Owning a Doberman is fun.
Unfortunately, some Dobermans are not as mellow as we would like. For a variety of reasons, some Dobermans have more anxiety or nervous behaviors than others. This could be a result of poor breeding practices, poor puppy socialization, training issues or stressful home environments.
So what can you do to help calm your Doberman?
Depending on the situation, you may need to try different things. A dog with separation anxiety will need different treatment than a dog with a fear of noises or thunder. But some of these tips will help in either situation.
- Exercise your dog. A mentally stimulating walk, a good run, tug of war, flirt pole game, or a wrestle with a doggie friend is sure to get excess energy out. Do this before you expect a stressful event.
- Feed nutritious food. There is the belief that a healthy diet will improve a dog’s mood. Just imagine children who have eaten lots of junk food, sugar or pop, running around like little maniacs.
- Try behavior modification with treats. For noise phobias, try throwing your dog a favorite treat after every thunder and lightning strike. Food helps dogs to focus and may work as a distraction to whatever is scaring them. Hopefully, your dog will learn to associate a scary noise with something positive.
- Try to mask the sights or sounds that are upsetting your dog. For example, close the curtains so he can’t see lightning or turn up the tv or music so he doesn’t hear the wind blowing outside.
- Some dogs feel safer in their crate, while for others crates make them more nervous. Let your dog, go to the place that he likes. My dobe likes the bathroom during thunderstorms, (maybe because that room has less static electricity).
- Try calming devices. These tools need more research, but some seem to work to help dogs be less nervous. Anti-anxiety tools include: Dog Appeasing Pheromone, Body Wraps (like the Thundershirt), Calming Caps, Storm Defender (shirt with metallic lining) and Mutt Muffs. The dog Appeasing Pheromone is available as a collar or room spray. It works by giving off a synthetic version of pheromones naturally released during lactation. I tried this product since it was recommended by my vet for noise/thunder anxiety, but I didn’t notice any visible difference with my two Dobermans.
- Be calm yourself. If you look or feel tense and anxious, so will your dog. Keep your body position relaxed, don’t look upset, afraid or agitated and talk calmly. Your dog will pick up on these subtle visual cues. They look to you for guidance in stressful situations. Make your dog feel that they can trust you to protect them from scary stuff. (Keep in mind, standing over or staring are seen as threatening body language to dogs.)
- Get anti-anxiety medication from your vet. If your dog is very fearful, he needs relief right away. Meds will also help with desensitization training.
- Music can help calm your Doberman. I had suspected that classical music had a calming effect on dogs and have since learned that solo-piano music is the key to influencing a dog’s mood. A research study conducted by Dr. Deborah Wells, an animal behaviorist, studied the effect of different styles of music on shelter dogs. You can read more about the study here. While heavy metal caused dogs to bark and pace around more, psychoacoustic classical music showed fewer stress behaviors on dogs. (Pop and conversation seemed not to have a noticeable difference either way.) Calming solo-piano seems to have an effect of reducing heart rate due to the slow rhythms and simpler arrangements. For dogs with separation or noise anxiety, try playing this style of music 20 minutes before you leave. If you expect visitors and your dog is a handful, try calming him with music to assist with training obedience when the person arrives. If you plan to board your dog, ask the kennel if they can play your calming music for your dog.
I recommend solo-piano as an option to easing your dog’s stress. In my home, I frequently play solo piano music from an internet music station, (there are a few that specifically play this music) or you can purchase specially created music for dogs like the CD, Through a Dog’s Ear: Music to Calm Your Canine Companion.
With my two Dobermans, I have noticed that within minutes of the music playing they settle down and sometimes even go to sleep. On another note, it’s great for calming humans too!
How do you calm your Doberman? Do you have any special tricks?