Canine CareHealthTraining

How to Calm a Restless Dog and Help Them Relax

Dogs are just like us – they have feelings and emotions too. And truly, just like us, they too can get restless and anxious. Sometimes, our beloved pets will pace restlessly, unable to sit still and relax. Other times, they will even simply hide from the world to make an attempt to get away from whatever it is that is bothering them or stressing them out. Dogs can be restless at any time, but it is usually at night when they get most stressed and unable to relax. If your pooch is keeping you up at night by their relentless pacing and whining, this simply isn’t a good situation at all – not for anyone. If you want to find out how to calm a restless dog, we’re happily here to help!

There are a bunch of reasons why your dog might be pacing. It could be anxiety about something. Perhaps it is a health problem that is bothering them. Maybe they are feeling some pain that is keeping them awake at night. Maybe they’re just getting older, which can mean that they are beginning a cognitive decline. Today we are going to discuss all the possible reasons why your dog might be restless. After that, we will talk about how to calm a restless dog so that you and your pooch can finally sit still and relax.

Take Your Dog to the Veterinarian

How to calm a restless dog

Although some people may want to avoid the veterinarian and its associated costs, it’s simply the best way to immediately rule out a medical issue. Bringing your dog to the vet for a physical and some testing is key. This will help to determine whether your dog is suffering from something that is keeping them awake at night. It will also help to determine if your pooch is quietly suffering a condition that is also giving them pain during the day.

Sometimes, a diagnosis may not immediately be made. This is because there are many different issues which can all lead to your best friend becoming restless. And so, if you feel as though the veterinarian has given you no answers, you may also talk to an animal behaviorist.

The costs associated may make you balk, but remember that diagnosing a potential problem early can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Is My Listless Dog Feeling Anxious?

Generally, a dog that is restless may often simply be feeling some good (or bad!) ‘ol anxiety. Some dogs are just more prone to feeling a bit nervous than others. There are dogs, for example, that are always on alert for any abnormal noises. Some dogs can be phobic to loud noises such as cars backfiring, sirens, fireworks, or even just you dropping something accidentally and making a loud bang. Check your dog’s surroundings to see if there have been any recent changes.

Is everything the same as it was? Or has someone moved in nearby with a car that frequently backfires? Has someone been setting off fireworks nearby? Is there a neighbor that is constantly putting on loud music? Did you recently bring something home that sometimes gets loud? For example – there are dogs that can react negatively to other animals. A bird that screeches loudly, for example, can cause your dog to constantly be alert for it to happen again. This can cause a lot of stress which can then contribute to – you guessed it, restlessness.

The best way to know if this is the reason why your dog is restless is to watch them and the way they react to the world around them. Then, you can do what you can to reduce or eliminate the causes for their anxiety.

Is My Dog an Elder or a Young Puppy?

One other reason why your dog might be feeling some restlessness is because of their age. Puppies, for example, are likely to get a little bit anxious during the night. This is because they may miss their mom and their litter. A young puppy getting restless in the middle of the night can also mean they are adjusting to their new place. And then, of course, there’s them having to go and relieve themselves. In cases like this, it is best to make sure to watch when you feed your puppy. Cut off access to water at least an hour before bed time. Crate train your little pup and ensure that they can grow comfy in their crate. You want them to feel like it is their own hideaway.

In the case of older dogs, the reason behind the restlessness may simply be a case of CCDS, or canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. In simple words, it could be your beloved senior dog coming down with a case of doggy dementia. Yes, just like humans, dogs can indeed suffer from dementia and cognitive decline too.

For older dogs, you want to make sure you establish a stringent routine. Stick to it, so that the dog will know (for the most part) what to expect next. This also helps to lessen their anxiety. Furthermore, you want to make sure you engage and stimulate your older dog’s mind frequently. Do this through playtime or practicing (or even learning) tricks. Some vets will even prescribe certain supplements or a special diet to help with this situation.

Is My Dog Suffering from Arthritis?

