When dogs have anxiety, it can transfer to their people. It’s stressful knowing your dog is stressed out! But don’t worry: there are plenty of games, activities, and toys for anxious dogs. Soothing dog toys and activities keep your dog busy and distract them from their worries. Even better, toys and games can give your dog a sense of purpose that prevents them from feeling anxious at all!
Whether your dog has separation anxiety, nervous energy, or needs a job to do, there’s a soothing toy that will help. Toys for anxious dogs don’t have to be complicated, either. Sometimes simply giving your dog a stuffed animal or an old t-shirt of yours can do the trick.
Note: these products and activities are recommended for anxious dogs who would benefit from soothing distraction. If your dog exhibits obsessive behaviors, they may need more serious training or medical intervention.
Now, read on to learn about soothing dog toys.
Puppy Cuddle Pal
Designed for puppies, this cuddle toy also works for anxious adult dogs. Its soft, snuggly body conceals a removable buckwheat packet that you can heat in the microwave. Just zap it for 30 seconds, pop it back in the case, and let your dog cuddle away.
How it soothes
- Gentle heat calms nerves
- Soft shape offers comfortable snuggling and sleeping
- Online reviewers love the flattish shape and say it’s great for playing fetch
Helpful review: “My dog’s favorite toy for 12 years…he will carry it around, use it as a pillow, sleeps with it…he likes to “suckle” on the ears/face. This is something he does every night, it seems to be very soothing, the little ears are a perfect size for his pug teeth.”
We can’t talk about soothing toys without mentioning the KONG! This tried-and-true toy is recommended by trainers and veterinarians around the world.
How it soothes
- Stuff with food for a complex puzzle feeding experience that puts your dog to work
- Unpredictable bounce makes for a fun (and tiring) game of fetch
- Durable rubber provides long-lasting chew
Helpful review: “This works great, especially with a dab of peanut butter inside. We give this to our dog right as we are leaving so he is focused on the toy/peanut butter and not us walking out the door. We really think it has helped with his separation anxiety.”
Physical Contact + Aromatherapy = Ahhhhh
One of the most impactful ways to soothe an anxious dog is with physical touch. Brush your dog with aromatherapy freshening and shining spray to give them physical reassurance and calming scents all at once. As a bonus for you, this spray gently cleanses and shines their coat, no bath required. You can even spray it on a favorite blanket or dog bed for soothing snuggles.
How it soothes
- Repetitive, reassuring touch relaxes your dog during application
- When used regularly, the grooming routine may calm your dog before stressful events
- Lavender and chamomile scents are believed to have calming propertiesz
Helpful review: “A friend recommended it to me for my anxious dog and I’m so happy she did. It’s a very pleasant, calming scent that is not overpowering. My dog gets anxious when we leave so we try to spray it on him before leaving. We also spray it on his dog bed. I would highly recommend.”
Walk, walk, walk!
Physical activity is the number-one stress buster for people and dogs. If your dog is anxious, they’ll probably benefit from extra exercise. Go for a long walk before you leave the house, and after you get home.
Or, hire a local dog walker to give your dog a midday boost. A tired dog is calmer, and after a good walk he’s eliminated, he’s worn out, and he’s ready for a nap. Regular daily exercise helps your dog work out tensions and anxieties that may be building up.
How it soothes:
- Physical activity tires them out physically
- Mental stimulation tires them out mentally
- A tired dog = a calmer dog!
Busy Buddy Calming Toys
Speaking of aromatherapy: these durable rubber toys are chamomile-scented for extra calming power. Stuff them with treats to keep your dog focused and busy, or toss them around for a distracting game of fetch.
How they soothe
- Stuff with food to give your dog a problem-solving challenge
- Unpredictable bouncing creates fun playtime to distract your dog from the cause of their anxiety
- Light chamomile scent is aroma-therapeutic
Helpful review: “My dog loves this little purple squirrel toy so fricking much. He played fetch with it, ate treats and peanut butter out of it, and also brought it to bed to sleep with (he never brings toys to bed so I found this really adorable).”
Does your anxious dog need a job to do? Try a game of “hide-and-seek” with treats. This puzzle board provides 28 possibilities for places to hide treats. It challenges your dog’s brain, keeping them too busy to be anxious. Plus, it has several different “levels” so you can start simple and build up as your dog’s puzzle-solving abilities improve.
How it soothes
- Eliminates boredom, which reduces stress and destructive behaviors
- Rewards your dog for exercising their brain
- Distracts dog from anxiety triggers
Helpful review: “This was a great investment! My dog is very timid, and I was hoping to introduce some “nose work” at home to help build her confidence. We’ve done the puzzle together every day for the past week…she is growing in tenacity and gets excited when she sees me pull her puzzle out! It doesn’t sound like much, but for her, overcoming anxiety of something new and ‘confusing’ is a huge step forward. I would definitely recommend this for fearful-dog owners.”
Your Old T-Shirt or Shoe
Here’s a soothing toy for anxious dogs you won’t have to pay for. Take one of your old work-out shirts or retired shoes, and offer it to your dog. The more worn-in, the better, because that means it will have more of your scent on it. See, your smell is soothing to your dog. Give them a garment to snuggle, or let them chew on and play with a shoe when you go out.
How it soothes
- The smell of their favorite person (you!) is calming
- Familiar objects help anxious dogs feel more comfortable
Calming Music for Dogs
Some dogs like music better than others. If your anxious pup responds to sound, try a collection of music “bioacoustically composed” to calm dogs. Research conducted with 150 dogs showed that this music induced calmness in 85% of dogs in homes. It’s gentle, quiet classical music that may very well soothe you, as well as your dog! Available both streaming or on CD.
How it soothes
- Bioacoustic compositions are specifically designed to appeal to a dog’s sense of hearing
- The sound of music playing can cover up outside noises that may trigger your dog
- Can be used as part of a calming routine at bedtime or before leaving the house
Helpful review: “I play the CD from time to time (the trainer said to make sure I play it at random times throughout the day and not just when I put the dog in her crate) and she has had no further issues at night. The music is classical, so very pleasant for me to listen to, but also pleasant for the dog. It’s specifically designed to hit notes or tones they especially like. I highly recommend it!”
ZippyPaws Burrow Squeaky Hide and Seek Toy
This all-in-one puzzle/squeaky/plushy toy has become a favorite in my household full of anxious dogs. One works out his energy by extracting the small bunny squeak toys, and the other self-soothes by sucking on the carrot part. It provides sensory stimulation and fun, distracting play. What can I say: I love it.
How it soothes
- Multisensory play (sound, sight, and feel) keeps anxious dogs busy
- Provides several different types of play
- Replacement bunnies available, so it’s long-lasting fun
Helpful review: “This is the best toy I have bought for our pug Zoey in a long time. It’s perfect for a hyper dog that needs to get rid of some energy. Then she needs rest for a couple of hours!”
Hopefully, one of the above toys will help soothe your anxious dog. For more information and advice on dealing with dog anxiety, check out these posts:
- Setting Up a Separation Anxiety Dog for Success
- Nosework Is the Secret to a Calm, Happy Dog
- Seven Steps to Soothe Separation Anxiety in Dogs
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