Understanding Canine Anxiety: 15 Signs and Proven Solutions for a Happier, Healthier Pet

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Like humans, dogs can get anxious for various reasons, like separation from their owners, fear of loud sounds, or environmental changes. Recognizing the different signs of anxiety is necessary to provide your pet with the care and support it needs at such a time. Here are 15 common signs of dog anxiety, along with 15 treatments to help decrease their distress.

Unwarranted Barking or Whining


Anxious pups sometimes resort to incessant barking or whining to express their unease. This vocalization sometimes serves as a form of communication to convey their distress. The intensity and frequency of the barking or whining may escalate if the underlying source of anxiety persists or worsens.


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Disturbed canines may exhibit restlessness and an inability to settle down, resulting in repetitive pacing habits. This constant movement reflects their internal turmoil as they struggle to find rest and reassurance. Pets may pace during storms, fireworks, or when left alone, indicating their discomfort and need for support.

Panting Excessively

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Abnormal panting is usually a physiological response to nervousness in pets. When faced with stressful stimuli or circumstances, dogs may pant rapidly and shallowly to regulate their body temperature and alleviate their emotional distress. Heavy breathing induced by stress may persist even when the dog has rested enough, indicating heightened arousal and discomfort.



Dogs often tremble when anxious, with dilated pupils, flattened ears, and tense posture. Loud noises, unfamiliar environments, or strange people or animals can be a trigger. To help them relax, identify and address the underlying causes of their nervousness.

Hiding or Seeking Solitude


Pooches seek hiding spots when they feel overwhelmed. They run away from perceived threats and sources of pressure, seeking temporary refuge. Pets may hide under furniture or in closets to isolate themselves from potential danger.

Loss of Appetite

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Anxiety can affect a dog’s appetite, making them less interested in food. Even if they are typically good eaters, they may not want to eat when feeling uneasy. This could last for a long time and cause weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.

Excessive Drooling


Increased salivation is also the result of the dog’s increased restlessness and serves as a natural feedback to suspected threats or sources of intimidation. This behavior sometimes comes with symptoms like lip licking and panting. Too much drooling can manifest when visiting the veterinarian or encountering strange individuals or animals.

Destructive Attitudes, Like Scratching Furniture


Destructive behavior is common in dogs as a coping mechanism for anxiety, helping them redirect pent-up energy and frustration toward objects around them. They end up damaging furniture, doors, walls, and some items in a futile attempt to alleviate their agitation. Loneliness, thunderstorms, or changes in routine are usual triggers.

Excessive Grooming


Compulsive licking or grooming behaviors in puppies are a way of soothing themselves and bringing relief. The pet may target specific body parts, such as the paws, legs, or tail, resulting in hair loss, skin irritation, and self-inflicted wounds with time. In addition, they may lick or chew at their fur obsessively when faced with disturbing occurrences, seeking comfort and care.

Trying to Escape or Run Away

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When sensing danger, dogs may try to escape the source and get to safety. Their attempts can involve a desire to flee open doors or windows, jump over fences, or pull on their leash while taking walks. These reactions may also be because of excess noise, long periods of loneliness, or inadequate feeding.

Shallow Breathing and Rapid Heartbeat


Fright can elicit specific physiological responses in pups, like shallow breathing and an accelerated heart rate. These changes in respiratory and cardiovascular function indicate a dog’s heightened arousal as its body prepares to respond to perceived dangers. Shallow breathing may come with panting, while you can feel or hear a rapid heartbeat when you place your hand on the dog’s chest.

Aggression Towards People or Other Animals


Puppies exhibiting aggressive actions may do so as self-defense or to assert control over their surroundings. Aggression can manifest as growling, snarling, or snapping at people or some animals, especially when a dog perceives a potential threat to its safety or territory. Such reactions are often a last resort for pets under pressure.

Urinating or Defecating Indoors, Even If House-Trained


Sometimes, uneasiness can cause dogs to alter their excretory patterns, leading to accidents indoors even if they are fully house-trained. Pets may urinate or defecate inside the house due to fear or to mark territory in response to suspected danger. These accidents may occur when the dog is alone or in unfamiliar environments where it is vulnerable and insecure.

Constantly Seeking Attention

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When dogs begin to manifest clingy attitudes and constantly seek reassurance, they may be trying to cope with their internal worries. This behavior can involve following their owners around the house, pawing at them, or desiring to be cuddled or lap-sat. Though reassuring them in such instances may bring temporary relief, endeavor to permanently address the underlying causes of the dog’s worry and implement strategies to promote their confidence.