How to Calm a restless dog

As we mentioned above, to determine this, you will want to bring your dog to the vet as soon as you possibly can. Quite frankly, arthritis is often a reason why some dogs can’t sit still. Just like arthritis can cause discomfort in us humans, it too can make our beloved doggos suffer. As a result, dogs with arthritis will not want to lie down for a very long time or sit in one position for a prolonged period of time. This is because it really can cause them discomfort on joints and limbs that get achey. Here’s how to calm a restless dog if they are suffering from arthritis:

Sometimes, a massage or a bit of vet-ordered pet owner-administered therapy can help your pooch with this matter. It’s also a good idea to make sure they can constantly keep warm, as the cold weather or air conditioning can aggravate this condition. You may also seek advice from your veterinarian. They might put your pup on a special diet that can help reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Also, they may prescribe some supplements or medicine to help your pup with the day to day management of the condition.

Is My Dog Starting to Lose His Hearing?

Quite honestly, this could pretty much go both ways. Your dog could be feeling a bit restless because of their hearing. Either it could be because their hearing is too good and every tiny movement in the night wakes them up, or it could be because they’re starting to lose their hearing. In the case of your dog losing his hearing, he could be getting anxious because he is no longer hearing the small sounds that could lead up to a large bang, for example. As a result he is often more startled when he does hear the loud bang. This can cause some stress and anxiety because your dog gets more jumpy and alert.

Is My Dog Hungry or Thirsty?

Sometimes, the cause for a restless dog could simply be hunger or thirst. In cases like this, feeding or giving them water is all you need to do for how to calm a restless dog. Dogs’ appetites and dietary needs will always vary due to different factors. Sometimes, you may just be feeding your dog meals too far apart. Another option is you could be feeding your dog too early at night, so they get hungry by the time it’s bedtime. You may also be forgetting to set out fresh, clean water throughout the day, which leads to your pooch getting thirsty a lot. However, if you know that your dog is already getting fed frequently, and if your dog always has access to water, you may need to seek your vet’s opinion.

Sometimes, constant hunger or thirst could be caused by a health condition. In cases like this, taking your dog to the vet is the best way to find out. It is also the best way to make sure that you are able to get the treatment that you need to prevent this from happening again. 

One way on how to calm a restless dog that may be hungry is to try some special diets. Sometimes, your pooch may simply just not be getting enough nutrition which leads to them craving more food more frequently. You can bring this up with your vet as well – or if you wish, you can consult with a dog nutritionist (yes, they do exist!).

Watch Out for Constant Thirst

If your dog is always thirsty but the weather isn’t particularly hot, observe them. Make sure that they aren’t suffering any other signs or symptoms that could be attributed to urinary tract infections, bladder infections, or worse – kidney infections. If you start noticing that your dog is suffering symptoms that can be attributed to these conditions, bring your dog to the veterinarian. This is especially important if your dog is a breed that has a genetic disposition for kidney problems. Make sure that you do this ASAP, because if you let time pass you may end up with a dog that is suffering from acute kidney failure. 

Trust us when we say you don’t want this to happen. Acute kidney failure can be fatal to dogs, and usually is even with treatment. Early detection is the only way to truly increase the chances of a recovery. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you get kidney problems diagnosed ASAP. This is because you want to be able to immediately put your dog on a course of treatment if they have chronic kidney failure. This can really mean the difference between your dog surviving a few days to getting their prognosis expanded to several years.

You may find that treating their underlying conditions can be really helpful for how to calm a restless dog, too.

Does My Dog Need to Go To The Bathroom?

Sometimes, your dog may simply be feeling restless because they really need to pee (or do a number 2!). It could be because your dog is a puppy that can’t quite yet hold their bladder long enough to get through the night. Perhaps your dog is getting older and is starting to lose full control of their bladder. Perhaps your dog, which otherwise would have been fine, suddenly started feeling some digestive discomfort because of something they ate. Or maybe, your dog feels the need to go pee often because of a urinary tract infection.

If your dog is feeling restless at night, take them out to potty. Then, be sure to adjust their schedule of eating and end their access to water an hour or two before bed time so they don’t end up needing to pee or do a number 2 in the middle of the night. Observe if your dog becomes less restless after this. This could really be the way for how to calm a restless dog! Yes, it could be that simple.

However, if you notice that your dog is still restless frequently despite the changes in their feeding schedule, it may just be time to take them to the vet. Your vet will diagnose a possible UTI. Any other condition that could be causing this situation will also be discovered. If the underlying condition is treated, your dog might just finally be able to relax!

Is My Dog Uncomfortable Due to the Weather?

