We can all agree that dogs aren’t just our best friends, they’re big parts of our family. Yet, just like our family, it can be extremely alarming when they show signs of distress and anxiety.
It’s particularly stressful at night when it gets dark and they are often left to sleep by themselves. Being awoken by howling, barking, panting, and signs of panic isn’t good for your dog, and it isn’t good for you.
But it doesn’t mean your dog’s panic attacks at night can’t be resolved.
The following guide was written by a dog owner I know who’s experienced this problem. His dog has had periods of panic attacks at night and shown signs of anxiety, but they seem to be over it now and he has been kind enough to share the tips with us.
How to calm dog anxiety at night
Calming down an anxious puppy or older dog at night might seem like a tall order, but it can be simpler than you think. In my experience, the easiest way to calm a dog is to make sure that they are comfortable, they feel safe, and know when it’s time for bed, you’re not far away.
By doing this, your dog will be much calmer, helping them and you have a much easier night of sleep.
To make your dog feel calmer there are a number of things you can do which all go toward reducing any night-time anxiety.
1. Give them some tasty treats
A tried and tested way to calm your dog before bed is by using treats. We would fill a Kong toy with peanut butter or give our dog a hard chew. We found it would help calm him before bed. I don’t know why, but it seemed to help.
It could be that it distracts them from night-time noises or lights that are stressing them out. It may just simply tire them out. Regardless, treats are a great tool – you can buy the Kong toy on Amazon.
2. Make sure their bed is like a safe den
If we all look forward to jumping into our plush beds with a warm blanket at the end of the day, why wouldn’t our dogs? Dogs will naturally go to sleep wherever they feel most comfortable and safe.
By making sure their bed is comfy with cosy blankets to snuggle into, they can feel more comfortable, less exposed, and it will feel more like a safe den for them to hide in at night.
Depending on the bed, it also gives them a chance to sprawl out, or curl in a ball, depending on what they like best. This is also why so many anti-anxiety puppy beds have been made specifically to reduce anxiety – for example, this calming dog bed on Amazon.
Much like their blanket and bed, most dogs have their favorite toy. It helps to distract and relax them, particularly if it has familiar smells on it – like you!
The room they sleep in is also important. Dogs sleep best in a room that is dark, quiet, and moderately warm. Having these conditions in a room will help your pup feel a bit calmer and comfortable at night for improved sleep.
3. Let your dog sleep near you
On that note, we said that dogs prefer to go to sleep where they feel the most comfortable and safe. That’s why, one tool to reduce anxiety is to allow them to sleep near you. Without doubt, this is one of the most effective ways in how to stop separation anxiety in dogs at night.
This doesn’t mean let them sleep in your room or on your bed. I’ve found that dogs that sleep on the bed or in the room develop worse separation anxiety as they get older. So, having them just sleep within earshot will help a lot, and reduce their separation anxiety.
4. Give them before-bed cuddles or massages
Who doesn’t love massages and cuddles? In the past, if my dog has started to show signs of night-time anxiety, I quickly give him a cuddle and slow head rubs, ear rubs, or feet rubs.
This little massage routine can help calm an anxious dog at night as it puts them at ease and helps relax them before the anxiety gets bad. It also gives you a chance to let them know how much you love them!
5. Make sure they go out to the bathroom before bed
Dogs will often get anxious at night if they need to go and can’t get out of the house. Letting them out for a bathroom break right before bed is a good way to make sure they don’t have to worry about that (and, so they don’t get you up in the middle of the night).
6. Try separation training
This is more of a long-term option to calm an anxious dog at night. Most of the time, the panic is all down to separation anxiety. By starting distance training, you can take small steps in preventing your dog’s panic attacks at night.
There are more in-depth guides online like this one with the RSPCA.org, but in simply terms, have them in a room and leave them every so often, for varying amounts of time.
Eventually, your dog will understand that you will come back. So, at bedtime they know that you’ll still be there in the morning.
