How To Help Your Dog With Anxiety Symptoms

You’ve just come home from a long day at the office. You’re expecting to be greeted by a wagging tail and a happy dog. Instead, you find your living room destroyed and your dog chewing on the TV remote. Maybe you’ve gotten a note from your neighbors saying that your dog barks all day when you’re gone. Or it could be that your perfectly potty-trained pooch is having accidents all over the house. 

It can be hard to stay calm in these situations, but one thing is for certain, your dog isn’t out to ruin your life and your relationship with your neighbors. The truth is, they are most likely suffering from anxiety. 

 dog on couch separation anxiety

Anxiety in dogs ranges from mild to severe. While some breeds may be more prone to anxiety, it can happen in any dog. Anxiety symptoms can even appear in a dog that has never had any problems before. You want to help your dog, and you also want to save your sanity.

So how do you help your dog with anxiety symptoms? We’re here for you! We’ll tell you how to recognize when your dog may be suffering from anxiety and how to stop undesirable behaviors. Keep reading to find out more!

What Causes Anxiety In Dogs?

Before you can start helping your dog manage their symptoms, you need to find the root cause. The cause of anxiety in your dog can boil down to 3 things: fear, separation, and age.

  • Fear- Fear-based anxiety can be caused by anything new - new people, unfamiliar surroundings, or even objects. Some dogs may have had experiences that have left them terrified of certain things. Fear-based anxiety can be social, environmental, or have no apparent cause. 

  • Separation- This is a very common type of anxiety in dogs. At least 14 percent of dogs experience some level of separation anxiety. Dogs suffering from this form of anxiety are afraid of being left alone. This can be due to being abandoned in the past or the loss of someone important. 

  • Age- Age-related anxiety in dogs is due to cognitive decline. The changes that come with age can cause confusion and fear. Dogs with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome are especially affected, with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. 

  • How To Recognize Anxiety Symptoms In Your Dog

    Not all dogs will express anxiety in the same way. There are a range of symptoms, and if your dog seems to be frequently displaying any of these behaviors, it may be time to talk to your veterinarian.

    • Destruction
    • Urinating or defecating inside
    • Frequent barking
    • Depression
    • Pacing
    • Aggression
    • Restlessness
    • Whining 
    • Panting

    Some of these behaviors can be hard to distinguish from boredom. To determine if this may be anxiety, you need to observe when your dog displays these behaviors. Does your dog start pacing when you seem to be getting ready to leave the house? Does your dog seem to only bark if you aren’t at home? Does your dog growl at other dogs or people while out for a walk? These are all signs that your dog’s behaviors are caused by anxiety. 

    Treating Anxiety In Your Dog

    The ways you can treat your dog’s anxiety symptoms depend on the severity of the anxiety. If your dog has severe anxiety, your vet may recommend medication. Thankfully, anxiety in many dogs can be handled without medication. 

    Keeping your dog active can help reduce some symptoms of anxiety because their innate need for activity is being met. A long walk before or after you get home can be helpful in reducing nervous energy. Treat puzzles are another good way to help your dog overcome separation anxiety. These keep your dog's brain stimulated and give them something to focus on. 

    Make sure you socialize your dog. If they show fear of new people or other dogs, start slowly. Introduce your dog to one person in a quiet environment and let them take their time. Slowly begin to introduce them to busier environments, like the dog park, being sure to allow them to acclimate. 

    Training is another tool you can use to help your dog’s anxiety. Counterconditioning and desensitization are training methods often used to help manage canine anxiety. Counterconditioning helps give your dog an alternative to destructive behavior. Desensitization slowly introduces your dog to the situation or object that causes anxiety, while offering rewards, in an attempt to remove the fear and replace it with a more pleasant association. 

    Even simple obedience training can help your dog. Giving them a set of commands to follow helps your dog understand how to navigate a new setting. Not knowing what you expect from them in a new situation can cause some amount of anxiety in your dog. Training helps your dog understand what behaviors you find desirable. Frequent training sessions also keep your dog’s brain stimulated which also reduces unwanted behavior. 

    Creating a calming environment at home is also key in managing your dog’s anxiety. Some dogs like having their own place to go if they feel overwhelmed. An open crate with a blanket over it, a cozy corner with a favorite blanket, or a dog bed will give your dog a space of its own and help them feel at ease. 

     dog in crate dealing with anxiety

    You can also use dog safe essential oils to help create a stress-free atmosphere for your anxious dog. Diffuse chamomile, geranium oil, or a specially formulated blend to promote a calming feeling. You can also introduce essential oils in bath products. A dog bath bomb like Zen Puppy from Fido Fizzies is infused with a blend of essential oils meant to help your dog relax. If you and your dog are on the go, you can even take the benefits of essential oils with you with a diffuser keychain that you can pop right onto your dog’s collar!

    Don’t worry. Anxiety in your dog does not have to cause anxiety for you. Training, making your home a sanctuary, and working closely with your veterinarian will help you find the solution that is totally right for your dog.