Anxiety In Dogs: How To Calm Your Anxious Dog (And Improve His Bad Behavior)

If your dog is always barking, itching, chewing, and scratching, it doesn’t necessarily mean obedience classes didn’t take. Destructive behaviors are also a sign of anxiety in dogs, who often resort to compulsive behaviors (like how you chew your nails) when they get bored or stressed — often to the detriment of the rest of your home. But even the most hopeless dogs can change when owners recognize what’s causing their distress. Here’s what you need to know about anxiety in dogs and how you can address the root cause of your anxious dog’s distress.

What Are The Signs Of Dog Anxiety?

All dogs get anxious on occasion (read: the 4th of July), but if your dog is always agitated, barking, and pacing, an anxiety disorder could be to blame. But anxiety looks different on every animal. Some dogs scratch when they are stressed. Other anxious dogs whine, whimper, and hide. Recognizing the many signs of canine anxiety is key to understanding (and calming) your anxious dog. Dogs with anxiety often display:

  • Destructive behavior
  • Compulsive scratching, chewing and licking, even when hot spots ensue
  • Barking and howling when nobody’s home
  • Aggression towards dogs and/or people
  • Restlessness, panting, and pacing
  • Frequent digging and escape attempts
  • Whimpering and whining
  • Shaking, trembling, tail tucked between legs
  • Inability to control bladder
  • Lack of appetite
  • Avoid eye contact
  • What Dog Breeds Are Prone To Anxiety?

    Anxiety is common among dogs. In fact, one 2020 study of 13,715 dogs found that 70 percent of the pets (which spanned 264 different dog breeds) displayed signs of anxiety. Even so, canine anxiety is often seen in certain dog breeds:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Border Collies
  • German & Australian Shepherds
  • Bichon Frise
  • Vizlas
  • Shorthaired Pointers
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Can A Hormone Disorder Cause Anxiety In Dogs?

    Multiple studies suggest a link between hypothyroidism (low thyroid) and anxiety in dogs. This growing body of research has led some vets to test destructive pups for signs of a hormonal disorder, which could be causing the anxiety that’s causing their bad behavior.

    Types Of Anxiety In Dogs

    Dog anxiety generally falls into three main categories.

    1. Dog Anxiety Separation

    The most common kind is separation anxiety, which triggers anxious dogs whenever their owners leave the house. Instead of patiently waiting for their owner to return, dogs with anxiety separation immediately panic, sometimes even taking steps to keep their owners from leaving. Once their owner is gone, these anxious dogs will bark, howl, pace, urinate, or start frantically scratching and chewing (often at the expense of your door, couch, shoes, and furniture) until his or her person comes home.

    2. Noise Anxiety In Dogs

    There’s a reason July 5 is the busiest day for shelters, who spend Independence Day weekend processing lost pets and helping calm the anxious dogs in their care. These anxious dogs are triggered by fireworks and thunderstorms, but many everyday sounds — including ambulance/police car sirens, airplanes, traffic, loud TVs, beeping alarms and timers, other barking dogs, and even large gatherings — can cause dogs stress. Noise anxiety can start in puppyhood and increase as dogs age, but hopefully (with the right training) become a passing phase. Staying calm during these triggering situations will also help calm your anxious dog.

    3. Dog Anxiety Caused By New Routines

    Dogs are creatures of habit, so any changes to their daily routine — moving house, traveling, the addition of new family members, even you working from home — can cause your dog stress. Be mindful of the fact that sudden routine changes make your dog anxious and help calm your dog by quickly getting him onto a new routine. In the meantime, be understanding if your dog adopts anxious dog behaviors like scratching and chewing (or even has an accident indoors) during this stressful adjustment period.

    How To Calm An Anxious Dog

    Vets and dog trainers swear by the Thundershirt, which helps calm anxious dogs by swaddling them in a comfortable, gently pressured body wrap, or another anti-anxiety coat. Exercise also helps calm anxious dogs. Not only will an extra walk (or a brisk game of fetch) provide a stress-busting boost of endorphins, exercise calms anxious dogs by letting them burn off extra energy and stress. Treating your dog to a long walk before you leave for the day can help calm your dog’s separation anxiety, as can extra cuddles, petting, and brushing, because anxious dogs are calmed by physical contact. Music therapy can also help treat dog anxiety, so much so that shelters even play music to calm anxious shelter pets. Dogs with anxiety also benefit from have a quiet place to decompress and relax.

    What Natural Remedy Can I Give My Dog For Anxiety?

    Veterinarians can prescribe medication for anxious dogs, but many pet owners prefer to start with a natural treatment for dog anxiety. Studies have found Omega 3 supplements can help relieve anxiety in dogs without the unpleasant side-effects of pharmaceutical treatments. Other pet owners find a useful way to calm dogs suffering from separation anxiety. Other pet owners find CBD oil a useful way to calm dogs suffering from separation anxiety. Many people give anxious dogs essentials oils, which are especially soothing to animals with such a finely honed sense of smell. We love Dog Whisperer® Essential Oil, which calms anxiety in dogs and also helps our anxious pets sleep better at night.

    Can I Give My Dog Benadryl For Anxiety?

    Benadryl is usually given to help itching dogs recover from allergic reactions, but its sedative quality helps calm dogs with anxiety, too. Benadryl shouldn’t be given to dogs on a regular basis, but it could help calm anxious dogs during travel, particularly if your dog is prone to motion sickness. Don’t give Benadryl to dogs prior to consulting with a veterinarian.

    Conclusion

    Anxiety is common affliction in dogs, but one that can seriously impact your pet’s health — and your home furniture. Fortunately, changing your pet’s destructive behavior is possible when you understand what’s causing your dog anxiety, then enlist the strategies above to help calm your anxious dog.

    Additional Resources:

  • Dog Allergies Guide
  • Why Is My Dog So Itchy?
  • Ear Mites: Are These Unseen Critters Causing Your Dog’s Itching?
  • How To Spot Dog Fleas, Find Relief, And Rid Your Itchy Dog Of Fleas For Good
  • Hot Spots: What Causes Them And How To Get Rid Of Them
  • Dry Skin On Dogs: What Causes It And How To Treat It
  • Is A Hormonal Imbalance Causing My Dog’s Itchy Skin?
  • How Much Benadryl Can I Give My Dog?
  • Everything You Need To Know About Protecting Your Pet From Foxtail Grass
  • Sea Lions Recorded 'Surfing' Huge Waves Off California Coast: Click “Next” below!

    J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
    Whizzco for FAP