How to Help Your Sporting Dog De-Stress


There are a number of culprits that can stress a dog out, such as separation, unfamiliar visitors, a change in weather, loud noises or novel sounds. Sporting dogs, in particular, could demonstrate anxious behaviors over a disruption in routine or location, whether it be due to travel or going to a new trainer.

Anxious behaviors in a dog typically are signaled by pacing, reluctance to accept treats, and excessive barking or panting. An anxious dog living in a state of chronic physiological stress may be prone to chronic health issues.

“It’s important to talk to your veterinarian if your dog is displaying undesirable behaviors,” says Purina Director of Veterinary Technical Communications Jason Gagne, DVM, DACVN. “What might be perceived as just a characteristic of a particular breed or part of a dog’s personality could really be an anxious behavior that needs attention.”

Follow these tips to help manage your dog’s anxious behaviors caused by external stressors.

Expose ‘Em Early

First things first. Learning to cope with stressful situations begins during puppyhood. Puppy gyms, or boxes made of PVC frame with various dog toys suspended from ropes or plastic chains, can promote early socialization and sensory stimulation, the foundation for a well-rounded, adaptable dog. Do your homework before buying a pup and check with prospective breeders on their socialization philosophy.

Don’t Set an Expiration Date

A pup should be introduced to the world outside the whelping box, and socialization doesn’t expire once a dog enters adulthood. Continue exposing your dog to new people, places and experiences throughout his or her life, ensuring positive interactions by using common sense and safety considerations.

Make Noise

A dog should be exposed early and regularly to household noises such as the vacuum cleaner, blow dryer, blender, washing machine and clothes dryer, as well as outdoor noises such as the tractor, lawnmower, weed eater, blower and all-terrain vehicles. Furthermore, a sporting dog should have an early gradual introduction to especially loud sounds to reduce fear of noise.

Practice Makes Perfect

Ensure your dog is well-accustomed to travel before leaving on any trip. Start by putting your dog in a crate and taking him or her on short errands, increasing the length of time each trip, to gradually condition the dog for riding in a vehicle. The more comfortable your dog is in the car, the longer he or she can ride.

Calm During the Storm

Keep your dog distracted during a storm by offering a safe, confined and comfortable space, along with his or favorite toys and treats, and playing light music to drown out rumbling thunder. Products such as the Thundershirt can also help ease storm anxiety.

Relax Together

A dog depends on his or her owner for security, so patience and persistence on your part is key to helping your dog be stress-free. Always keep desensitization sessions short and fun, offering praise or a treat for positive interactions.

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements Launches Probiotic Breakthrough for Helping Dogs Maintain Calm Behaviors

What if you could help support your dog with a probiotic to help him or her stay calm? Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements Calming Care is a canine probiotic supplement available through veterinarians containing Bifidobacterium longum (BL999), a probiotic strain shown to help dogs maintain calm behavior.

“The gut is sometimes referred to as a ‘second brain’ because of the bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain,” explains Purina Director of Veterinary Technical Communications Jason Gagne, DVM, DACVN. “There is scientific evidence that manipulating the gut bacteria can also have a positive influence on dogs displaying anxious behavior. For example, Bifidobacterium longum (BL999), the probiotic found in Calming Care, has been shown to help dogs maintain calm behavior.”

“Different strains of probiotics have different effects on the body,” Purina Research Scientist Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD, says. “In a 15-week blinded crossover design study, we evaluated the effects of administering BL999 to 24 Labrador Retrievers that demonstrated anxious behaviors. By the end of the study, 90 percent of dogs showed an improvement in displaying anxious behaviors, such as excessive vocalization, jumping, pacing and spinning. Dogs in the study also showed improvement in physiological factors, including positive cardiac activity during stressful events1.”

Calming Care helps support dogs with anxious behaviors such as excessive vocalization, jumping, pacing and spinning, and helps them cope with external stressors such as separation, unfamiliar visitors, novel sounds or changes in routine and location. It also helps dogs maintain positive cardiac activity during stressful events, promoting a positive emotional state, and supports a healthy immune system.

Available through veterinarians, Calming Care should be given under your veterinarian’s supervision. If you have concerns about your dog’s behavior, talk to your veterinarian.

1McGowan, R.T.S. (2016). “Oiling the brain” or “Cultivating the gut”: Impact of diet on anxious behaviors in dogs. Proceedings of the Nestlé Purina Companion Animal Nutrition Summit, March 31-April 2, Florida, 91-97.