Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

Behavior Recent March 9, 2024
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Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

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Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety is the anticipation of a fearful event based on a past experience. Anxiety in dogs can affect all breeds, but it may affect every dog differently. While it is something that all dogs go through from time to time, if left untreated, your dog may develop an anxiety disorder, which can lead to behavior as well as other issues.

Your dog’s anxiety can be managed with a little love and care. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about causes, signs, and treatments for your dog’s anxiety.

Causes of  Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety in dogs can be reduced through proper treatment. Factors contributing to anxiety include illness, separation anxiety, bad experiences, genetics, aging, and a lack of exposure. An illness or painful physical condition can increase anxiety and spread fears, phobias, and anxiety.

Separation anxiety is the most common form, as dogs may not like being separated from their owners. Fear of a bad experience can also cause anxiety, as it may lead to a fear of recurrence. Genetics also play a role in anxiety, as some dogs are more prone to it.

Aging changes, such as lead poisoning, can lead to anxiety and behavioral issues. Lack of exposure to new people, places, and experiences can also contribute to anxiety in dogs.

Signs Your Dog has Anxiety

There are several important symptoms to look out for when determining if your dog is suffering from anxiety.


Some dogs will walk or pace a specific path in a fixed pattern when left alone or separated from their owner. Your dog may move around in circular patterns, while others walk back and forth in straight lines. If your dog’s pacing is caused by separation anxiety, it usually won’t happen when you are present.

Barking and Howling

A dog who has anxiety may bark or howl when left alone or when separated from his owner. If the barking or howling is persistent and doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone, it is usually a case of separation anxiety.

Yawning, Drooling, and Licking

Dogs yawn when they are bored, tired, or stressed. A stressful yawn is more prolonged and intense than the others. Dogs may also drool and lick excessively when having anxiety.

Changes in Eyes and Ears

Stressed dogs may have dilated pupils or blink very fast. Your dog can even open his eyes really wide and show more of the white than usual, giving a startled appearance. If your dog’s ears are pinned back against the head, he may be having anxiety.

Changes in Body Posture

Dogs normally bear weight on all four legs evenly. If your dog is healthy, with no orthopedic problems, yet shifts his weight to his rear legs or cowers, he may be showing signs of stress and anxiety. Also, when your dog is scared, he may tuck his tail or become rigid.


Dogs have been known to shed a lot when they see the veterinarian. Although less noticeable in outside environments, like visiting a new dog park, shedding can increase when your dog is anxious.


Dogs pant when hot, excited, or stressed. If your dog is panting even though he has not been running or playing, he may be experiencing anxiety from stress.

Changes in Bodily Functions

If your dog is experiencing anxiety, he may have a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. If your dog urinates right after meeting a new doggie friend, he may be marking his territory and reacting to anxious feelings. If your pup is refusing food or is having a loss of bowel function, it may be an indication of stress.


Dogs need mental stimulation, and some dogs can be destructive when left alone due to boredom. This is a sign of anxiety, even if your dog doesn’t seem to be stressed.

Hiding or Escaping Behaviors

Some dogs will hide behind their owners as a way to avoid something. Your dog may even nudge you and prompt you to move. They may even engage in diversion activities like digging or may move behind a tree or parked car.

How to Treat Your Dog’s Anxiety

It is important that your dog get plenty of daily exercise and playtime, and he needs the appropriate amount of high-quality food. Also, consistent training creates a bond between you and your pup, and sets expectations that will help relieve any apprehensions your anxious dog may have.

Certain situations may be too overwhelming for your dog to handle. If you know your dog reacts badly to loud noises, then keep them away from places with loud music, cars, or other sounds that will startle them. If the situation is unavoidable, try giving your dog his favorite toy or an old shirt that has your scent on it in order to ease anxiety.

Providing your dog with a little extra love and affection can help him ease the symptoms of anxiety. If your dog is showing signs of stress, cuddle up with him or spend some extra time petting him. Positive reinforcement can help your dog associate new experiences with rewards if you offer treats or pets when he is triggered.

Also, understand that your mental health affects your dog’s. When you are able to manage the stressors in your own life, you can be fully present for your dog.

Types of Dog Anxiety

There are several types of dog anxiety. Determining which type can help you learn what triggers your dog’s anxiety and allow you to help your dog manage the anxiety.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety occurs when a sensitive dog becomes deeply attached to you and your family. Separation anxiety in dogs can begin as early as puppyhood due to many new dog owners worry when they hear their puppy crying at night and pick him up, or cuddle him, making a fuss. This means your puppy is experiencing his first time alone and away from his mom and litter, yet he has learned that whining, crying, or barking gets your attention. Crate training in puppyhood is an excellent way to prevent separation anxiety. Your pup will quickly learn to self-soothe and settle down inside the crate. The contained space feels good to your pup because it’s a safe and comfortable zone where he can relax, like his own bedroom.

Noise Anxiety

Noise anxiety is another common type of anxiety in dogs. Some dogs are scared of loud or sudden noises. Fireworks or thunder are enough to send them into a frenzy. Dogs can also sense other physical signs associated with noise, like changes in barometric pressure before a thunderstorm. The wind may cause your pup anxiety since most thunderstorms are accompanied by winds.

Social Anxiety

Some dogs suffer from social anxiety when playing with other dogs. This type of dog anxiety may come off as aggressive behavior towards other dogs. Dogs suffering from this type of anxiety do not understand the difference between a friend or a perceived threat and dogs tend to fight off any threat. This may be exhibited by a bark, snap, lunge, or growl at other dogs or even people. The cause of social anxiety in dogs is believed to be early weaning or taking puppies away from their mothers too early. This may be because your pup did not get enough time to interact with littermates, and being around other dogs makes him feel anxious because he never learned that other dogs can be friends.

Final Thoughts

There are medications that your dog can be given to help with his anxiety. Every dog has a fear trigger, and the types of behavioral techniques that can be used to alleviate your dog’s fears and anxieties may vary and drugs are not always the best. Talk to your veterinarian to see what your options are. There are also homeopathic products that can help your dog with stress and anxiety as well.

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Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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