Dogs that experience anxiety may display their stress in very different ways. Some symptoms, like panting or shaking, are subtle and can be easily missed or dismissed because they are normal in other circumstances. Other more noticeable symptoms include aggression and excessive barking. Pet owners may mistake such symptoms as their pet simply acting out due to boredom or other behavioral causes. But if these symptoms occur in common situations, like during a thunderstorm or when pet owners leave the house, it can indicate that the dog is responding to anxiousness and stressful feelings.
Subtle Symptoms of Anxiety
Some of the less obvious symptoms of anxiety manifest as a slight change in behavior. These symptoms can go unnoticed by pet owners as they are not disruptive. These symptoms include:
- Hiding or solitude:
Some dogs want to be alone when they are experiencing anxiety. They may hide out of fear, or move away from people and other pets.
- Seeking comfort:
Other anxious dogs will have the opposite reaction, and seek more attention or affection. They may jump in their pet parent’s lap or require more attention.
- Shaking and panting:
Dogs that shake or pant, or act generally nervous may be experiencing anxiety. While panting after exercise is normal, panting during a loud fireworks display is likely not.
- Excessive licking or chewing:
Anxious dogs may compulsively lick or chew at their fur.
Overt Symptoms of Anxiety
The more noticeable symptoms of anxiety are hard to miss. Depending on the cause of the anxiety, these behaviors may only appear when dogs are triggered by their phobia.
- Excessive barking and howling:
One of the most obvious signs of anxiety is excessive noise. If a pet starts to bark because of a loud noise or interruption and cannot be easily calmed, even after the disruption stops, they may be feeling anxiety.
Anxious dogs may become suddenly aggressive, even to their pet parent. Anxious dogs may suddenly snap, growl, or show signs of aggression.
- Try to escape:
Dogs that feel trapped or enclosed may start digging or running. Enclosing dogs in crates may worsen their anxiety in these situations.
- Excessive energy:
Anxious dogs sometimes display a surge of energy and appear hyperactive.
House-trained dogs may suddenly defecate indoors when they are under duress.
A common symptom of anxiety is the destruction of furniture or other objects that they normally do not chew or shred.
- Panic attacks:
Dogs that experience any number of these symptoms may start to have panic attacks. Panic attacks can last from minutes to hours and can involve any number of the above symptoms.
Symptoms of anxiety, like the destruction of objects and high energy, can result in self-injury. The mental and physical stress that dogs endure while suffering from anxiety is also taxing, and should not go untreated.
Managing an Anxious Dog
As a pet parent, you need to act when your dog is suffering from anxiety. Avoid punishing or scolding your dog when it is having an attack. You should also avoid praising or patting because that may lead your dog to believe that you are encouraging its anxious behavior. The first step is to identify the stimulus that’s causing the reaction. Controlled exposure to the stimulus and giving rewards for positive behavior is a popular way of desensitizing the dog. It’s also advisable to seek help from a canine behavioral expert. If the problem persists, consult a vet. There are more than a few anti-anxiety medication and nutritional supplements that can help control the problem.