The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Calming an Anxious Dog at Night


Does your dog get anxious when the sun goes down? If so, you’ll know all about just how stressful it can be for your pooch and how exhausting it can be for you as an owner. You’re not alone— many dogs have trouble settling down in the evening and it can be difficult to get a good night’s rest. 

While knowing that other dog owners experience the same problem is morbidly comforting, it doesn’t make your situation any less frustrating. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to make night times more relaxing and enjoyable for you and your pooch. As long as you’re prepared to put in the effort to add a few extra steps to your bedtime routine, this guide can help both you and your dog to get a great night’s sleep.

What are the signs of a nervous dog?

Different dogs portray their anxiety and stress in different ways. Understanding how your dog expresses his nerves is the first step to helping them relax. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Overall tense body
  • Tail between legs
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Ears folded tightly back
  • Pulled back lips
  • Licking lips
  • Eyes showing white part (whale eyes)
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Yawning
  • Hiding behind owner
  • Backing away
  • Lowered body
  • Excessive shedding

In more serious cases, some more concerning signs can occur. These include:

  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Lunging forward
  • Nipping
  • Snarling
  • Biting
  • Piloerection

Step 1 – Treat them!

Opting to give your dog a treat when it’s time for bed will give him something to look forward to every night.

He will begin to associate the bedtime routine with a tasty treat which could prevent him from getting worked up when he notices you preparing to go to bed. This works in a similar way to how some dogs seem to have a sixth sense that tells them when it’s dinnertime. Over time, you may even begin to find that your dog will be prompting you to go to bed, in order to receive his nightly treat. 

Why not kill two birds with one stone by giving your dog some treats that are specifically made to de-stress them? These are usually infused with calming natural ingredients to promote relaxation and sleep. These Hemp Calming Treats taste just like tasty duck but are also packed with a whole bunch of dog-friendly calming ingredients such as organic Passion flower, chamomile, valerian root, l-tryptophan, and organic ginger root.

These all-natural ingredients are proven to help maintain composure, and reduce symptoms of anxiety such as excessive scratching, barking, chewing, licking, pacing, and salivating. 

Step 2 – Make a safe space

Just like us humans, dogs appreciate a cozy and safe space to rest every night. It’s likely that your dog is drawn to the same location every night and has identified his favorite spot. As an owner, it’s your responsibility to make this space as secure and comfortable as possible for your pooch. If the space is warm, comfortable, and inviting, your dog is more likely to get excited about spending time there and will probably fall asleep much quicker in a comfy bed. 

A common problem that keeps many dogs up at night is a bed that is too hard. If your dog has been using the same bed for a few years, the internal stuffing has probably separated, which can make it flimsy and thin. This super comfy dog bed is one of the best-rated out there. It’s made to promote better sleep and the rounded shape helps to entice your dog to curl up and snuggle in. It’s also machine washable, so it’s easy to keep it clean and even more comfortable for your dog. 

If you live in a warm part of the world, you may need to consider whether your dog is too hot at night. Certain breeds of dogs handle heat better than others, but some can find it insufferable. If this is the case, this Breathable Dog Bed could be the answer to all your problems. It’s comfortable thanks to the memory foam interior, but it doesn’t get too hot. 

Step 3 – Introduce a strict bedtime routine

A lack of routine can be really harmful to your dog’s health and negatively affect their sleeping pattern. If your dog knows what to expect at a certain time, he is more likely to feel in control and calm. If your dog doesn’t know when he’s going to sleep, or where, or who will be around can really stress him out. This can ultimately lead to severe nighttime anxiety and sometimes even panic attacks. 

You can introduce a healthy nighttime routine by creating rituals. These can be anything from going for an evening walk together, having a cuddle on the couch, or even playing a certain genre of music. Anything that creates a sense of routine will instill calm in your pooch and prepare them for bed. Although life can be unpredictable and you won’t always be able to stick to the rituals you put in place, try to keep an eye on the clock as much as you can to keep track of when your dog is expecting a certain activity. 

Step 4 – Consider aromatherapy

Just like some scents can send humans off to sleep, such as lavender- the same goes for your dog. Spraying your dog’s bed or bedtime toys with a calming blend of essential oils is a great way to alleviate any lingering anxiety from the day and get your pup ready to sleep through the night. 

This Calming Dog Spray works wonders for sending dogs off to sleep. Its fresh scent comes from a blend of essential oils such as lavender and chamomile to de-stress and relax your pooch. It helps to take the edge off of pet anxiety without any harsh chemicals or heavy cologne scent. It’s also Vet Approved and can be used as a detangling agent, too.

Step 5 – Make time for giving your dog attention

Making even just a little time every day to spend 1-to-1 time with your dog can be extremely beneficial. Giving them cuddles or even pampering them with a puppy massage can help to de-stress them and clear their mind before bed.

A little cuddle and some slow head rubs, ear rubs, or feet rubs are known favorites. It also helps you to build a stronger bond with your dog and gives you the opportunity to show them just how much you love them.

