Dogs can't hide their emotions. A dog signals fear through involuntary body language, both obvious and subtle. Some of the most easily read fear signs are tucking the tail, lowering the head and body, and trembling. Some dogs may be immobilized if fear is extreme, while others flee. Fearful dogs can be injured or killed crashing through windows or running into traffic in a panic induced by noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks. Panicky dogs can suffer heart attacks. As your frightened dog's leader and best friend, you can employ methods to calm him and possibly save him from injury or death.
Calm yourself first. Shouting at or hitting a panicky dog will make the situation worse. You are his leader. Do not let him down. Remain calm, speak quietly, and move with easy confidence around your pet. Quick moves that appear to be a threat may panic him into a sudden, unintentional bite. Approach and touch your pet only if it seems safe to do so; give him some space if he's barking, growling or showing his teeth. Stay safe, and soothe him from a safe distance.
Provide a safe zone for your dog. If a dog has a snug, den-like retreat where he is accustomed to feeling secure and comfortable, he is less likely to panic. A dark, quiet location such as a bedroom corner or a covered crate with soft bedding and familiar chew toys inside can be his personal retreat. Encourage him to go to this safe zone when he's feeling anxious.
Use natural calming products. Herbs and essential oils can provide natural relaxation and calming benefits without the strong chemicals and possible side effects of prescription medicines. Place a few drops of lavender oil in a diffuser or on a cotton ball to encourage calm through aromatherapy, or offer your pet some St. John's wort with a favorite treat. Discuss the use of such home remedies with your dog's veterinarian before trying them.
Use retail products. Pet supply stores offer stress-relief products that promote calm and relaxation in convenient delivery systems. Comfort Zone plug-ins and sprays use a synthetic version of a mother dog's pheromones to encourage calm, while Rescue Remedy promotes relaxation through a mixture of natural scents. The Thundershirt encourages calm by applying constant, gentle pressure around the dog's upper body.
Seek the help of your veterinarian. Sometimes even your best efforts cannot calm your frightened dog. A veterinarian can determine whether your dog has an underlying condition that may account for his anxiety, or he can prescribe a sedative to calm your dog.
Familiarize and desensitize. If you know what is frightening your dog, you can work toward overcoming his fear. If your dog is frightened of thunderstorms, for example, play a CD with storm sounds at a low volume during clear weather to accustom your pet to the sound. Gradually increase the volume over time. Take your dog for short walks at the park to help him overcome a fear of strangers. Do not rush this desensitization process, or you may make your dog more frightened.