Dogs can experience anxiety just like we can, and we know it’s not a good feeling. Dogs can become anxious or stressed at any time and it can be short-term or longer lasting. Understanding anxious behavior and learning how to manage it is important to keep your dog happy, healthy, and thriving.
What can cause anxiety in dogs?
There are many potential causes for anxiety and stress in dogs and identifying your dog’s trigger is key to helping them.
Loud sounds such as screaming, construction, thunderstorms, and fireworks can be startling to your dog, especially since their hearing is almost twice as good as ours.
New situations, like strangers entering the home, traveling, or visiting an unfamiliar place can be scary for dogs.
Change is hard for all of us, but it can be even more difficult for dogs as we cannot explain to them what is happening in a way they’ll understand. Change can include a move, a new baby or pet, or a different routine, to name a few.
Being left alone at home and watching their human leave can be very upsetting for dogs. Dogs can develop separation anxiety at any time and it’s something to be aware of as many pet parents may be returning to work in the office soon.
What are the signs & symptoms that a dog is anxious?
As their pet parent, you’ve probably come to know your dog’s temperament and routine pretty well. Anxiety can manifest in physical or behavioral changes such as:
- Aggression or agitation towards people or other animals
- Destructive behavior (chewing, scratching)
- Barking or whining
- Having accidents in the house
- Lack of appetite and general listlessness
- Excessive licking, scratching, or grooming
What can I do if I suspect my dog may be anxious?
Be sure to take the time to understand what exactly is causing stress in your dog.
Consult with your veterinarian
If your dog ever starts experiencing behavioral changes or causes you concern, always contact your veterinarian. It’s important to first rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing these symptoms.
Keep a log
Keep track of your dog’s concerning behaviors and note what time of day, what is currently happening or what happened earlier in the day, along with anything new in your life.
Pinpoint potential causes
Use the information you’ve gathered to connect a trigger to the behavior. For example, if your dog started experiencing what you suspect to be anxiety when your roommate started going to work again every day, or if the behavior began when construction started across the street from your house.
Punishment for unwanted behavior can cause your dog fear and stress and only adds more to their stress. Never yell, make startling sounds, or take any physical action against your dog.
What are some ways to help my dog’s stress and anxiety?
Physical activity and exercise along with mental stimulation and enrichment are key. Providing ways for your dog to burn off energy and redirect/focus their mind elsewhere can help, while also providing valuable bonding time between you and your pup
Get some exercise
Take your dog on a long walk, run, hike, bike ride, or play ball or fetch, . The physical activity will not only help to tire them out, but will keep them occupied and the exercise will release endorphins in your dog’s brain.
Provide mental stimulation
Hide food or treats in interactive puzzle toys or put food in stuffable items like Kongs. Freeze peanut butter, yogurt, or wet food like Stella’s Stews in a Kong for even longer lasting fun.
If your dog is showing anxious behavior during a certain situation, redirect their attention with playtime, treats, or another activity to distract them.
Be sure to continuously acknowledge your dog by talking to them, petting them, offering treats, and making them feel extra loved and supported.
Playing soothing, instrumental music or keeping the TV on can sometimes help dogs who suffer from separation anxiety or who are afraid of loud noises. Background noise can provide a nice distraction and be useful for keeping your dog calm.