Anxiety can affect all breeds of dogs in all environments for many reasons. It's essential to understand the signs of anxiety in dogs, because if left unmanaged, occasional anxiety can turn into a full-blown canine disorder. The following are the most common signs of anxiety in dogs all pet owners should be aware of.
Table of Contents
1. Destructive Behavior
Dogs who suffer from anxiety may exhibit destructive behavior. This include activities that may cause damage to the environment or objects in your home. For instance, anxious dogs may chew through furniture, shoes, or clothing. Anxious dogs may dig at the floor, carpet, plants, or grass, causing severe damage.
Dogs who display destructive behaviors, mainly due to separation anxiety, will typically show a majority of such behavior at entrances and exits around the house. For example, doors and windows may get scratched or broken. They may chew window sills or dig at doors.
A dog may see an owner leave through a door, and later attempt to destroy the door by pawing and digging at it. They may try to take down curtains or window dressings. Dogs may also show anxious behavior by destroying furniture and your personal belongings.
2. Facial Indicators
There may be a varied display of physical responses to feelings of anxiety in dogs. Dogs are expressive creatures, especially when it comes to their heads and tails. Many signs of anxiety can be spotted by evaluating their facial expressions and symptoms.
Anxious dogs may pant or grimace when feeling stressed. They may also hyper-salivate and show signs of excessive nose or lip licking. Dogs that exhibit anxiety may also show increased head shaking and/or smacking of the lips and jaws. Anxious dogs may also begin to yawn as a sign of stress.
Dogs often use their facial muscles to display emotions. Drooping ears can be a sign of worry and anxiety. They may be unable or unwilling to look their dog owner in the eyes, and a dog's eyes are an indicator of stress.
The head and neck of an anxious dog may be lowered, perhaps even droopy or cowering. The ears may be pointed downward, possibly because of muscle tone changes.
Dogs may continually scan the area, showing hyper-vigilance, but refuse to look into a person's eyes. They may look into the distance when being spoken to as if ignoring their dog owner. It may become challenging to obtain your dog's attention or get them to meet your direct gaze. The dog may be attempting to disengage as a response to feelings of anxiety.
3. Physical Indicators
Dogs can display anxiety through their physical actions or show it through their entire body. A dog's whole body and body posture may be lower than usual. In addition to lowering of the head and neck, they may tuck their tail between their legs or keep their tail lowered, rather than up and wagging.
Dogs may either increase or decrease their activity when they are anxious. Some dogs may pace restlessly, unable to remain still. Other dogs may exhibit the total opposite and become immobile or very quiet. They may refuse to move or participate in any activity.
Some dogs may display repetitive behaviors that they would not usually perform. They may become hyper-vigilant and appear to be on edge, easy to surprise, or react, especially to loud noises or vibrations. These dogs may become reactive to stimuli that would not have formerly bothered them. In these cases, a dog may even become aggressive as a way to respond to their feelings of anxiety.
An anxious dog may try to hide or escape. They may find a crevice or out of the way area to protect themselves. Other dogs may try to break out of the area and run away from home. They may even attempt to break doors or jump high fences in an attempt to leave your house due to feeling uncomfortable.
4. Inappropriate Elimination
Even well trained housebroken dogs may show signs of anxiety by urinating and defecating in areas that are usually off-limits. Some dogs may also display coprophagia – consumption of their feces – as a sign of stress.
In some instances, dogs may urinate in unusual areas for reasons other than anxiety. This could be due to territorial markings. Dogs may also show signs of illness by defecating or urinating uncontrollably. It's important to rule out other reasons for inappropriate elimination before determining it to be due to canine anxiety.
5. Excessive Vocalization
A dog experiencing anxiety tend to vocalize their frustrations. They may make repetitive sounds, like high-pitched whines or whimpering.
An anxious dog's bark may be very plaintive, repetitious, and high pitched. The barking and howling can be very persistent and tireless. In cases of separation type of anxiety, this kind of vocalization only occurs when owners are away.
6. Self-Injurious Behavior
It’s difficult to know whether anxious dogs are deliberately attempting to hurt themselves or if they do so on accident while exhibiting their symptoms. For instance, a dog may attempt to jump a fence due to anxiety, hurting themselves in the process. Dogs may cut their paws, limbs, and muzzles, trying to claw through doors and floors.
There are cases where a dog might display side signs of self-injury as a sign of anxiety. An anxious dog may stop caring for themselves by not eating or grooming. Also, some dogs may groom excessively, to the point of hurting or mutilating themselves.
7. Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety occurs when dogs become anxious upon being separated from their owners or a person (or other animals) they are close to. Signs of separation anxiety can include some or even all of the above discussed dog anxiety symptoms.
Dogs who experience separation anxiety usually begin their anxious behaviors 5 to 30 minutes from the time their owners leave. While the owner is home, the dog may be extremely dependent and follow them carefully, wanting close contact at all times.
Some dogs may display the beginning signs of separation anxiety as their owners are preparing to leave. They may hear keys or see their owners put shoes on and begin to whine or appear suspicious. Also, dogs who suffer from separation anxiety may become overly excited and show excessive enthusiasm upon their owner’s return.
The symptoms and signs of anxiety in dogs can be both physical or behavioral. It's important to know these signs of dog anxiety to provide the appropriate intervention that your pet needs. Especially in cases where a dog might exhibit aggression or self-injuries, identifying anxiety in your dog is the beginning of helping to alleviate it.
READ NEXT: The Best Dog Anxiety Vests