Most pet owners think that their four-legged friend spends his days napping and dreaming of chasing squirrels, scarfing down food, and going on walks. But in reality, some dogs suffer from anxiety, whether it be separation anxiety or another anxiety disorder, and it’s important to understand what causes anxiety in dogs. This article will share some of the most common causes of anxiety in dogs.
What is Canine Anxiety?
According to petMD, “Anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers from unknown or imagined origins that result in normal body reactions (known as physiologic reactions) associated with fear.” For dogs, this may include pooping or peeing in the house, destruction of property, and barking or crying when you leave the house. They also say that “separation anxiety is the most common specific anxiety in companion dogs. When alone, the animal exhibits anxiety or excessive distress behaviors.”
Signs of Canine Anxiety
As mentioned earlier, there are many different signs of anxiety in dogs and recognizing these is the first step in creating a safe, comfortable space for your furry friend. Before you scold Fido for chewing up the couch or peeing on the floor, consider what could be causing him stress. Look for:
- Changes in attitude
- Cowering behavior or a desire to hide
- Lost interest in things like walks and treats
- Destructive behavior
- Inappropriate bathroom behavior
- Excessive barking or crying
- Anxiety as you get ready to leave
- Trembling or tucked-in tails
- Passive escape behaviors
- Active escape behaviors
- Diarrhea or other abnormal bowel movements
- Licking and biting himself
Now that you know what to look for in canine anxiety, here some of the most common causes.
What Causes Anxiety in Dogs
There are many factors that may cause anxiety in dogs, including:
Introducing a new playmate
This is a big one because although dogs usually appreciate the company, they are sometimes apprehensive of new members of the family at first. To successfully introduce a new dog, cat, or child into your home, do so slowly and ease your dog into the change. Especially for only-child dogs, this is a big change that he isn’t used to, which can anxiety and stress.
Whether it’s a weekend girls trip, a couch-surfing cousin, or an extended mother-in-law’s stay, visitors can make any puppy anxious. Even if your dog usually does well under pressure, any new person in his environment may cause unrest. If you are planning to have visitors, make sure your dog has enough space to himself if he becomes scared or anxious. Try to stick with your routine if possible, including regular walks and feedings.
Separation from the Owner
Separation anxiety in dogs is relatively common, especially from dogs that have been in a shelter or experienced abandonment earlier in their lives, or from dog breeds especially prone to separation anxiety. This type of anxiety can be triggered by both long and short duration of being left alone, depending on the dog.
Moving Homes or Changes in Environments
Moving can be stressful for anyone, including dogs! The idea of packing up their whole environment and living somewhere completely different can cause anxiety in even the calmest pups. In addition to moving, major changes in environments, such as moving furniture or remodeling, can cause canine anxiety, as well.
The sad reality is that some dogs, especially ones adopted from a shelter or found as strays, have faced hard times and dramatic experiences. Sometimes, these traumas show through in everyday things that wouldn’t normally be cause for concern. If you notice that your dog reacts poorly to normally innocuous things, he may be exhibiting anxiety from a past experience.
An Underlying Illness
Dogs may exhibit signs of anxiety and stress if they are experiencing another illness or disease. It’s important to note that untreated anxiety can actually lead to depression in dogs. If the above symptoms of anxiety correlate to other health issues you may be noticing, check with your vet to make sure there isn’t something more serious going on.
These are just a few of the reasons why a dog may be feeling anxious, and the causes of canine anxiety will depend on the breed of dog and their typical behavior.