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How To Treat Anxious And Clingy Dogs Of All Ages

Is your dog clingy? Won't leave you alone for 10mins or barks and cries when you leave home? If you answered yes to any of these questions, our friends at BUDDYPET have put together an excellent read! 


Like people, our dogs can experience anxiety that makes day-to-day life difficult or unpleasant. This can cause restlessness, inability to settle, shaking, trembling, clingy behaviour, and more. It's important to note that clinginess caused by anxiety is not the same as 'velcro dogs' who want to be with their owner but do not necessarily experience stress in their absence.


For clingy, anxious dogs, several additional factors can come into play. Some dog breeds are inherently clingy, especially lap dogs, who for generations have been raised to provide their owners constant companionship. Working breed dogs trained to be highly dependent on close interaction with their humans can also become clingy.


Clinginess can also be a behaviour that we unintentionally cause or teach our dogs. We interact with our dogs; giving them treats when they follow us or petting them when they are beside us teaches them to 'cling' to us. Additionally, dogs may become clingy when their humans display signs of stress or anxiety as a way to comfort them.


Implementing Effective Strategies for Alleviating Anxiety in Dogs Across All Ages

Addressing anxious or clingy behaviour in dogs, irrespective of their age, necessitates a comprehensive understanding of canine psychology coupled with patience and consistency. Remember, a 'one-size-fits-all' solution does not exist as each dog's anxiety may spring from a unique set of experiences or causes. A multifaceted approach often includes creating a safe and secure environment, employing positive reinforcement training, introducing regular exercise and mental stimulation, and in some instances, the use of calming aids or supplements.

An interesting consideration is the role of melatonin for dogs in Australia. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that can help regulate sleep cycles and promote a sense of calm, potentially offering a viable solution for anxious dogs. Furthermore, emerging evidence suggests a role for probiotics in not only promoting digestive health but also improving mood and reducing stress levels in animals.

For chronic or severe anxiety, it is imperative to consult with a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. The ultimate goal should always be to address the root cause rather than merely managing the symptoms, to prioritise your pet's overall wellbeing.


Signs of General Anxiety in Dogs

  • Timid behaviours such as shifting weight or cowering down

  • Inability to relax or settle

  • Acting "jumpy", shaking or trembling

  • Running away, hiding, or pacing

  • Restlessness or clingy behaviour

  • Compulsive or repetitive behaviours

  • Irritability or aggression

  • Changes in appetite

  • Wide "whale" eyes or pinned back ears

  • Excessive barking, whining or howling when the owner is away

  • Destructive or "bad" behaviours in the house

  • Self-harm in the form of excessive licking, biting, or chewing

Dogs with anxiety may display any combination of these signs or others not listed. Unusual behaviour will indicate that your dog is feeling anxious or uncomfortable. Upon seeing these signs, you should discuss your dog's symptoms and treatment options with its veterinarian.


Treating your Dog's Anxiety

As with our struggles, the anxiety our dog's experiences can be treated in various ways; factors such as the intensity of your dog's anxiety, age, and health can help you and your pet's veterinarian choose the right treatment plan for your dog.


Natural Remedies

To provide their dog with healthier, natural options for anxiety management, many pet owners prefer to try herbs and plant supplements. Although there is limited scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness of natural remedies for dogs' anxiety, pet owners and veterinarians have found them effective. Some of the most popular options include hemp seed oil, hemp oil (CBD oil), Valerian root, Passionflower, Ashwagandha, Chamomile, and Melatonin.


Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil could help reduce anxiety and promote sleep and relaxation through the action of antioxidants, fatty acids, and phytosterols. Additionally, hemp seed oil's essential fatty acids and polyphenols can help improve memory and reduce age-related brain function.


Hemp seed oil also has several nutritional benefits: rich in all essential amino acids and minerals; it is an excellent dietary supplement.


For more information about the health benefits of hemp seed oil, read Hemp Seed Oil Benefits.



In traditional herbal medicine, passionflower promotes relaxation and sleep and is thought to help calm the nerves. Some pet owners find it helpful to manage their dog's anxiety symptoms and hyperactivity.



