Royal Oak, MI 48073
Call or Text: (734) 462-2810
Alternative Canine Training Logo

Understanding And Managing Anxiety In Dogs

October 17, 2023

understanding and managing anxiety in dogs

“Anxiety” answers most of the questions we get regarding, “Why does my dog (insert negative behavior trait(s)?)” Dogs express anxiety or nervousness in a wide range of ways, some of the most common being:

  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Excessive barking and/or whining
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Salivating/drooling
  • Urinating/defecating in the house
  • Chewing things up
  • Other destructive behaviors
  • Doing things they know they’re not supposed to do
  • Aggression
  • Not eating 
  • Diarrhea
  • Constantly escaping your yard
  • And more

While everyone (including dogs) experiences occasional anxiety, chronic anxiety deserves to be addressed. Anxious dogs are often rehomed due to their undesirable behaviors or traits when all that is needed is accurate assessment, education, and training.

Potential Sources Of Your Dog’s Anxiety

The first step is identifying the reason(s) your dog is so anxious. If you read through them and aren’t 100% sure, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced dog trainer in your area. We love nothing more than helping dogs and their canine companions understand one another better and learn how to maintain the loving boundaries that ensure everyone’s needs are met.

Common Causes Of Dog Anxiety

Here are some of the most common anxiety makers for dogs.

Fear of…anything unfamiliar or unknown

Dogs are sensitive and highly attuned to their environments. The familiar feels safe, and the unfamiliar activates nervousness or fear. This means a dog can become anxious:

  • In a new place.
  • Outdoors (if they’re usually indoors) or vice versa.
  • Around new people.
  • Around other dogs (yes! Dogs must be socialized with other dogs, too).
  • When something is loud or a consistently unpleasant sound that hurts their ears.
  • In a car or while traveling.

The more you familiarize your dog with a variety of people, places, other dogs, and things, the better adjusted they’ll be in the presence of new or unfamiliar things in the future. We call this process “socialization,” and it doesn’t ever stop. Even if you did your due diligence initially, a well-socialized puppy or new-to-you dog could become increasingly nervous or anxious if you don’t continue exposing them to new things over time.

Separation (being left alone for too long)

Do you work all day? Dogs are genetically programmed to live in a pack and move a lot (more on that next). This means that some dogs don’t fare well when left alone for long periods of time if they are not used to being left. When they’re left alone or their pack “leaves them,” some dogs experience separation anxiety. This is particularly common for certain breeds (Chihuahua, border collies, and other working dogs, labradors, etc.) and for dogs that were abandoned in the past (newly adopted dogs).

Does this mean you can’t get a dog if you work? Not at all. However, if your dog has a hard time spending long periods alone, we recommend ensuring they’re occupied. This can be done by:

  • Buying a wide range of toys and rotating them (keeping some stored away) so they have new things to play with from week to week.
  • Investing in interactive toys, called enrichment toys, keeps them occupied for longer periods.
  • Paying a dog walker to walk them once a day while you’re out.
  • Taking them to doggie daycare a couple of times per week or in some cases every day.
  • Consider crate training if you or someone else can let them out for breaks.

Ensuring a solo dog is well exercised (so they’re worn out when you’re gone) is another great tool for minimizing anxiety of every type.

Not getting enough exercise

All dogs deserve daily exercise, but some breeds need more physical activity than others. We can’t express enough how important it is that people choose their dog breeds to align with their lifestyles rather than aesthetics. When you choose the right breed for your household, you’re already well on the way to avoiding unnecessary anxiety.

However, all dogs need at least one walk or run per day, and some need more playtime than others. Your vet or a local dog trainer are both excellent resources on how much exercise your dog needs. If you can’t meet those requirements, consider hiring a professional dog walker or taking your dog to a local dog park where they can run around and play. Sometimes, it may require making the painful decision to rehome your dog to a family with the time and energy to spare, freeing you up to adopt a dog that matches your lifestyle.

They are uncomfortable (or sick)

Sometimes a dog’s anxiety is due to discomfort or pain they can’t tell you about with words. Paying attention to a dog’s body language and habits is essential. Most dogs will give some type of sign when they’re hurting, such as avoiding food, limping, licking a particular area on their body, or whining. However, other dogs are more stoic, and signs of anxiety (panting, drooling, pacing, etc.) may be their only “tell.” If your dog’s anxiety is new or more than usual, and you can’t tell what’s wrong, schedule an appointment with your vet. 

A professional veterinary assessment, including routine urine and blood work and a full-body exam, may point you in the right direction. In addition to physical conditions or diseases that cause discomfort, dogs can hide other things going on for them like:

  • Vision loss.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Age-related memory loss.

Your vet can also identify these things and guide you toward diet, supplement, medication, or lifestyle changes that may support your dog’s emotional well-being.

Changes at home or in the routine

Dogs are very sensitive, including their ability to perceive the emotional climate around them. All kinds of things going on in the human world can trigger anxiety in a dog, including:

  • An increase in arguments. 
  • Someone moving out.
  • Someone moving in.
  • Bringing a new pet into the home.
  • Heightened anxiety or emotions in a primary caregiver or playmate.
  • Changes in the daily routine (like back to school or heading away on vacation).

In times of transition and change, dogs need extra love, support, more exercise to release anxious feelings, reassurance, and routine/structure.

Managing Anxiety In Dogs With Alternative Canine Training

Curiosity is the best first step in compassionately identifying and managing your dog’s anxiety. Contact Alternative Canine Training to schedule an in-home consultation. We’ll get curious together, talk about what’s going on, and work together to make excessive doggy anxiety a thing of the past.

phone-handsetmap-markermenuchevron-downcross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram