Are You Able to Tell If Your Dog is Anxious or Stressed?

Like their owners, dogs have anxieties and fears. A dog’s anxieties may not be the same as our own anxieties; however, they cause stress and physical reactions just the same. Many dog owners fail to recognize the most common signs of stress and anxiety in their dogs before it’s too late. Learning to recognize these common signals can help you prevent more serious problems later on.

Stressed or Anxious Dog? - Nashville TN

Some of the more common dog anxiety problems

  • Separation anxiety—a condition in which the dog gets anxious when left alone—is a huge problem for some dogs (as well as for some of their owners). Dog separation anxiety usually occurs when there is a shift in their owner’s schedule, thereby disrupting the amount of time we’re able to spend with our dogs. When faced with such disruptions, dogs may get stressed and become destructive.
  • Noise anxiety—a condition in which a dog becomes fearful when exposed to loud or unusual noises—can severely stress out a dog. Some of the more common causes of the offending noises include fireworks, thunderstorms, and garbage trucks. When confronted with any unpleasant noise, your dog may retreat to cover or simply cower until the noise subsides.
  • Travel anxiety—a condition in which your dog becomes unsure and stressed from unexpected moving—is a bit less common, as many dogs enjoy car rides. The stress in this situation comes from doing something new and unexpected.
  • Confinement anxiety—a condition in which your dog gets anxious when he or she feels trapped or confined—can have much the same impact on an affected dog as it would on a human facing the same affliction. If a threat should arise, a confined dog may be unable to escape or flee.

Symptoms of an anxious or stressed dog

When dogs become stressed or anxious, they may engage in certain behaviors to help relieve their stress. For example, when pet owners are anxious or stressed, they may begin to pace, bite their nails, or play with their hair; all of these are commonly referred to as “nervous ticks.” Dogs behave in much the same way. They may also pace, groom themselves, and much more. Some dog anxiety behaviors may result in property destruction, may cause their owners harm, or may simply be undesirable to our human sensibilities. The behaviors can include:

  • Non-stop barking
  • Chewing up furniture, walls, shoes, garbage, and anything else in sight
  • Pooping and peeing in the house, crate, or other confinement area
  • Eating his or her own poop
  • Aggression toward people, dogs, or other animals.

Punishment or other behavioral deterrents will do little to stop these anxious dog behaviors in the long-term because punishment doesn’t address the root of the problem, which is his or her anxiety. In fact, suppression of these displacement behaviors through punishment or other deterrents will only make the problem worse, as these methods will only increase stress and uncertainty levels for the dog.

From mild whining when left alone to full-scale panic attacks, many dogs suffer from anxiety and other forms of stress. While it’s often necessary to involve a professional trainer, and always a good idea to have your vet rule out physical problems, there are many techniques owners can use to address fears, anxiety, and stress in their dogs. Not all dogs will exhibit overt signs of stress or anxiety, however, the better you get at recognizing your dog’s signs, the better you’ll be able to help him or her avoid situations that could cause serious problems down the road. If your dog has been a little out of sorts lately and you’re looking for some behavioral counseling to get him or her back on track, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to help!

By Dr. Janet Grace | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

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