Anxiety is the source of a lot of problem behavior in dogs. A dog who is uneasy and uncertain about her environment lives in an almost perpetual state of nervousness. I imagine the feeling is much like what many of us would experience if we suddenly found ourselves the pets of aliens who spoke a language we don't understand and whose social customs are completely foreign to us. Dogs need to know exactly what is expected of them and exactly what to expect if they don't comply with the rules. When they have to guess, they will become anxious. They also need to feel self-reliant rather than constantly relying on you, or they will be anxious when you leave them alone for a few hours. Anxiety can also arise from a disruption in a dog's expected routine, unless she has been given the tools necessary to cope with change.
Is my dog anxious?
The following are some indications of anxiety in a dog:
- Excessive Chewing - Dogs love to chew, and chewing relieves stress. If she's chewing down the walls like a beaver, she might have too much stress!
- Destructive Behaviors - Scratching at walls, doors, or floors, digging a hole to China, mutilating a crate... all very expensive signs that your dog is stressed out!
- Excessive Barking at nothing in particular - Dogs bark, but there's usually a reason. A dog barking non-stop at nothing at all might be under a little stress.
- Whining - A nervous habit, similar to excessive barking at nothing.
- Excessive Elimination - A couple of accidents in the house is probably a housetraining issue. SEVERAL accidents in the house in the same day could be anxiety.
- Excessive Drooling - The puddle on the floor or the wet spot on the blanket could be drool, a sure sign of stress.
- No Appetite - If they are not ill, dogs who refuse food could be experiencing anxiety.
- Self-mutulation - A dog who chews or licks herself so much that she develops sores is severely stressed.
- Following you everywhere - It's nice to know you're dog wants to be with you. It's when she NEEDS to be with you that there is a problem. If she refuses to let you out of her sight and whines when you are, it's stress, not pure adoration!
- Pacing - Like the stereotypical expectant father in a waiting room, she just doesn't know what to do with herself, so she paces.
- Spinning/tail chasing - Known as stereotypy, repetitive, mindless motions are a sign of severe anxiety.
- OtherObsessive CompulsiveBehaviors - Lots of "odd" and seemingly inexplicable behaviors are due to stress and anxiety.
- Inappropriate Aggression - Aggression is sometimes a sign of anxiety. See Fear Aggression.
Common Forms of Anxiety
Dogs with separation anxiety panic when left alone, even for brief periods. They become completely reliant on their owner and feel like they cannot cope on their own. more...
Thunderstorms, fireworks, gunshots, and even garbage trucks can send a dog into a state of panic. more...
Riding in a vehicle is stressful for many dogs. more...
Some dogs get social anxiety, just like people! more...
Disruption in Routine
Dogs thrive on routine. Change can be scary for many of them. more...
Some illnesses show anxiety as a symptom. The most common example in dogs is hypothyroidism. more...