1. Bribe’em. A well-placed incentive can help a dog or cat over-come her fear of the crate, the scale at the vet’s office, or your new boyfriend. Take a food your pet goes nuts for, like chicken, and cut it into tiny pieces. Then drop the bits about two inches apart in a line that leads up to whatever she’s avoiding. Over time, she’ll start to associate it with the sheer joy of getting a treat.
2. Turn on some tunes. In two studies, researchers cranked up different types of music for pooches and checked their heart rate and other measures of stress as they listened to it. The result: Dogs were less anxious when music was on, and they were especially Zen when classical, soft rock, and reggae played. Try one of those options the next time you want your pup to simmer down. Another good bet? Audio books. A steady, peaceful voice reading aloud has proven very effective in helping dogs relax.
3. Respect their boundaries. If crowded areas turn your pooch into a scared-cat, shift your walks to a quieter, less populated route. And if he hates being patted by randoms, kindly ask strangers to keep their hands to themselves. After all, we wouldn’t let people we don’t know touch or hug our kinds. “I preemptively tell people who are walking toward my dog that he’s fearful and we’d appreciate it if they gave him space, it’s OK to speak up for your pet and be their advocate.”
4. Designate a chill spot. Think of it as a safe place for your pet to go when he’s feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes dogs and cats need a mental break just as much as we do. Pick a cozy space in your home that your pooch or kitty will find comfortable (or follow their lead-they may well have already found a spot all on their own) and stick some instant soothers there, like a comfy bed, calming music, or a pheromone diffuser.
5. Keep’em busy. Boredom can trigger anxiety in some animals and lead to behavioral problems, like when your cat stalks and bites you or your dog tears up your sofa cushions. That’s one reason why you should get your canine friends panting-tired every day. Though to play it safe, start out slow and gradually increase the amount of time or level of difficulty-don’t begin with long. To keep your favorite feline stimulated: Make sure she has three different toys each day. When the day is done, put those toys away and pull down three different ones. Keep the toys out of rotation for five days to help keep your cat interested in them.
6. Leave plenty of time for potty breaks. Let your dog take her sweet time sniffing around during walks or when she’s using the loo. One of the worst things for an anxious pup is to have a hurried pet owner jerking their leash every other step. Dogs carefully plot where to poo, since it sets up boundary borders with other dogs. So don’t be in a big hurry to have Fido ‘slump and dump’ on a potty break. Plus, since pooches are hardwired to pick up all sorts of information from odors, their stopping to nose around a signpost, fire hydrant, or tree is like our checking email or scanning the day’s news. Don’t cut off their CNN.
7. Help them deal with noise. Whether it comes from fireworks or a vacuum cleaner, it can be a huge source of anxiety for your pet. A compression vest like Thunder Shirt may put some cats and dogs at case-it applies gentle pressure to an animal’s torso, similar to how you’d swaddle a baby, for a calming effect. And if your dog panics during thunderstorms, try using toys and games like tag and fetch to change her mood. It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re having a good time. Remember to get excited yourself, so she’ll pick up on your vibe, and start early before the storm hits its peak. The bottom line: Have a few strategies ready. If you notice your pet reacting to loud noises, it’s important to address his fear as soon as possible, these reactions tend to get worse over time and eventually your pet may even startle at smaller noises.
8.Don’t be Old Yeller. Shouting at pets might teach them to suppress an inappropriate behavior in the short term, but relying on it or any other harsh forms of discipline could literally come back to bite you. It raises their anxiety and fear levels and may increase their aggressive behavior toward you or other family members. Encourage the heck out of them by using positive reinforcement-in other words, dole out treats and praise when they choose a chew toy over your new shoes. If you like what your dog is doing and you want him to do more of it, you must reward him. Pile on the praise immediately, though, so he associates all the love with his good behavior.
9. Play scratch and sniff. Have an anxious car-riding pooch? One way to reduce travel-related stress is to use a scent that dogs find calming, like lavender or chamomile, or a synthetic dog pheromone, like Adaptil-it mimics the smell mother dogs give off to calm their newborn pups. Spritz in your car about 15 minutes before you start on your trip, a certified dog timer. Cats, on the other hand, may get more out of sniffing their own personal scents, so stick an item like a blanket or towel that they’ve napped on it their carries the next time you’re driving to the vet or a vacation spot.