Avoidance of Certain Situations


Canines may actively avoid places that trigger their fears, such as crowded areas or interactions with strangers. The avoidance serves as a coping mechanism to reduce their exposure to stressors, helping them feel safe and in control. While this can temporarily relieve fright, owners should gradually build their confidence through positive reinforcement training.

The Cure


Having examined 15 possible causes of anxiety in dogs, let’s discuss a few things dog owners can do to help their furry partners feel better.

Create a Safe Space


Create a safe haven for your dog. Make a quiet, comfortable, and stress-free area with their bed, toys, and blankets. Encourage them to use this space and associate it with safety.

Provide Physical and Mental Exercises

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Regular exercise is vital for a puppy’s mental well-being. Daily walks, interactive play, and puzzles burn off excess energy, provide healthy outlets for instincts, and challenge the mind and body. This can distract them from anxiety and promote calmness.

Use Calming Odors

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Pheromone diffusers, sprays, or collars can calm your dog. These products mimic scents that mother dogs produce to soothe their puppies. They create a reassuring environment for your dog and help them feel secure.

Establish a Routine

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Pups thrive on routine and predictability, so establishing a consistent daily schedule can relieve tension and provide structure and stability. Set regular feeding times, exercise routines, and bedtime rituals to develop routines for your dog. Consistency in daily activities can enable your dog to feel more secure and confident.

Practice Desensitization and Counterconditioning

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Using desensitization and counterconditioning methods can help change their emotional response over time. Gradually expose your pet to triggers in a controlled manner, starting with mild contact and increasing intensity as they become comfortable. Pair the trigger with something enjoyable to create positive connections. 

Provide Comforting Objects


Items such as favorite toys, chew bones, or interactive puzzle feeders can distract your dog and alleviate worries in times of stress. These items are sources of mental stimulation and redirect their focus away from anxious thoughts. Offering such articles can increase your dog’s feelings of familiarity, reducing their apprehension.

Use Calming Music or White Noise

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Playing relaxing music or white noise can mask loud noises and create a soothing environment for your dog. Some notable music playlists and soundtracks are famous for easing pets’ worries by increasing restfulness and lowering stress levels. Experiment with different music or sounds to find the best for your animal.

Practice Relaxation Techniques


Taking your dog through relaxation exercises like deep breathing, massage, or mild petting can help them relax and unwind. Start by introducing these exercises in a calm, quiet place where your dog feels comfortable. Also, try soothing, repetitive motions, such as gentle stroking or massage, to calm their nervous system.

Seek Professional Help


If your dog’s apprehension is severe or persistent, it is paramount to seek professional assistance from a certified dog behaviorist. Such personnel can assess your dog’s needs and develop a customized treatment plan to address its concerns. Depending on your dog’s symptoms, their treatments may include medicines, behavior modification techniques, or a combination.

Provide a Comforting Presence

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Your presence and reassurance comfort your dog when it perceives danger. Spend quality time with your pup, offering cuddles, praise, and gentle petting to help them feel loved. Being there when your pet needs you can reassure them and allay their apprehension, promoting a sense of security and well-being.

Use Thunder Shirts

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Thunder shirts or anxiety wraps are snug-fitting garments designed to exert gentle pressure on your dog’s body, mimicking the sensation of being swaddled. This massage can reduce worry by promoting a sense of security and calmness. Thunder shirts and anxiety wraps are particularly effective for dogs who experience fear during thunderstorms, fireworks, or other loud noises.

Practice Positive Reinforcement Training

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Positive reinforcement training practices focus on rewarding desirable behaviors with treats, praise, and affection while ignoring or redirecting undesirable ones. This method can build your dog’s confidence over time by reinforcing relaxed behaviors. Consistency, patience, and clear communication are vital components of this training, so reward your dog whenever it exhibits calm reactions.

Limit Exposure to Triggers


Identify the specific signals that cause your dog to worry and take steps to minimize contact whenever possible. For example, if your dog is afraid of storms, map a place indoors where it can hide from the noise and flashes of lightning. You can also use curtains or window blinds to block out the sights and sounds of the storm.

Consider Medication

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In severe cases of agitation, medication may be necessary to manage your dog’s symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. Your veterinarian can prescribe the correct dosage of drugs, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. Always use these drugs in conjunction with behavior modification practices and under the guidance of a veterinarian to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Practice Patience and Understanding


Dealing with a dog’s fear can be challenging and frustrating, but remaining patient and understanding is vital. Avoid punishing or getting angry at your dog when they display anxious attitudes, as this can worsen their agitation and undermine your efforts to make them feel secure. Instead, offer support and encouragement, and remember to celebrate small victories and progress.


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