What's Causing My Dog's Anxiety

By Amanda French      September 17, 2020

Do you have a dog who can’t ever seem to settle down? 

You might notice your pup’s tail stays tucked and he avoids eye contact. Or maybe your dog is constantly pacing and can’t seem to find his "happy place" to be able to relax. Or maybe he’s always hiding. 

You’re probably wondering what’s going on with your pup, right? We’re sad to say that all of these types of behavior point to a canine anxiety disorder. But they aren’t the only telltale signs of an anxious dog.

Other symptoms of dog anxiety include:

  • Excessive chewing
  • Destroying furniture
  • Panting without exertion
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Trembling of shivering
  • Excessive licking of lips
  • Yawning or air sniffing
  • "Shaking it off" when not wet

While every dog is likely to show one or more of these behaviors now and then, an anxious dog will exhibit many of them regularly and seem to be constantly agitated.

As pet parents, we know how heartbreaking it can be to watch your furry best friend deal with anxiety. And it can be frustrating when you don’t know what’s behind it.

Let’s go over what makes a dog anxious, so you can help your pup feel better...

What Causes Dog Anxiety?

There are multiple reasons for stressed-out behavior in dogs. Some are pretty obvious (like a “stranger danger” reaction to visitors), but others aren’t as easy to detect.

Finding the answer to the “What’s causing my dog’s anxiety?” question will take some trial and error on your part. You’re going to have to pay close attention to your pup’s body language when he’s nervous to point you in the right direction.

We’re going to go over three of the main reasons for dog anxiety, as well as talk about general anxiety disorder in dogs, so you can figure out the best way to help your four-legged family member feel calm, cool, and collected. 

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Does your dog seem content when you’re at home but freaks out when he’s alone? This is the main sign of separation anxiety in dogs. Other symptoms include the destruction of household items, excessive barking (or even howling), and going potty inside after being housebroken.

For a dog with separation anxiety, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been gone for 10 minutes or 10 hours – they just don’t like being alone! While this type of dog anxiety is common, due to dogs being social creatures by nature, it can be super frustrating for you both.

Helping a dog with separation anxiety can be tough, which is why so many pup parents turn to all-natural calming treats to address the problem before they need new furniture or have unhappy neighbors come knocking at the door.

Other ways to calm a dog with separation anxiety include walking your pup before you leave home, giving them an interactive dog toy like a Kong to keep them busy, and doing your best to downplay your comings and goings each day.

Shelter Anxiety in Dogs

Being in a pet shelter or rescue can be a traumatic experience for many dogs. And because they can’t tell us about what happened to them or where they came from, pound puppies can very easily become anxious dogs in their new homes.

Most adopted dogs suffer from general anxiety, due to being in an unpredictable environment, but some of them can make the shift to separation anxiety as a response to the fear of being abandoned again.

The best way to help your adopted pup is to make him feel safe in his new home with a consistent and predictable routine. You might also want to consult with a dog trainer or animal behaviorist if your furry friend is having trouble adapting to his new life.

Illness-Induced Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs with certain medical conditions can also suffer from anxiety. If your pup has been diagnosed with any of the following, you might notice he suddenly becomes anxious, even if he’s never exhibited signs of anxiety before.

Common causes of illness-induced anxiety in dogs include:

  • Diabetes
  • Encephalitis
  • Hearing Loss
  • Thyrotoxicosis
  • Hypothyroidism

If your pup has suddenly started showing signs of anxiety or other extreme changes in behavior, you should consult your vet about the possibility of the onset of the above medical conditions that cause anxiety in dogs. 

Generalized Anxiety in Dogs

If you don’t think your dog’s anxiety is caused by being separated from you, having a medical condition, or coming from a pet shelter, chances are you’re dealing with a pup who has general canine anxiety. In other words, he’s just a nervous pooch!  

Generalized anxiety in dogs is more common than you might think and it often goes unrecognized in many pups. For a lot of dogs, the signs of general anxiety are often written off as “typical behavior” for their breed, when they’re actually feeling anxious.

Breeds of dogs prone to general anxiety include:

  • Bichon Frise
  • Greyhound
  • Border Collie
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Shorthair Pointer
  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever

Some of the best ways to help a dog with generalized anxiety include maintaining a consistent schedule, keeping social interaction to a minimum, and doing your best to keep a calm and quiet home environment.

How to Calm an Anxious Dog

Helping a dog with anxiety is something that requires patience and time. Your best bet is to consult your veterinarian about your dog’s anxiety, especially if it seems as if your pup is constantly agitated.

But there are some things you can do to treat dog anxiety naturally at home. Take a look at our quick tips for helping an anxious dog below. And remember that your pup will most likely mirror your emotions, so do your best to stay calm as much as possible.

  • Exercise your dog more to boost endorphins (the "feel-good" brain chemical).
  • Touch is very soothing, so try petting, cuddling, or massaging your anxious pup.
  • Try a natural dog calming supplement you can give daily to help prevent anxiety.
  • Playing classical music has been proven to be calming for dogs and humans.
  • Consider aromatherapy in your home with a diffuser filled with lavender oil.

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