Step 6 – Let your dog sleep close to you

Letting your dog sleep near you, or even with you can help to reduce their stress levels and promote sleepy time. This is because many nervous dogs suffer from separation anxiety, and will be comforted just by being in your presence.

Take this as a compliment and a blessing and consider allowing your dog to sleep in your room. This doesn’t have to be in your bed. You could put his bed on the floor next to yours. Sometimes just being in the same room as you can be enough to take the edge off. 

Step 7 – Tire your dog out during the day

Most of us already know that exercise can be a great stress reliever and an effective way to blow off some steam. Well, the same goes for dogs. Not only does exercise help to boost the production of endorphins and serotonin in your dog’s brain, but it can also help to tire out their bodies physically, making them more sleepy when the night rolls in. 

Your dog requires exercise every single day in order to remain healthy and happy. This can be anything from a routine neighborhood walk, a long hike, or even a few games of fetch in the backyard. 

Step 8 – Put your records on

Music has a soothing or calming quality in many species, not just humans. Dogs can benefit from the calming effects of music too, and you can use this to your advantage when trying to settle your pooch down for bedtime. There are actually several music genres that have shown to be more effective for soothing dogs. Reggae and soft rock have been the most relaxing for dogs and classical music also helps calm dogs in stressful environments.

Try leaving a radio or tv on when your pet is home alone. This can help a dog feel comforted and diminish separation anxiety. If you decide to do this, be sure to play the music at times when you are home as well. However, recent studies have shown that dogs do get used to background noise after about 7 days and begin to show more anxiety and stress. So, you’ll need to mix up the stations or music that you leave playing for your dog. Animals appreciate variety just as much as we do.

Step 9 – Give anti-stress clothing a try

Many nervous dogs can be triggered by certain weather conditions, most commonly thunder. Thankfully, skilled clothing experts have responded to this problem by creating Thunder Vests. If your dog is panic-stricken during thunderstorms it can wreak havoc, not only on your dog’s health but also on your household’s ability to sleep. 

The ThunderShirt is a wrap that is designed to apply gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear, and over-excitement due to environmental triggers, especially weather-related anxiety. But be careful not to overuse this wrap and instead try to limit its use to exceptionally stressful situations. This is because using it too frequently can make it less effective.

Step 10 – Talk to your vet about sleep medication

While sleep medications should only be considered as a last resort in these situations, they can be very rewarding. They should only be prescribed by your veterinarian and you should never give sleeping medications made for humans or other animals to your dog. 

Medicines like Melatonin, CBD oils, methionine, and pheromones are all used as sleeping supplements. These are also used as anti-anxiety for dogs but as I said these should be used as a last resort. You never know as to how your dog will react to these meds so consult a vet for advice.

Step 11 – Brain training

If your dog’s anxiety is tied to certain situations, like a thunderstorm or being in a huge crowd of people, consider some way of distracting your dog. Making your dog think will help to distract them and encourage them to focus on something other than the anxiety-inducing environment or situation at hand. Mental exertion can have the same calming effect as physical exercise.

Try working on new tricks. It doesn’t matter what tricks they are as you are going to be spending one-on-one time with your dog and that is what they crave. Many dogs develop stress behaviors because they are not getting enough stimulation. Boredom can lead to unwanted behaviors.

Step 12 – Manage your own stress

Believe it or not, your stress and anxiety can affect your dog’s health too and can have a negative impact on their anxiety. As we are our dog’s whole world, they will often take our stresses and feel them as their own.

While this is heart-warming and undeniably adorable, it’s ultimately not healthy. Managing our stress and anxiety will have a positive effect on our dog’s well-being. We must care for ourselves as well as our furry friends.

Step 13 – Don’t make a big deal out of bedtime

Many dog owners make the mistake of making a huge deal out of bedtime, which can have the opposite effect from what they’re trying to achieve.

Be sure not to overthink it too much and don’t loudly announce to your dog that it is bedtime, as this is likely to invoke fear and panic. Just make sure that they have a cozy bed, food, water, and a warm blanket. The more relaxed you are the calmer your dog will feel.

Step 14 – Give separation training a chance

Although this idea may seem terrifying, for both you and your dog- the results can be extremely rewarding. It is used as a long-term mechanism to calm your anxious dog before bed, especially if he suffers from separation anxiety. However, this shouldn’t be rushed, as it could have the opposite effect.

Instead, work steadily and slowly and keep a close eye on how your dog is reacting to the separation each time. There are tons of helpful guides online that can help guide you through the process step-by-step in detail.

Step 15 – Consider phobia training 

If your dog is scared of a specific situation or noise, such as fireworks, traffic, etc- some dog trainers incorporate this by exposing the dog to several noises and phobias.

Encouraging dogs to overcome fear like a stranger petting them or a car passing by them, are just some examples of phobia training. Always use positive reinforcement for a calmer and stable dog.

Step 16 – Take your dog to the vet

If you’ve tried most or even all of the above steps and are failing to see any results, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. They can often point out things that a loving dog owner wouldn’t necessarily notice on a day-to-day basis and can rule out any concerning underlying issues. 

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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