As a dog owner it’s your responsibility to educate yourself on the different causes and types of dog anxiety, so you can help prevent this common issue. It’s also your responsibility to become familiar with the various signs and symptoms of dog anxiety, so that you can detect that your dog is feeling anxious, and help them. This is all part of being a good pet parent.
From whimpering, unusual barking or aggressive behaviour, to body language signs of anxiety such as flattened ears, wide eyes or a tucked tail, it’s important to watch for clues that your dog might be feeling anxious. Some dogs engage in destructive behaviour when they’re anxious, while other dogs become avoidant or withdrawn.
Different types of dog anxiety might require different treatment options. Your dog might simply need your attention, some affection and physical contact, your gentle and reassuring voice, distractions such as bringing out their favourite dog toy, administering medication, or taking them out for some exercise. All of these actions can potentially calm a dog’s anxiety.
Types of Dog Anxiety
You’ll be better able to figure out what’s causing your dog’s anxiety once you narrow down which types of dog anxiety are possibly occurring, and why. You must get to the root of the problem in order to help your dog with their anxiety struggles.
The first step in identifying dog anxiety is recognizing that there are multiple types of dog anxiety. Just as human beings suffer from different types of anxiety in response to certain stimuli, dogs can show unique symptoms depending on the type of issue they’re facing.
1. Separation Anxiety
Does your dog get anxious when you’re gone, or when you’re leaving the house? Separation anxiety is one of the most common causes of dog anxiety. The Merck Veterinary Manual states that approximately 14% of dogs have separation anxiety, or an inability to comfort themselves when separated from their owner. Separation anxiety symptoms generally arise within the first 15 - 30 minutes after their owner leaves, and owners often detect signs of separation anxiety via webcam recordings of their dog while they’re away from the home. Sometimes, dogs will start showing signs of anxiety when their owner looks like they’re about to leave, for example when they’re putting their shoes on. When you return to your dog, you’ll likely notice an overly-excited dog greeting you, who’s now craving lots of physical closeness to you.
Dogs with certain personality traits can be more predisposed to separation anxiety. This form of anxiety is prompted by a fear of being alone or a fear of abandonment. Many dogs with separation anxiety become more destructive when they’re left alone, ripping up toys, engaging in destructive behaviour, or urinating in the house rather than being calm while you’re gone.
Some breeds of dogs are more susceptible to separation anxiety than others. For example, certain dog breeds like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are known for being clingy dogs who don’t like being separated from their owners, while other breeds such as Corgis are known for being more independent.
2. Fear-Related Anxiety
Fear-related anxiety is another one of the common types of dog anxiety out there, and it’s often caused by a temporary or unfamiliar problem with dogs who are spooked by a specific event or circumstance. Exposure to strange people or animals, loud noises, or new environments can all increase a dog’s anxiety levels. This kind of anxiety is often expressed by barking, changes in behaviour, a tucked tail, and flattened ears.
Loud noises are an incredibly common fear for dogs, as they can get spooked by sounds like thunder and lightning, a car backfiring, fireworks, loud noises coming from your TV, and more.
Some dogs also have a fear of strangers, a fear of going to the vet, or a fear of certain objects such as the vacuum cleaner.
3. Illness-Induced Anxiety
If your dog is confused or upset by symptoms of an illness or health condition, they might also exhibit symptoms of anxiety. This is because ‘not feeling normal’ or being confused by an illness can cause feelings of anxiety.
This is especially true for dogs with diagnosed diseases. Dogs that have developed some sort of disease with strange symptoms can get especially anxious when changes start happening.
A perfect example is dogs with vestibular disease. This is because this particular disease in dogs causes spatial orientation issues and balance issues (a common symptom that manifests is the chronic head tilt). This can be incredibly confusing and scary for dogs, which is why illness-induced anxiety is one of the scariest types of anxiety for dogs.
Cognitive illnesses such as dementia can also cause illness-induced anxiety for dogs, which brings us to our next type of dog anxiety we need to discuss: age-related anxiety.
4. Age-Related Anxiety
Age-related anxiety in dogs is typically connected to the underlying health conditions a dog experiences when they age. As dogs get older, they’re more likely to experience cognitive dysfunction, issues with their perception, and changes in awareness. This can lead to confusion, which also prompts fear and anxiety.
For example, older dogs are at risk of developing cognitive decline such as dementia, which leads to an unfortunate amount of confusion, fear and anxiety.
Older dogs also will often lose their sight. Blindness can cause lots of anxiety as well. As they age and start to experience symptoms of aging, your dog needs your love and comfort more than ever.
5. Social Anxiety
Not all dogs do well in unfamiliar environments with unfamiliar people. Some dogs get incredibly anxious when around strangers, or when left with strangers.
Social anxiety is another one of the types of dog anxiety out there, and it doesn’t always involve fear around being near strangers.
Dogs can also get anxious about being around strange dogs they don’t know, such as when they’re left at a doggy daycare with a bunch of other dogs.
Social anxiety in dogs typically stems from the dog being in an unfamiliar environment, rather than being home with their familiar family.
Dog owners need to be aware that socializing their dog is important to their dog’s mental health. Proper socialization early in life can help prevent instances of social anxiety. If you have a puppy and you socialize them by regularly introducing them to new people such as your friends, and socialize them with other dogs by regularly bringing them to a dog park, they’re less likely to develop social anxiety.
Are Certain Dog Breeds More Prone to Anxiety?
Curious if certain specific dog breeds are more likely to experience anxiety? The answer is yes. Examples of dog breeds that are more likely to struggle with anxiety are Jack Russell Terriers, German Shepherds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels, just to name a few. Many mixed breed dogs are also prone to anxiety.
In fact, the specific breed of dog you have can help you predict many things about them, from health risks and behavioural traits to personality traits and more.
Get a Dog DNA test from CirclePaw to discover which breed or mix of breeds your dog is, and what your dog’s breed says about your dog.
If your dog has anxiety quite often, you may need to talk to your vet to get professional advice and explore treatment options. Some companies make dog toys specially for soothing anxiety in dogs, and there are also certain medications or physical contact techniques your vet might recommend for a dog who struggles with anxiety.
- High anxiety dog breeds: https://www.pawcbd.com/blog/post/top-7-high-anxiety-dog-breeds-that-hate-to-see-you-leave
- Merckvetmanual: Behavioral Problems of Dogs
- ASPCA: Aggression
- Preventative Vet : Why your dog is barking