If your dog is pacing back and forth, constantly seeking water, and always panting – they could be feeling a tad too hot! Dogs, just like humans, can feel really restless when the weather is too hot or too cold. Here’s how to calm a restless dog that may be too hot: get a cooling pad for them to lie on (or, you could instead allow them access to a room with tiled flooring). Offer them a constant supply of fresh, clean water to drink. Let them play in water or give them a bath. You can give your dog their own electric fan that constantly blows wind on them and keeps them cool. Alternatively, you could also turn the AC on so you too can get cool!

For dogs with thick coats, give them a trim or even a shave. Remember, however, that it is not a good idea to shave dogs with double or triple coats. This is for the reason that their coats may not grow back the same, or can grow back incorrectly and cause problems.

A dog that might be feeling a little too cold can truly get quite restless too. A cold dog will naturally seek out warmth. They can do this by pacing back and forth and keeping their body “warmed up”via activity. They could also be seeking different ways to get warm, which is why they are going from one place to another. Here’s how to calm a restless dog that might be feeling too cold: offer them a hot water bottle. Make sure their crates and beds have warm blankets. You could even let them cuddle up next to you for some bonding time!

Is My Dog Getting Enough Exercise?

To be completely frank, one of the biggest reasons that a dog could be restless is because they are not getting enough exercise. A lot of pet owners may simply not be giving their dog their daily walk. Or, the daily walk may be too short. In some cases, one walk a day may just not be enough. Yes – certain dog breeds do require walks twice daily! Large dog breeds like Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers, for example, often require a walk more than once a day. You may also need to supplement their daily walk (or walks) with play time.

Sometimes, your dog could also just not be getting enough mental stimulation. This is especially true in the case of smarter dog breeds such as poodles. Dogs like these will want mental stimulation and challenges on a daily basis, otherwise they can get a bit bored. As a result, they will become restless.

Here’s how to calm a restless dog if they aren’t getting enough mental stimulation:

  • Teach them a trick regularly. Teach one trick, then help them to practice it until they have mastered it. If you don’t have enough time to teach a trick sometimes, simply practicing ones that your dog already knows can be enough mental stimulation.
  • Offer puzzle toys or toys that they need to get treats out of. A Kong toy, for example, can be really useful in keeping your dog busy and engaged.
  • Play with your dog. Fetch or tug of war can be enough mental stimulation on most days. It is also an activity that requires little on your behalf. This is why this option is great if you are already exhausted from a long day.

Is My Dog Just Habitually Restless?

Unfortunately, in some cases, your dog could just be restless out of pure habit. It could be a learned behavior that could take you a while to get them to fix. In cases like this, it’s best to seek the help of a dog behaviorist. They would best know how to calm a restless dog that is this way due to habit. However, there may be situations where exercise and tiring out your pup can be enough. A dog that feels exhausted will often nap through the day!

Other Ways on How to Calm a Restless Dog

We’ve discussed many different reasons why your dog might be feeling restless. We’ve also talked about how to calm a restless dog in those particular situations. However, there are also other ways to help your pup calm down, on top of all of the above. Here are some of them, so that you can help your dog (and yourself!).

Use a Blanket or a Thundershirt to Swaddle

A dog that feels anxious will often respond positively to swaddling. You can do this by laying a weighted blanket over them when they are lying down. Avoid using weightless blankets for dogs that are suffering from arthritis, however. You may also just wrap your dog up in a blanket to make them feel cuddled and safe. Note that this may not work for all dogs! Dogs that have claustrophobic tendencies, for example, will not want to be swaddled up tightly in a blanket.

Alternatively, you can use a thundershirt to help your dog feel safe. Thundershirts are specifically designed to help your pup feel calm and relaxed. This product can be purchased online (or in pet stores, most likely). However, if you are on a budget you can also DIY one to use. Thundershirts work because their design puts a gentle but constant pressure on the torso of your stressed pooch. This pressure is scientifically proven to help in reducing stress and anxiety not just in dogs, but in cats too. 

A study was done by Dr. Temple Grandin on Thundershirts and their calming effects. If you want to find out more about how these practically miraculous shirts work, you can learn more about the science here.

Thunder-US Dog Clothes for Anti-Anxiety

This is just an example of a thundershirt that is readily available to purchase online. A garment like this is easy to put on your dog and remove. That way, you can simply put it on them when it is absolutely necessary, i.e. when your pup is feeling especially restless. This product in particular uses a fabric that resists the collection of fur so that it can stay cleaner for longer. Its adjustable design makes it possible for you to get that snug fit that is known to help reduce a dog’s stress.

