Every dog owner aims to have a healthy and happy pet, who’ll enjoy life as much as we do. But it’s not unknown for some dogs to develop symptoms of anxiety. If your pet has suffered trauma in the past, certain events, even a house move, may trigger a stress response.
Certain breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers and Jack Russell terriers also tend to become anxious when separated from their human. Unfortunately, our pets can’t tell us directly when they’re feeling stressed, but we can learn how to interpret their behaviors so we can provide the reassurance and love they’ll need to cope with life’s challenges
If your normally well-behaved and mostly silent dog changes its pattern and starts to bark or whine incessantly, for no apparent reason, this is likely a way to express anxiety. Loud or unexpected noises may also trigger a session of uncontrollable barking.
If this is the case, calm your pet, and, as soon as they have relaxed into silence, offer a reward. If the barking starts when they’re left alone, try leaving them to watch one of YouTube’s extended videos with relaxing music for dogs, and visuals that can capture their interest.
There can be many reasons why your pet may have a digestive upset – an allergy, a change in diet, or highly processed foods, but if you notice a change in your dog’s stools, it is always worth discussing with your vet. Stress can be a cause of the symptoms of IBS and IBD in dogs. So consider what has changed recently in your dog’s world. Address the causes of anxiety, and perhaps change to high-quality bio-appropriate food. If the problem doesn’t resolve itself, that trip to the vet is in order.
Trembling or shaking
Certain breeds, such as chowchows and Maltese terriers are predisposed to trembling. However if your pet starts to display this behavior for no apparent reason, you need to investigate. What triggers this behavior? Does it start in response to sudden noises or unexpected events? If yes, provide plenty of reassurance while gradually increasing exposure to the stressor, until your dog is habituated. Also consider using a natural calmant such as canine aromatherapy drops, or CBD. If the trembling is extreme or located in one part of the body (especially the head), a veterinary examination should be carried out to rule out any underlying physical causes
When your pet is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system triggers the release of adrenaline, and your pet will enter a ‘fight/flight/ freeze/fawn’ state. One effect of this is that the bladder will relax, and the result can be the release of urine, even as the dog walks. If this happens, punishment or scolding is not an appropriate response – the dog had no control over this response. Instead, work out the root cause of the anxiety, remove it if possible, and provide lots of reassurance.
Dogs will chew to relieve their boredom and anxiety, especially when left alone. There are two main ways to address this. The first is to leave plenty of safe chewing toys for them to keep them busy while you’re away. The second is to move all your shoes and other valuables out of harm’s way – this includes items of your clothing, shoes, pens, eye-glasses, kids’ toys, and even papers which you don’t want shredding.
If a normally chilled dog suddenly becomes restless, constantly pacing and circling the living area, this can be a sign of anxiety. The first thing to try is to increase the amount of daily exercise to use up some of that nervous energy – increasing the distance, the number of walks per day, or picking up the pace and running more. If you have access to suitable outdoor areas, chasing and jumping games can provide mental stimulation as well as a physical release. As always, though, if your dog seems to be in pain, or shows other symptoms of distress, consult your veterinarian.
This can look quite cute, especially if your dog turns his head to one side at the same time. However, it may not always mean that your pet is sleepy, as it can be a subtle sign that your dog is feeling anxious. Notice what triggers this behavior, and either remove the cause of distress or reassure your pet until they become accustomed to the trigger and their anxiety subsides.
To summarize, by providing distractions, helping your pet become habituated to any stressors, and providing calm guidance and reassurance, you’ll go a long way to helping your pet remain calm, happy, and stress-free.