Before owning my Staffy I was warned by a friend that they can be prone to anxious behavior. Even prone to separation anxiety and neurotic levels of nervous chewing. I figured this is only for bad dog owners, not me. I am going to be the best Staffy owner ever. Within a few weeks of having my puppy I learned my friend was right.
Why are Staffies so anxious? There are a few reasons Staffies can be so anxious, primarily their attachment to humans. The Staffy is a very people oriented breed of dog and craves attention and connection with their owners. They also have a lot of energy, which can manifest as anxiety when not directed.
So there I was, an owner of my first Staffy puppy, and right away I knew what my friend was talking about. She was a sweet puppy, but anytime I left the house, or even looked as though I was leaving the house she got anxious.
This new challenge for me was something I knew I had to resolve. I wanted to provide the best possible life for my sweet Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Keeping her confident, well balanced and calm was something I worked on for months. In doing so I found a few very useful techniques to keep my Staffy calm and less anxious.
Why Are Staffies So Anxious And Nervous?
The bond between a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and their owner is strong. Staffies are much more people oriented than most breeds and thrive on human interaction. It is no surprise that they can become anxious and nervous when their needs for connection are not met.
Staffies are also tremendously energetic dogs. They need a great deal of daily physical exercise as well as mental stimulation. When there is a lack of exercise and stimulation this energy can become nervous and anxious energy. Leading to neurotic chewing, scratching, crying, shaking, and destructive behaviors.
Now as a dog owner we can’t be with our pets 24/7. This is just unrealistic, and we need to build up our Staffies confidence, and reassurance that being left alone, and having some quiet time can be a good thing. Or at the very least a tolerable thing.
In the next section of this post I will go over some of the techniques I used to create a confident, well balanced, and calm Staffy. These tips worked great in managing my Staffies energy, frame of mind, and general well being.
How Do You Calm An Anxious Staffy?
There are several techniques you can use to calm an anxious Staffy. Exercise, various training practices, environmental controls, distractions, positive reinforcement, and natural supplements. Combinations of these techniques will drastically improve an anxious Staffy’s behavior and well being.
1. Give Them Exercise And Stimulation
One of the best ways to reduce the anxiety of your Staffy is through exercise and mental stimulation. Especially right before you plan to leave the home for a little while. The high energy Staffy needs to burn off a lot of energy each day, if not this energy will become pent up nervous energy.
When working with my Staffordshire Bull Terrier I would always take her for a 30-40 minute prior to leaving the house. A few minutes of additional trick training, or tug of war interaction really worked her brain to drain even more energy. It’s hard for a tired dog to stay in a state of anxiety. Exercise and mental stimulation work.
A tired dog is a happy dog I learned. This technique helped the most in managing my Staffy puppy’s initial anxious and nervous behaviors. Even to this day it is incredibly useful.
2. Control The Environment
Some Staffies seem to be always on watch duty. Nervously checking the windows for other dogs, people, squirrels, etc… This state of high alert can keep your dog in a constant state of anxiety.
If you also have a high energy household with constant noise, movement, and activity, this can be anxiety inducing. Things like active young children, shouting, and loud or distracting noise can be a trigger to keep your Staffy in a nervous and anxious state.
Control your environment. If you Staffy is constantly checking the windows. Block off the windows or their access to the windows. Divert them to something else if they persist.
Try and maintain a calm environment for your Staffy. When the kids are loud and active and this puts your Staffy in an anxious state, provide them with a quiet space to enjoy. The dog, not the kids.
One thing I found works great when I left my Staffy alone was soft music playing by her crate. There is some research that shows this can work great for anxious dogs. There are even specific TV programmings for dogs over at DogTV that have become a big hit recently.
3. Crate Training
Crate training was hands down one of the best things I decided to do with my Staffy. Creating a warm, comfortable and relaxing space for her to spend quiet time alone worked exceptionally well. The crate training itself did take a week or so, but once that training took hold she was a different dog.
I recently brought home an American Bully puppy and started his crate training immediately. Slowly introducing him to being in the crate with lots of rewards. Gradually progressing to closing the door, then leaving the room, then eventually leaving the house.
At first your dog may resist and cry. Both my dogs did this. I just sat next to the crate and read a book for a few minutes until they reached a calm state. Rewarded this behavior, and let them out. I repeated this a few times and before long both of my dogs voluntarily went to their crates for a nap or time to relax.
4. Desensitization Training
Desensitization training is a technique I still use with my Staffy, and have introduced with my American Bully puppy. Making coming and going from the home a non-event trains your dog to see that this is nothing to fret and get anxious over.
Starting with crate training, then moving on to the entire household. By simply leaving the house without a big ordeal, and returning without excited behaviors, you can leave your dog in a calm state, and return to them in a calm state.
Practice leaving your home without any good-byes, “Mama loves you!” and remain outside for several minutes. Return to the home and essentially ignore the dog for the first couple minutes. Calmly reward your Staffy’s calm behavior to further reinforce the desired outcome.
Gradually increase the time away from home, and before long your dog will not even bat an eye at being left home alone.
5. Give Them A Distraction
Staffies can become hyper focused and obsessive at times. This anxious or nervous behavior can put them in an unhealthy state and you will need to snap them out of this with some sort of distraction.
My Staffy puppy was very anxious about fireworks for example. In my neighborhood, fireworks were a regular event certain times of the year. This made Ruby very nervous when they started to go off. It didn’t matter how much exercise she got, or how comfy her crate was. Fireworks but her in an anxious state.
By providing her with a fun and rewarding distraction we were able to overcome this behavior. I would often get a couple Kongs ready on the days I knew fireworks would be happening. As soon as they started to go off I would play a fun game with her and let her work on a frozen Kong.
This eventually had her completely ignoring the noise, and calmly working on her task of chewing the Kong. The next year when the fireworks festival was back in town, I didn’t even need the Kong. She was perfectly fine with the fireworks.
6. Ignore and Reward Certain Behaviors
Staffies can sometimes be very needy. They may cry and whine at you to get attention and do so in an anxious state of mind. You can’t just jump up and take them for a walk or play games anytime they display this behavior. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply ignore them.
When you Staffy realizes that crying, whining, and being anxious is not going to get them attention, they will stop. Doing the opposite of giving them attention and rewards when they are in a calm state will further reinforce the state of mind you want them to be in.
Reward them calmly, and simply ignore them if they are in an anxious state. So long as they are not in distress, ignoring them until they at least stop before you head out for a walk or games, is a great method to use.
7. Consider Supplementation
Supplementation can be a good additional method of calming a very anxious Staffy. This can be used alongside all the above techniques mentioned. I would advise to begin using supplements as a secondary assistance, and not the primary. Nothing can replace healthy exercise and training.
That being said some dogs need the additional help. Things like calming chews and CBD oil can have tremendous benefits for dogs with chronic anxiety and nervousness.
There are a variety of chews and treats available to help naturally calm and relax your Staffy when you leave them alone. Products like PetHonesty premium hemp chews use ingredients like chamomile, melatonin and valerian root in their delicious chew formula.
I have created a fantastic resource for CBD Oil For Dogs on my resources and reviews page that will break down the benefits and the best brands on the market to consider for your Staffy.