Thundershirts have a success rate of more than 80% when it comes to helping dogs stay calm. A lot of dog parents have found thundershirts instrumental in how to calm a restless dog, this is true. This is why these products can come so very highly recommended by trainers, veterinarians, and even pet owners too. For this particular product, if you are unsatisfied, you can return it for a full refund. The seller offers a full money back guarantee.

This product also comes in a few different sizes so you can get one that is right for your dog.

DIY Thunder Shirts

If you don’t want to purchase a thundershirt, you can make one yourself. You can make a dog anxiety garment to help prevent them from feeling stressed and anxious. There are many different ways in which you can do this – ranging from super duper simple to somewhat complex (requiring sewing skills and equipment like sewing machines). There are budget methods and ways that would require a little more money too. 

Here are a few options:
  • Using an Ace bandage is the most popular method of providing maintained pressure to your dog. This is the easiest and most common method people advise on the internet, because all you really have to do is wrap the bandage a certain way. This is one of the easiest and cheapest ways on how to calm a restless dog, and it usually comes in handy during times when you know they’ll be stressed. The fourth of July or New Year’s, for example, are good times to use these makeshift thundershirts. Note that you don’t really need to use Ace bandages. You could also choose to use a scarf or a bandanna, for example.
  • Using a T-Shirt is another method you could try. For this all you really need is an old shirt you don’t use anymore – so really, it’s practically a “free”method! You simply need to choose a garment with snug fit or stretchy fabric that will “hug”your pup.
  • Sewing your own is the hardest method for making a DIY thundershirt. However, if you want to do this, there are many sewing patterns available for your use online. This is a good way if you want to have a thundershirt to use for many many years to come!

If you want instructions that are a bit more detailed, you can find them on this website. They have really clear, detailed instructions for making your own. The website even links to instructions and patterns if you want to sew your own!

Reduce Their Exposure to Sources of Stress

The next thing that you can do to help your dog is to reduce their exposure to sources of stress. Sometimes this is what you need to do for how to calm a restless dog. You will, of course, have to learn to identify the things that are stressing them out. Is it loud noises? If so, then you will need to find a place in the home where they can hang out that is more soundproof. If there is no such room in the home, you can create one yourself. You can use drapes to dampen sounds coming in from outside. You can keep the windows shut to prevent really loud sounds from coming in.

Acoustic foam can help stop loud noises from echoing around the room repeatedly, which can help greatly. This is because the sound will occur once and get absorbed by the foam, which means your dog will not be further stressed out because they are hearing this sound repeatedly. The acoustic foam can also help in dampening noises even more.

Putting your dog’s crate in a room like this is a great way of helping them to feel safe. You can put a thick blanket over the crate to further dampen noises when they are inside. You can also put blankets inside the crate itself.

Socialize Your Dog More

Sometimes, dogs may feel stress because they aren’t socialized enough. This can result in them fearing a lot of things that they are not familiar with. For how to calm a restless dog that is always afraid, you can practice some positive reinforcement on top of socialization and exposure to whatever they are afraid of.

Provide Them Safe Space

Something that is very important in how to calm a restless dog is providing them a safe space they can go to. This is important because you certainly want them to have a place to retreat to in times of great stress. Crate train your pup and make sure that their crate is cozy and comfy with blankets and stuffed animals. That way, you’ll for sure give them a way to hide from the world when they really need to.

Ask Your Veterinarian About Supplements or Anxiety Medication

Finally, in extreme cases where all of the above simply isn’t enough, seek the advice of your veterinarian. Sometimes, you really just need some supplements or even some medication to help your pups with their anxiety. This can be really helpful in how to calm a restless dog. Please remember that you need to consult your vet before you give your dog any sort of supplement or drug. You don’t want to give them something that might give them complications. The same applies if your pet is already taking meds – you never know if you will end up giving them a supplement that can cause contraindications and complications.

Conclusion

The main ingredient for how to calm a restless dog is plenty of love and patience. You need to be able to help your dog figure out what is stressing them. Then, of course, you need to find the ways in which you can help them to calm down. It can take a bit of trial and error, and sometimes it can cost money – but in the end, helping your dog to relax can be extremely worth it in the end.