What are the best games to play with my anxious dog?

What are the best games to play with my anxious dog?

Games can be great for helping an anxious dog build confidence and feel better in their day to day life. With that in mind, this article will review:

  • Signs your dog may be anxious
  • How you can help your dog overcome their anxiety
  • How to play The Mouse Game
  • How Find It and snuffle mats encourage sniffing and relaxation
  • What other pet parents are asking about anxiety

Signs your dog may be anxious

Signs that your dog may be suffering from anxiety include:

  • Aggression
  • Urinating or defecating in the house
  • Drooling or panting
  • Destructive behavior
  • Depression
  • Excessive barking
  • Increased vigilance
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Repetitive or compulsive behaviors

How you can help your dog to overcome their anxiety

To help alleviate your dog’s anxiety, there are a few things you can do:

  • Create a predictable schedule. This includes feeding, walking, and playing with your dog at the same times each day. This will help your dog feel better about their home environment and bring down their general anxiety.
  • Play games that build confidence and encourage sniffing. Games like The Mouse Game and Find It will help your dog relax by encouraging sniffing and build self-confidence by helping them focus on having fun in the moment.
  • Counter conditioning your dog to feel differently about the people, places or things causing their anxiety. For example, if your dog feels anxious when you leave the house, pair your departure with good things, like a work to eat toy (like a Fun feeder, KONG classic toy or Toppl) every time you leave.
  • Introduce dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) products to fight anxiety. DAP products emit the same pheromone that is present in a mother dog's milk and can calm and soothe both puppies and adult dogs. A DAP heat-activated pheromone collar combined with at least one natural supplement like Solliquin, Zylkene or Quiet Moments can help ease your dog’s anxiety. Other natural stress reducers include the DAP wall diffuser plugin, which you can plug in to a wall outlet close to where your dog spends the most amount of time.
  • Consider hiring a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT). These trainers specialize in helping dogs with separation anxiety. To find a trainer near you, ask your veterinarian.

Build confidence and encourage playfulness with The Mouse Game

The Mouse Game is a great game to help your dog focus, and it can be especially helpful to build confidence and encourage playfulness in dogs that are fearful or nervous. To play the game:

  1. Show your dog a treat and then make a fist with your hand around the treat
  2. Bring your hand down to the ground
  3. Move your hand back and forth, and then flick the treat so that your dog has to chase it. To keep your dog on their toes, flick the treat in a different direction each time!

Help your dog relax by playing games that encourage sniffing

Games that encourage your dog to sniff and use their nose are great for reducing stress. This is because sniffing helps regulate their breathing, relaxes their circulatory system, and thus makes your dog feel more relaxed. A couple of games and products that encourage sniffing include:

  • Find It. To play, simply toss a treat on the ground and say "Find it". Do this multiple times so that your pup gets ample opportunities to sniff.
  • Snuffle mats. A snuffle mat is essentially a small shag rug that enables your pup to forage and use their paws and nose. To use a snuffle mat, sprinkle kibble and/or small pieces of treats on the mat. Use your hands to distribute the treats across the mat and under pieces of the shaggy fabric.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Your Dog Impulse Control

Should my anxious dog play with other dogs?

As long as the cause of your dog’s anxiety isn’t the presence of other dogs, you can explore finding them a playmate. The key to finding a suitable playmate is facilitating a slow introduction between the dogs and ensuring the other dog is calm, similar in size and energy levels. If either dog shows signs of stress, separate them immediately.

At what age do dogs develop anxiety?

While dogs can develop anxiety at any age - especially if the anxiety is the result of a traumatizing event - most dogs that are going to develop anxiety or separation anxiety will do so before the age of two.

What triggers anxiety in dogs?

Anxiety can be triggered by many things such as being left alone, strangers, loud noises, unfamiliar places, kids, other animals, etc. The key to treating your dog’s anxiety and helping them feel better, is to determine the cause of their anxiety, practice counter conditioning techniques, and be patient with your dog.