for comfort, your dog’s behaviour will intensify. Dogs need space, some more than others. Some may fear being alone while others may experience the opposite. Fear may be irrational in our minds, but dogs see life in black and white… in their eyes, it’s right or it’s wrong.
When dogs react, we need to be proactive in order for them to take comfort in the knowledge that we make great decisions, predominantly for safety.
If a dog’s anxieties have gone unheard then the intensity increases until your dog is almost uncontrollable with fear. Responses can include manic barking, squealing, lunging, tail chasing, pacing, mounting, licking, mouthing and barging, to name a few.
How do you know if your dog is happy?
Now you know how to calm a dog down, let’s take a quick look at the essential core of dog behaviour. In essence, a happy dog is one which does not react in an excitable (often undesirable) manner when their environments change.
A calm dog will be able to switch off and relax between activities, such as playtime, walks, enrichment, feeding, and grooming. They won’t feel the need to bark every time they see a new person or vehicle on a walk. Neither will they feel the need to leap and jump at you and others. A relaxed dog will feel supple and their skin will easily move over their body when massaged.
Dog’s behavior Is talking
Understand that your dog’s behaviour is them telling you how they feel. They wear their emotions on their sleeves. If you want to know how to calm a dog down, try to understand what your dog is telling you with their behaviour.
When we show our dogs they are understood, they feel supported. With this knowledge, they will learn to trust you more and as a result, will become more thoughtful and display more calm behaviour.
This means less management required from you and more self-control exhibited by your dog, meaning you can spend less time worrying about how to calm a dog down and more time enjoying your time with them. The Five To Thrive in Caroline’s “Book Why Does My Dog Do That?” is designed to help you and your dog connect in a way they truly instinctively understand.