The majority of dogs seemingly have little to worry about. With humans providing them with practically everything they need, it’s hard to imagine that dogs would have anything to cause them anxiety. We humans tend to think of anxiety as a human-only problem, the result of our daily stresses over matters such as our careers, our relationships, and our fears about the meaning of life. Believe it or not, it’s surprisingly common for dogs to feel anxious, too. Even though dogs may never have to worry about paying their bills, maintaining a marriage, or achieving complete satisfaction with their lives, they can experience nervousness that can affect their behavior.
It’s important for dog owners to understand this, because anxiety can cause a number of problems for them and their dogs. A dog that has anxiety may have difficulty eating, damage the house when left alone, or pick fights with other dogs. Since no dog owner wants to deal with these types of behavioral issues, it’s vital for dog owners to understand the potential causes of anxiety in their dogs, how to prevent it, and what treatments exist.
What Causes Anxiety in Dogs?
Anxiety can be the result of a fear, a dog’s personality, or age-related conditions. For example, one of the most common sources of anxiety in dogs is the fear of unfamiliar or unpleasant locations, such as a new home, or the vet’s office. Separation anxiety is another extremely common trigger, as dogs often don’t know how to cope with being left alone for extended periods. Older dogs may experience cognitive disorders as they age, leaving them confused and forgetful. This makes them more prone to anxiety.
How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Anxiety?
Any sudden change in your dog’s behavior may be the result of anxiety. In general, though, there are some definitive warning signs that can indicate your dog may need some help. Some of these signs can be glaringly obvious, but others might not be noticeable right away. Here are some of the most common behavioral changes that may indicate your dog is experiencing anxiety:
- Destructive behavior. A dog that is feeling anxious may lash out at its surroundings in an attempt to escape. Your dog may try to chew through a door or rip furniture apart.
- Housebreaking issues. Even if a dog is housebroken, it may urinate or defecate inside the house if it is feeling anxious. This behavior typically is associated with separation anxiety.
- Repetitive behavior. Pacing around the room, overgrooming the same body part, or other repeated behaviors could be signs that your dog is nervous about something, especially if the behavior doesn’t seem to have any apparent purpose.
- Aggression. A dog that snarls and snaps at other dogs or even people may be experiencing some form of anxiety. Growling and barking are telltale signs of aggressive behavior.
How Can I Prevent Anxiety in My Dog?
Although dogs can have anxiety no matter what, there are some steps dog owners can take that can prevent anxiety and give their dogs the coping skills they need to deal with stress. These include:
- Obedience training. Giving your dog a foundation of strong obedience training can help create a stronger bond between you and your dog. Ultimately, helping your dog feel more secure.
- Socialization. When dogs are often exposed to people and animals that are new to them, it can help them feel more at ease when they encounter different people and new situations in the future.
- Learning to read body language. Your dog’s body language often is the first sign that it is experiencing anxiety, so it’s important for dog owners to learn to read it. If your dog has a specific type of body language when it begins to feel nervous, such as tucking its tail between its legs, excessive panting or drooling, it may be easier to identify the situations that are causing stress.
- Avoiding stress. It may be possible to simply avoid the situations that cause your dog to experience anxiety. For example, if you know that fireworks cause your dog to experience anxiety attacks, it might be best to keep it inside on the Fourth of July.
A dog’s life is often pampered with many products to make pets happy and comfortable. Yet even with the most doting owner, a dog may still experience anxiety. That anxiety can lead to serious behavioral issues unless they are addressed, so it’s up to dog owners to identify anxiety in their dogs and help them overcome it.
Written by Stephanie N. Blahut
Stephanie is Director of Marketing for Figo Pet Insurance. Figo is committed to helping pets and their families enjoy their lives together by fusing innovative technology — the first-of-its-kind Figo Pet Cloud — and the industry’s best pet insurance plans.