Dog anxiety can be an intense and overwhelming problem to deal with, both for the dog and the human caring for it. Since our loyal companions can’t speak, it’s natural to feel helpless when they are suffering from anxiety.
If you’ve ever noticed that your dog has its tail tucked between its legs, is trembling, or starts to act destructively for no reason, it could be suffering from anxiety.
In this article, we’ve put together a guide to spotting anxious behavior in dogs, what causes anxiety, and what you can do to make them feel safer.
“Dogs can get anxiety, and it can take many forms. What makes one dog anxious can be almost as unique as the dog itself”, says a veterinarian with IndeVets, Chaundra Schofield, VMD.
Like us, different dogs have different triggers for fear and anxiety that can be very specific to them. For example, some dogs are thrilled sitting in cars, while others can find it a huge source of stress.
Having said that, let’s look at the most common causes of anxiety in dogs.
Separation and Isolation
One of the biggest causes of anxiety for dogs is being separated from their humans. If you’re a dog parent, you’ve definitely noticed a change in your pup’s behavior when you get ready to go out the door.
While this is to be expected, dogs with separation anxiety have a harder time being away from their humans. They may try to block the door or bark and whimper at the sight of you leaving or even chew at your shoes.
Isolation anxiety happens when a dog hasn’t bonded with anyone and is totally alone. At this point, anyone showing affection will help reduce the dog’s isolation anxiety.
Let’s not forget that dogs are pack animals, so they need a family unit or pack to depend on for survival and social needs.
If you’re wondering, “does my dog have anxiety in new places”, the answer is probably yes. Going to a new place can strike fear and nervousness in almost anyone. Dogs are not immune to this.
You might notice that your pup tries to back away from getting into the car or even getting out of it if they don’t know where they’re going.
Going to the vet, getting surgery, having to take a new medication — these are all new experiences that your dog might not respond well to.
Trying new things is scary for everyone, and dogs communicate this fear by showing signs of anxiety and hesitation.
Noise anxiety is a very real trigger for panic in dogs. Thunder, fireworks, and loud construction sounds are enough to send your dog into a tizzy of anxiety.
These constant, repetitive, loud sounds can increase the levels of stress hormones in dogs.
Man dogs display anxiety in social situations, be it with other people or other dogs. Certain dogs are more predisposed to feeling scared when interacting with other beings.
This may be due to past trauma or not receiving proper socialization.
Signs of Anxiety in Dogs
If you’ve asked yourself, “How do I know if my dog has anxiety”, here are some signs you can look for.
When the stress hormone spikes up, it triggers anxiety. It can cause dogs to perform a behavior called “submissive urination” as a fear response due to a lack of confidence or social anxiety. They do this to show that the other person or dog around them is more dominant.
This is more frequent in puppies than grown-up dogs, but it can happen to any dog if they’re feeling too anxious. Their sympathetic nervous system also gets troubled because of adrenaline, causing them to get diarrhea.
One of the major dog anxiety symptoms is when they excessively pant or pace around the room.
They tend to perform out-of-control motor activities, which may look confusing and could be dangerous, like actively trying to escape, being unable to sit calmly, and chasing their tail around.
These anxiety in dogs symptoms are indicative of mild fear or panic. They can thus demonstrate behaviors like hesitation to move, trembling, hiding, tail-tucking, passive escape behavior, and low activity.
When really panicked, many dogs will start to hyperventilate and want to escape as soon as possible. You might wonder, “Can dogs have panic attacks?” The answer is YES!
A panic attack in dogs can manifest in the form of moving around in erratic ways, lack of spatial awareness, or constantly jumping around and trying to leave.
Loud barking, howling, and yapping are some other telltale signs of dog anxiety. However, anxiety can also cause your pup to become very destructive, ripping up fabrics, trying to knock over furniture, showing signs of aggression, and running around frantically.
How To Help a Dog With Anxiety
Now that you know how to tell if your dog has anxiety, here’s how you can help calm them down.
This is the first step to ensuring your dog feels secure, calm, and relaxed. If you’re in the car when your dog starts showing signs of anxiety, stop the car for a few minutes and take time to pet your dog. If another dog or human seems to be the trigger for their outburst, move them away from them.
Provide gentle, calming physical touch. If you’re a dog parent, even your presence can be very comforting to your furry friend. Use gentle patting and stroking motions to assure them that you are there and that you care.
Using colorful toys acts as great stimulants that provide mental distraction. This diverts your dog’s attention from the trigger. Their favorite toys will work very well.
Treats can help only after your dog has calmed down. They might not want to eat in a state of panic. So, once they have relaxed, offer them treats to let them know that you know they’ve been through a lot and deserve a reward. Cooked cabbage for dogs, for example, is a tasty and healthy treat.
Bring your anxious dog back to a location they are familiar with and feel safe in. It could be your home, your backyard, or the beach!
Dogs are social animals, and just like us, they too can experience anxiety. Understanding why your dog is feeling anxious is the first step to reducing its feelings of fear. We hope these tips give you an insight into how dog anxiety can manifest so you can keep your canine buddy safe and happy!