Signs Your Dog is Anxious and How to Help

Signs Your Dog is Anxious and How to Help

Just like us humans, our dogs are likely to experience stress and anxiety during their lifetime. A 2020 study highlighted that 72.5% of dogs exhibit anxiety-like behaviours, with noise sensitivity being the most common cause of distress (32%). Dog anxiety can affect all breeds, though there are some breed of dogs that are more susceptible to anxiety than others. On a similar note, dogs of all age can experience anxiousness, but dogs often show an increase in anxiety and behavioural issues as they age.

Sudden changes in behaviour are often the first clue that your dog is scared. However, anxiety will look different in each pup. 

Learning to recognise signs of anxiety or fear in your pet is the first step to understanding what triggers your dog and how you can help, in order to ensure that your dog is as comfortable as possible. 

What Does Anxiety in Dogs Look Like?

Dogs are very expressive, so their body language and behaviour can often tell us if they are feeling anxious. An anxious dog might exhibit the following behaviours: 

  • Hiding
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Shaking
  • Yawning
  • Salivating
  • Restlessness
  • Incontinence
  • Flattened ears
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tail between legs
  • Becoming more vocal
  • Shedding
  • Chewing
  • Destructive behaviour
  • Aggression

It’s also useful to recognise the signs that your dog is relaxed, so you'll also know when they’re not feeling distressed or anxious. 

One example of how your dog might behave when anxious, via Dogs Trust UK.

What Are the Main Causes of Anxiety in Dogs?

While loud noises may be a common trigger, there are a variety of reasons your dog may be exhibiting anxious behaviours. Recent years have seen an increase in separation anxiety, with many owners finding that their dogs do not cope well with being apart from them, especially for extended periods of time. This is particularly common in dogs who grew used to seeing their owners constantly during lockdown but are now struggling as they return to work.

Some dogs may experience fear when socialising, whether that’s with other dogs or people. You may notice your dog becoming more submissive or even hostile on these occasions which can make walking and exercise difficult.

In some cases, certain dogs may suffer with anxiety because of a medical condition or ageing, especially if their sense of sight or hearing have been affected. Change can be particularly confusing for dogs whose senses have been dulled as they struggle to assess whether there is any real danger present. You may also find that your dog doesn’t respond well to travelling, particularly if they come to associate car or bus journeys with the vets or an unpleasant experience.

Anxiety and fear can also be the result of PTSD or a response to trauma, although this is more likely in rescue animals.

How Can I Help if My Dog Is Anxious?

Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all approach to curing anxiousness in dogs. If you think your dog may be suffering from stress or anxiousness, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your vet who may be able to help you assess the situation and figure out the best route of action. They may offer you anti-anxiety medication or suggest herbal supplements to help calm your worried pup.

Addressing the root causes of your dog’s anxiety can be a lot more effective than looking for a quick fix, however you may find that many anxiety triggers are beyond your control, such as fireworks, thunderstorms, travelling and changes in air pressure. While you can’t control the weather, there are things you can do to limit your dog’s distress.

  • Provide consistency in your dog's routine so they can predict events, which can help them to avoid feeling anxious.
  • Being prepared for events such as Bonfire Night or New Year’s with noise mufflers can help relieve some of the stress caused by loud noises.
  • Training and organised walks can also be a great way to socialise anxious pets and build their confidence, especially if you’re lucky enough to live within an active community of dog-owners. Reaching out to your community through walking groups and puppy clubs can help desensitize dogs to triggering interactions and you may even make some like-minded friends.
  • Regular exercise can reduce stress hormones and build confidence. 
  • Respect for a dog’s need, such as time and space away from people. 

If you can respond to their subtle signs of discomfort, your dog will be less likely to exhibit aggressive behaviours, such as lunging, baring teeth, snarling, growling, snapping, or biting.

Ultimately, by addressing the root causes of anxiety and providing support through safe and effective care, we can create a more supportive environment for dogs struggling with anxiety, ensuring they feel safe and can lead happier, more relaxed lives.

At Soothe and Settle, we want to change the way we treat anxiety in dogs. Providing pooches with safe, research-backed stress relievers that make a real difference is what we’re passionate about - including our anti-anxiety Hush Muff and wheat bags. To discover more about our mission and get regular doggy updates, subscribe to our mailing list below.

Date Uploaded: August 11th, 2023

Last Updated: March 25th, 2024

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About The Author

Rachel Macdougall is a professional dog trainer, with previous experience as a professional dog walker and boarder. She is qualified in Canine First Aid and Canine Holistic Health, and has a Level 3 Dog Behaviour Diploma. Rachel is passionate about helping owners to find calming solutions for their anxious and reactive dogs. Part of this is executed through her role as Founder & CEO of Soothe and Settle. Soothe and Settle is The Home of the Hush Muff, a unique head covering for anxious dogs which muffles external noises to help your pup feel safe and relaxed.