Man’s best friend can be many things: loyal, lazy, affectionate, protective, kind, goofy, and, unfortunately, even anxious. Due to any number of external stressors, a dog’s mood can swing from calm and collected to anxious and uncomfortable in a matter of minutes. If this anxiety is regular and continues over long periods of time, it can be perilous to a pet’s health.
Put Fido at ease by identifying the cause of his dog anxiety disorder and remedying it.
Symptoms of Dog Anxiety
When humans are anxious, they display repetitious, nervous behaviors: nail biting, leg shaking, finger tapping, pacing, etc. Dogs act in similar patterns.
Examples of dog anxiety symptoms include:
- Uncharacteristic aggression towards people and other animals
- Eating poop
- Urinating or pooping in areas where she is not allowed to do so, such as the carpet or her crate
- Incessant barking
- Gnawing on walls, rugs, furniture, or errant pieces of clothing
Some people try to fix these anxious habits through punishment—don’t. That stress, combined with the fear
of misunderstanding you, will likely only make your dog’s anxiety worse.
Types of Dog Anxiety
No one dog is the same; the same goes for the causes of anxiety. Knowing how to identify the anxiety stressor is key to fixing the problem.
New things—especially new things your dog doesn’t understand—are highly stressful for most dogs. Traveling, which often sees your pet put in a crate in a moving vehicle over an extended period of time, can be a peak form of this stress. The experience takes something familiar such as your pet hanging out in a crate and makes it unfamiliar. The crate is now moving!
In this environment, the dog is treated to a number of external stimuli that are distracting, confusing, and exciting, but now is unable to move to explore them.
Odds are, your dog loves you and depends on you for comfort, food, and entertainment. Seeing you is the highlight of the day. Unfortunately, this ceaseless love can come with a downside: separation anxiety.
When you leave to go to work or
the grocery store, your dog sits at the door whining for your return. Ideally, he or she will move on, but some dogs aren’t as skilled in that arena and develop separation anxiety.
Every animal has a fight or flight instinct—it’s a natural part of development. When a dog is coerced into a small space (such as a crate) over long periods of time, they lose access to both of those defense mechanisms. They’re trapped, unable to move much, and are likely scared.
Not having the ability to move, even in wholly peaceful environments, may cause your pet confinement anxiety.
Loud, unexpected, and seemingly unknown noises such as thunderstorms, fireworks, and heavy machinery, can set a dog on edge. This is especially true if they occur over long periods of time. Your dog’s instinct is to go after the noise, run or hide.
If your dog is experiencing anxiety, you can practice desensitization, foster a calming environment, and/or use medication.
To foster a calming environment, consider giving your dog a routine, a calm demeanor on your part, and relaxing massages in times of stress. You are their ultimate beacon of relaxation.
Get your dog used to stressors in small doses, and provide them with treats when they react well. This works particularly well for loud noises and confined spaces. For separation anxiety, leave your home with little fanfare multiple times, and reward them if you return and they are preoccupied elsewhere and have not done any damage.
When medication seems to be necessary, feel free to consult your veterinarian or our staff behavior doctor, Dr. Amber Naig to decide what kind of medication your dog needs. These can substantially boost the quality of your pet’s life and the relationship you have with your pet.