7. Tire your dog out during the day
Often times anxiety at night may simple be restlessness rather than anxiety that needs calming. This is why you need to make sure your dog gets out at least once a day for vigorous exercise.
8. Try a relaxing walk before bed
And on that topic, some dogs will benefit from activity later in the day. You can try playing later at night for a bit, or even going for a walk before bed. This could be all it takes to quell your dog’s anxiety and also tire them out a bit before bedtime.
9. Play calming music to your dog
Studies have shown that dogs find certain genres of music just as calming as we do. Not only can it distract them from scary outside noises, but it can help lower their heart rate, and raise cortisol levels.
Classical, soft rock, country, and reggae all tend to work the best and could help calm an anxious dog at night – but play it at low volumes so not to wake the neighbors!
Handy Hint: You can find out what music dogs like and why in my guide to leaving music on for your dogwhen you go out.
10. Don’t make a big deal of bedtime
One of the biggest mistakes that so many dog owners can make with puppy anxiety at night get into a state of high alert yourself. At bedtime, don’t start worrying about if your dog will stay up. Just put them in bed, give them food, water and a blanket, and go to bed. The less you stress, the less they will.
11. Give your dog a strict bedtime routine
One of the biggest causes of night-time anxiety in dogs is a lack of routine. Well behaved dogs are much better when they know where they stand with things.
Not knowing where they’ll sleep, when they’ll sleep, and where you’ll be at night can cause tremendous night-time anxiety and even panic attacks.
Having a simple routine, like going for a walk, having a quick cuddle, giving them water, and tucking them in can drastically reduce anxiety over time and means you won’t always need to calm them.
When you have the routine, try not to deviate from it.
This is especially true for puppies and older dogs. If your dog is just getting used to a routine, or finds comfort in an old one, it’s best to not change that routine. If you do, it can cause stress and anxiety for your dog.
Handy Hint: Often you will find that rescue dogs need calming at night due to anxiety. As well as these tips, you can also learn how to bond better with them.
12. Consider behavioral and phobia training
Training your dog to help them overcome fears at night is a big anxiety killer. Likewise, making sure that they are trained to not over exhibit signs of anxiety works well for night-time anxiety too.
Trainers do this by exposing the dog to noises and other phobias in a controlled environment, not encouraging the fear (by petting them when they get scared), and by training them to behave certain ways (positive reinforcement) at bedtime is sure to help keep them calmer.
13. Consider homeopathic sleep aids
Oils, ointments, sleep treats, and plenty of other natural remedies can help your dog get to sleep faster. Similar to aromatherapies, flower essences and natural essential oils applied to their head or nose, or even placed in their food can help calm them down for bedtime.
You can currently buy a rescue remedy for dogs on Amazon. It’s said to reduce stress in dogs who cannot sleep at night and struggle to relax.
14. Try anti-stress clothing
One of the more common causes of night-time anxiety is inclement weather. Namely, thunder.
Specific anti-stress clothing like thunder vests (view on Amazon), earmuffs, and head wraps can really help a dog overcome this anxiety, and be a lot more calm at night, especially during thunder, fireworks, or other noisy nights.
15. Talk with a vet about sleep medication
Sleep medication should really be a last resort for dogs. Melatonin, CBD oils, pheromones, and methionine are all supplements and sleep medications that can be acquired at most pet shops or dog shops.
They are generally very effective at reducing anxiety in dogs, but you shouldn’t jump to use sleep medication as soon as your dog seems anxious. You don’t know how your dog will react, so please talk with a vet first.
16. Lastly… always get professional advice from your vet
If you’ve tried most of the ideas on this list on how to calm an anxious dog at night, yet your puppy still shows anxiety, and just won’t sleep it may be time to consult your vet.
They can often get to the root of why your dog is so anxious at night, and what you can do to help, whether that be training, medication, therapy, or drug therapy for your dog.
There are many reasons why our dogs get so anxious at night. The anxiety may be physical or physiological (like PTSD or declining eyesight), it might be due to a medical condition, it could be a change in routine, or it could be based simply on new noises or previous experiences.
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