The bad news: Many owners don’t recognize dog anxiety symptoms, so their dog’s nervousness goes untreated. The good news: Once you know them, these symptoms are easy to spot. What are they and what should you do if you see them?
Dog Anxiety Symptoms
These symptoms are critical for everyone to know. If you encounter an anxious dog, you need to know how to recognize it so you can respond accordingly. The most common signs of anxiety in dogs are:
Many dogs whine or whimper when they are anxious. If your dog does not normally whine, it’s a sign that something is off. The same goes for excessive barking, especially if your dog does not calm down after something that normally causes barking.
Many dogs shake from nervousness. It may appear as persistent shaking or a few shudders intermittently. Either way, if your dog is shaking and the weather isn’t cold, the shaking may be from anxiety.
Fearful Body Language
Dogs communicate volumes with their body. Some body language that indicates fear:
• Ears flattened back against his head
• Tail between his legs
• Body is cowered down or head is lower than shoulders in sitting position
• Licking his mouth
One of these signs may indicate something else – for example, if your dog’s head is lower than his shoulders, he could simply be trying to sniff something close to the ground – but if you see a combination of them, it’s likely a sign of fear. Read more: Dog Body Language Decoded
A calm dog will not act jumpy or startle easily. An anxious dog, on the other hand, will react strongly to loud sounds, a new person walking in the room, and other stimuli.
Many dogs become aggressive in response to their anxiety. For example, you may have seen dogs snap at other dogs at the dog park. This is often as a result of fear or anxiety around other dogs. Aggression is a protective measure that can have dangerous consequences.
The thing to remember with these is that most dogs will not show these signs in regular, everyday life. You’re more likely to notice dog anxiety symptoms in certain scenarios, such as going to the veterinarian or during storms. Just because you don’t see them constantly doesn’t mean they’re less important to handle. Pay attention to when they occur to help you identify the cause of anxiety.
What To Do If You Spot These Signs
If it's not your dog, back away slowly. Do not make eye contact with the dog. An anxious dog has less tolerance with strangers than under normal circumstances and may respond aggressively.
If it is your dog, it's up to you to help your dog get past the anxiety. The first thing you need to do is identify the source of anxiety. That will help you determine what the next steps should be. For example, if your dog gets nervous at the dog park, opt for one-on-one play-dates with a calm dog instead. If your dog gets anxious when a storm is coming, try a dog thunder vest to relieve his anxiety without medication.
If your dog’s anxiety persists or worsens, it’s time to consult an expert. Anxiety sometimes has underlying medical causes. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine if your dog’s persistent anxiety has a medical or behavioral root. If it’s behavioral, enlist the help of a dog behaviorist who has experience with dog anxiety.
Dog anxiety symptoms are not something to ignore. By recognizing and treating your dog’s anxiety, you’ll be helping him live a calmer, happier life.
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