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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 help your dog manage stressful events is important for your dog’s health on all levels.

Common causes of anxiety in dogs

There are many potential causes of anxiety and stress in dogs, and identifying your dog’s triggers is key to helping them. Common causes of dog anxiety include:

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. Learn tips for how to calm your dog during a storm and ways to soothe your dog during fireworks

New situations, like strangers entering the home, traveling, or visiting an unfamiliar place can be scary for dogs. Halloween can be a source of anxiety for many dogs, but there are ways you can reduce your dog’s anxiety during trick or treating.

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. Anxiety-inducing changes 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 dogs are social animals.. Learn how you can help ease your dog’s separation anxiety, and how long your dog is able to be home alone.


As dogs get older they may experience anxiety from decreased sensitivity in sight, hearing, and smell. The world may seem harder to navigate, and they may startle or show fear more easily. Dogs experiencing dementia often have increased anxiety, and senior dogs with arthritis pain can also become more anxious or stressed.

bernese mountain dog with anxiety

Signs & symptoms of dog anxiety

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:

Some symptoms of anxiety can be temporary when a dog is feeling stressed by a particular event, but anxiety symptoms can also become chronic. Noticing anxiety symptoms early and taking action can help prevent them from escalating.

What should I do if I suspect my dog is anxious?

Be sure to take the time to understand what exactly is causing stress in your dog. If you think your dog is experiencing anxiety, you can:

Consult with your veterinarian
If your dog 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. You can take photos or videos if that helps explain the situation to your vet.

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.

Avoid Punishment
Punishment for unwanted behavior can cause your dog to fear you, and only increases their stress. Never intentionally yell, make startling sounds, or take any physical action against your dog.

bully breed with anxiety

Ways to help a dog with 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 reduce anxiety while also providing valuable bonding time between you and your pup. Here are some enrichment ideas to try:

Get some exercise
Take your dog on a long walk, run, hike, bike ride, or play tug-of-war or fetch. The physical activity will help tire them out, keep them occupied, and release endorphins (pain and stress-relieving hormones) in your dog’s brain.

Provide mental stimulation
Hide food or treats in interactive puzzle toys or put food in stuffable toys 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.

Desensitize & counter-condition

Desensitization is a technique where you expose your dog to very small amounts of the source of anxiety (for example the sound of thunder) and provide a positive stimulus (like affection or a treat) to reward calm behavior. The gradual progression of exposure will make your dog less sensitive to the trigger over time. Pairing a stressful event with a positive feeling provides counter-conditioning that helps reduce the conditioned, anxious response.

Offer reassurance
When your dog is just beginning to show signs of anxiety, but isn’t yet reacting negatively, be sure to continuously acknowledge your dog by talking to them, petting them, offering treats, and making them feel extra loved and supported. Rewarding your dog with positive reinforcement teaches them how you want them to behave in a given situation.

Use sounds
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.


In cases of severe anxiety, or when nothing else seems to work, you may need to speak to your vet about anxiety medication for dogs. There are many over-the-counter products advertised as dog stress-relievers, but you should never give your dog any medicine or supplement without your vet’s approval.

Preventing Dog Anxiety

The best way to prevent anxiety from taking root is by spending time with your dog on a regular basis, giving them attention and affection, and noticing patterns or changes in their behavior. Here are some additional tips you can use to mitigate anxiety in your dog:

You can’t always predict what will trigger anxiety or stress in a dog (especially if they lived part of their life before finding you), but learning about dog anxiety and how to promote dog wellness can help.