We love our dogs more than anything, and we never want to find out that our dogs are having any kind of a negative experience in life, like anxiety. That being said, anxiety is pretty common in dogs, and many loving pet parents don’t even realize that their dog is struggling with it. Here are some of the most common signs of dog anxiety and what you can do about it!
What are some signs of anxiety in dogs?
Though not all of these signs of anxiety may be on display, most anxious dogs will show some combination of these symptoms. One of the best things that you can do is watch your dog’s behaviour and note anything that seems random or weird compared to their typical behavior. The more symptoms that they show, the more likely that your dog is feeling some anxiety.
- Increased sensitivity to normal household sounds like the vacuum cleaner
- Long recovery time when a small stress or excitement happens
- Does not get used to a new situation easily
- Hairs along back sticking up
- Out-of-character aggression
- Random drooling
- Panting (but may also be caused by many other medical issues)
- Being destructive (this can also be other causes like not enough exercise)
- Excessive barking or whining
- Staying close to you or hiding
If your dog is displaying these kinds of behaviours, it’s a good idea to talk with your vet about these symptoms, before you try to work on helping your pet to feel more at ease. Whether they are mild or severe symptoms, there’s no reason for your dog to live with anxiety any more than they have to. If you help them through it, this can support them in feeling better quickly. They trust their humans more than anyone, so you are the best ally for your dog to fight anxiety.
What should I do about my dog’s anxiety?
First step – talk with your veterinary doctor about your dogs’ symptoms. They can help determine if there is a medical issue, before you move on to looking at anxiety causes and cures.
If you’re not really sure what you can or should do about your dog’s anxiety, there are a few things that you can try. Dealing with animal anxiety is much the same as dealing with human anxiety, so keep that in mind! Here are some suggestions to show you how to approach dogs and their anxiety in a way that “translates” comfort and reassurance into their own language.
Try to identify your dog’s trigger: Your dog may have anxiety from something that, to us, seems like no big deal. For example, a change in routine such as adding a new person or pet to the household. It could even be something as simple as a change of diet. To your dog, who has no way of understanding what’s going on or why, these things can be quite unsettling. When they start to understand that it’s just part of their life now, the stress will go down. The better you can understand your dog’s triggers, the better you can deal with their resulting anxiety.
Give them lots of love and attention: You’ll want to focus on giving them lots of positive feelings and words. This can help them understand that there’s nothing to fear and that they are safe with you. Safety is the “cure,” if there is such a thing, to anxiety. You don’t want to overdo this positive attention (since this can actually reinforce anxiety!), but try to focus on giving them consistent, reassuring, positive vibes all the time, not just when they are showing anxiety.
Don’t punish them for their anxiety symptoms: Many pet owners think it is necessary to punish their dog for “misbehaving.” Behaviors like drooling excessively, acting aggressively, or destroying property can all cause humans to react by punishing their dogs. While firmly telling your dog “no” and redirecting them is fine, punishing them with lots of loud words can actually heighten your dog’s anxiety. It’s perfectly normal to try to get your dog to stop the behavior, and you absolutely don’t have to praise them for it! However, be careful in your tone and focus on understanding the emotion behind the behavior.
Keep yourself calm and patient: It’s easy for us to get angry and frustrated if your dog’s anxiety stays up higher than we like. This can spill over to your dog, though, as they tend to pick up on our energies and moods. As much as possible, stay calm, patient, and consistent with your dog. This will influence their own feelings and behaviors.
Do things your dog loves to do: Sometimes, having fun is a great way to help take the edge off your dog’s anxiety. Curl up on the couch together or play fetch or go for a car ride or a walk. Do things that your dog loves to do and help them see the brighter side of life again!
Consider desensitization or specialized care: If your dog’s anxiety is really severe or you’re having a hard time helping them feel reassured, you might want to consider a specialized approach called desensitization. You really should have the help of an experienced behavior veterinarian or trainer for this level of treatment. This is when you help expose your dog, in a controlled way, to the trigger for their anxiety. This can help them learn more positive behavior, which will bring down their general anxiety level. You can also consider certain products to help medically calm their anxiety if necessary. Again, this really requires advice from your veterinarian.
Should I talk to my vet about my dog’s anxiety?
Yes, this is the first thing to do if you think your dog has anxiety.
Talking to your vet is always a good idea, even in situations where you feel you’ve got a handle on your dog’s anxiety. Vets not only have lots of great education and information to give you, but also can recommend specialized options such as pet behavior therapists and more, to help you give your dog more peace of mind. And some dogs need medication to help facilitate the training and behaviour modification.
Your vet can also give you peace of mind that your dog is fine. Since these symptoms can make many people concerned that their dog has underlying physical health issues, a trip to the vet for a “just in case” check-up is a great way to help reduce your own anxiety. It’s well worth the time and effort, and also it is the perfect opportunity to ask your vet for advice on dealing with your dog’s anxiety.
Anxiety is a serious thing in your dog, just like it is in humans. Understanding what it can look like and working hard at managing will help you give your dog the best overall quality of life possible. That’s what it’s all about, after all!