Knowing how to calm down a dog is almost an art, especially when it comes to bedtime. If your dog gets anxious and energetic when the sun goes down, you’ll need to follow these steps to calm him down:
- Give him a calming treat.
- Provide a secure and comfortable place to sleep.
- Find his favorite cuddle toy.
- Use calming scents.
- Calm him with together time.
Is your dog anxious at night? Does he have difficulty settling down when it’s time for sleeps? Believe it or not many dogs come alive when the lights go down. However, knowing it’s a common issue doesn’t make it any less frustrating for pet parents.
The good news is there’s a lot you can do to help your dog settle down for the night and get to sleep. Dogs thrive on routine, so establishing a bedtime routine for your dog is extremely important. For our night owl canines, this might include a few extra calming steps to prep for a good night’s sleep.
Feeding, walks, playtime, chill time, and especially bedtime, are important routines for dogs. When things change due to travel, unusual visitors, or you being away, that’s when your dog can become anxious, fearful, or start to act out. If your dog is suddenly anxious at night, it’s worth looking at your routine to see if any changes are making him uneasy.
Chilly and I stick to a regular routine to help him have better sleeps. In the summer, when we have almost daily thunderstorms in the afternoons and evenings, Chilly doesn’t sleep as well (more here on what to do if your dog has thunder-related anxiety). But even during all seasons, a consistent bedtime routine is important to help him wind down to enjoy a restful night’s sleep.
Here are my tips for how to calm down a dog for bedtime:
How to Calm Down a Dog Before Bedtime
Step 1: Give a Calming Treat
Giving your dog a treat at bedtime will give him something special to look forward to every night. Associating bedtime with a yummy snack may also help you to train your pup to settle down for bed. Just like many dogs who seem to know somehow when it’s time for their people to get home or when it’s time for dinner, you may soon find that your own pooch is reminding you to give him his treat so he can go to sleep!
The Anxious Pet makes a heavenly chew for dogs that incorporates calming Acetyl L-Carnitine, Magnolia St. John’s Wart and Barberry, plus Cannabidiol to help support stress-free relaxation. They come in both bacon and peanut butter flavors. What I love about these, and all of the products from The Anxious Pet, including their Hemp Oil, is that they’re veterinarian formulated. So I can confidently give my pets the right dose, knowing that it’s safe for their specific weight class.
Step 2: Provide a Secure, Comfy Place to Sleep
Does your dog sleep in the same place every night? Most likely the answer is yes! Whether it’s their own doggie bed, a favorite spot on the floor, or a place in bed with you, most pups sleep the best when they’re in their normal sleeping spot. It’s our job as dog parents to make sure that they have a quiet space that is as comfy and cozy as possible so they can snuggle down and enjoy the night in doggie dreamland.
My dog, Chilly, loves a bed with bolster sides. It gives him enough room to sprawl out a bit with the added security of something to snuggle up against for the night. This one is made with memory foam (great for a senior dog’s aching joints) and it has a machine-washable cover.
This round donut bed is great for dogs who like to curl up. Its raised edges make the perfect head rest if he doesn’t want to keep his head tucked in. And you can throw the whole bed in the washing machine. A round bed is paw-fect for pups who like to curl up at night.
If your dog won’t sleep at night, take a look at his bed. If he doesn’t use it, or no longer uses it regularly, he likely needs a new bed better suited to his needs.
Step 3: Find His Favorite Cuddle Toy
Do you remember how safe and secure you felt as a child when you snuggled in bed with your favorite teddy bear? Well, dogs can also find security from a special toy.
Now, not just any old toy will make the paw-fect bedtime buddy. Don’t give him anything with squeakers – that will probably just wind him up and get him in the mood to play! Similarly, anything you usually use to play fetch or tug with may not be the best choice. Ideally you want a toy that only comes out at bedtime or other “down” times.
This adorable duck makes the perfect bedtime buddy. It’s super soft, squeak free, and it won’t encourage thoughts of rambunctious play.
Step 4: Using Calming Scents and Sounds
Many pet parents ask, “What can I give my dog to sleep at night?” However, rather than immediately turning to medications, you might try some more natural therapies.
Some scents can have a calming effect on the human members of the family, and the same is true for our tail wagging friends. 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.
I love this all natural essential oil spray from ThunderEssence, the makers of the ThunderShirt! It’s made with lavender, chamomile and Egyptian geranium essential oils, and it smells amazing! I’m tempted to spray it on my own pillow, but for now I’ll save it for Chilly’s bed and cuddle toys!
Classical music can also help calm down a dog and get him ready for bed. I use the Zoundz app for my pets. It’s designed specifically to reduce a dog’s anxiety. I also love that every download contributes towards the Harmony Project – a program designed to alleviate anxiety in shelter pets.
Step 5: Calm Him with Together Time
Once your pup is all calm, it’s time for my favorite part of the bedtime routine – the special together time! Choose any quiet activity that you and your pooch both enjoy, like a gentle ear rubbing while you thank him for being such a good boy that day.
While some dogs don’t care for close snuggling, most will appreciate their human being by their side, giving them gentle pats. Remember, the goal is not that he will fall asleep in your arms, but that he’ll calm down enough to relax and drift off into a deep slumber on his own.
When to Get Help from a Behavior Consultant
Even with our best efforts, some dogs will always be more naturally prone to hyperactivity and anxiety. As pet parents, we sometimes wonder if we did something to cause our dog’s anxiety. Did we not give them enough love? Enough exposure to noises and people?
Dr. Lisa Radosta, DVM, assured me this is often not the case with most dogs who have not experienced trauma (like being surrendered to a shelter). Just like people, some dogs are simply coded to have more anxiety. It’s literally in their DNA!
You can learn more about that in this post about separation anxiety.
So, if you’ve tried the above tips and your dog is still experiencing symptoms, it may be time to call in a behavior consultant.
I always recommend finding help through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Here you can obtain contact info for a certified veterinarian who specializes in behavioral issues, like anxiety. Who better to advise you on your dog’s health and behavior than a veterinarian?
With help, even the most anxious dog (and his mom or dad) can get a good night sleep!