Native to India and South Asia, the Ashwagandha herb has been used in Ayurveda for hundreds of years as an adaptogen to help people with anxiety and stress. Ashwagandha has also made its way into the natural pet care space as we see this wonderful herb included in many calming treats and supplements for dogs.


Valerian Root

This root is often used as a mild sedative for people and can help calm anxious dogs. According to a study published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, dogs who smelled valerian root extracts expressed fewer vocalisations and less activity in a kennel setting. Valerian root is not a good match for all dogs, especially those on medication.



A naturally-occurring hormone created in the pineal gland of both humans and animals, melatonin promotes calm, relaxation, and sleep. Melatonin in calming treats is often given to dogs before high-stress events to help them remain calm and sleep soundly through the event.


Behavioural Training

Some anxiety can be trained out of dogs through counter-conditioning or desensitisation to triggers. For dogs who have mild separation anxiety, counter-conditioning may work by giving your dog a high-value treat or puzzle toy to enjoy and occupy their alone time. This will help change this anxious, unhappy time into a happy time where they can focus on their treat or toy.


Dogs who have more intense anxiety typically respond best to desensitisation. Begin by preparing to leave the house, but then stay home, which will eventually reduce your dog's stress when they see you getting ready to go. Once they are comfortable with you getting ready, leave the house for only a few minutes. If they are comfortable, slowly extend the length of time you are gone over many outings.



Some dogs have such extreme anxiety that training and natural remedies are not enough to help them. In such cases, your veterinarian may recommend an antidepressant or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).

Medications like these work best for types of anxiety that have predictable triggers. Holidays with fireworks, thunderstorms, car rides or large numbers of people coming over are triggers that may be improved by medication.


Tips for Clingy Dogs

Because clinginess is often an indicator of separation anxiety, you should be careful that your actions don't worsen the situation. If your dog is overall healthy, its issues are primarily behavioural; as such, your behaviour will be important in training your dog.


  • Don't make a big deal of your coming and going by hugging, kissing, or talking to your dog excessively.

  • If your dog stays in a crate while you are gone, make a habit of leaving them in their crate for several minutes after returning, only letting them out once they are calm.

  • Give your dog a special treat, such as a puzzle toy or a treat you can stuff with peanut butter when you leave and pick it up when you return home.

  • Give your dog a natural, calming supplement such as hemp seed oil.

  • Place a blanket, shirt, or another article of your clothing into your dog's crate or bed to comfort them.

  • Practice making your dog more comfortable with your leaving and your absence by getting 'ready' to leave but staying home, then leaving the house but only for a few minutes, and then for longer until finally, you can be gone for a reasonable amount of time without your dog becoming overly anxious.


We recommend Marley which you can read more about on the product page. If you have any further questions or want help choosing a product, please contact our team anytime. A big thanks to BUDDYPET for sharing the article! 


Can I give my dog human melatonin?

While it is possible to give dogs human melatonin, it's not typically recommended without first consulting your vet. Dosage and formulation appropriate for humans might not be safe or effective for dogs. Moreover, some melatonin products for human consumption might contain xylitol, a sweetener that's highly toxic for dogs. Therefore, it's always best to choose a product specifically formulated for canine use.

Which melatonin is best for dogs?

The best melatonin for dogs is one that is specifically formulated for canine use, with an appropriate dosage based on your pet's weight and health status. It's vital to look for a product without added sweeteners, especially xylitol, which can be harmful to dogs. Ensure the product comes from a reputable brand with rigorous quality control to ensure safety and efficacy.

Can you give dogs melatonin in Australia?

Yes, it is legal to administer melatonin to dogs in Australia. However, it's always recommended to discuss this with your vet before starting any new supplement. They can provide guidance on the correct dosage and monitor your dog's response to the treatment. Also, ensure to choose a melatonin product specifically designed for dogs.

Can you put a dog to sleep with melatonin?

Melatonin can help dogs relax and might make them more inclined to sleep, but it's not a sedative. It should never be used with the intention to put a dog to sleep or as a replacement for veterinary advice or treatment for severe anxiety or restlessness. If your dog is having trouble sleeping or is extremely anxious, it's essential to seek veterinary advice to address the underlying cause and determine the best course of treatment.