Dogs’ lives are filled with more than just belly rubs, shadow chases, and playing fetch; they also suffer from anxiety as people do. So we’re digging our paws into the facts and laying out everything you should know about canine anxiety – including a musical remedy you and your pet can relax to.
Anxiety spurs itself in dogs for a variety of reasons: loud, sudden noises, boredom, separation from owners for long periods of time, as well as picking up on their owner’s anxiety. “Due to the release of cortisol, anxiety runs ‘down the leash,’” says Dr. Celina Hatt of Pawsh Place Veterinary Center & Boutique. “Dogs can sense fear and anxiety through their noses.”
Identifying your dog’s anxiety is also important, but a little trickier than you’d think. “Signs of anxiety include: lip-smacking, yawning, drooling, pacing whining, barking, panting, changes in body posture and ears,” Dr. Hatt takes a breath and continues. “Changes in body function (nervous peeing/pooing), shedding, avoidance, digging, circling, sniffing the ground in a nervous situation. It’s like they’re going to a happy place and have something to do.”
Perhaps the most notorious form of anxiety dogs face is that of separation anxiety. Due to their instinctual pack-mentality, being separated from you makes them feel like their life is in danger. They want to be with their pack, and unfortunately can’t understand that we’ll return after work or a vacation.
While this may appear to be an unavoidable dilemma, it’s actually time for anxiety to face the music. As it turns out – thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and researchers at the University of Glasgow – dogs dig music. More specifically, reggae, classical, soft-rock, and Motown.
Their research showed that kennel dogs listening to these specific genres of music had a decrease in heart rates and cortisol levels. Another key to lowering stress was variability in the playlist in order to avoid habituation. Because – let’s face it – dogs get bored and may be hounding for Mozart one day and Bob Marley the next.
Not every genre works, however. For example, heavy metal is filled with sudden, loud noises that spur anxiety. It’s also important to remember to keep the volume at medium or low. Think of it as creating a relaxed, coffee-shop atmosphere for your pooch.
Along with this music therapy, there are additional factors and remedies to know about. Cue Dr. Hatt. “Know the breed! There are some dogs that need jobs. Some need exercise and others some sort of ‘puzzle exercise.’ It’s important to know that about your pet,” said Dr. Hatt dropping knowledge like a microphone. “Massages, contact, calming coats, and personal meditation time! Get yourself calm, if you’re anxious about life, your pet could be too. Partner up and relax together.”
With this in mind, Pawsh Place has created a Spotify playlist titled “Canine Unwind.” Filled with a variety of songs, this playlist is the perfect way to unwind with your dog. If you’re unsure about music therapy – or any other stress-relieving remedies – consult your veterinarian for the green light.
Lastly, these remedies are NOT a guarantee to lower your dog’s anxiety levels. But they are avenues into your pet’s wellness that are worth exploring.
Celina Hatt D.V.M.