Puppy Anxiety: Symptoms & Management

Just like humans, puppies can suffer from anxiety disorders. Often, they suffer from separation anxiety, although sometimes they can suffer from social anxiety and noise anxiety. You can discern the difference based on the triggers and your pup’s response to those triggers.

Social Anxiety in Puppies

Social anxiety is the result of a lack of time spent with other people and dogs. Proper socialization is necessary for a healthy and well-adjusted puppy. Dogs that aren’t properly socialized as a youngster may display fear and become aggressive as a result.

Think of it like an infant who is never left home alone with anyone but mom. The child will cry for mom and want no one else but mom.

Puppies are similar, so it’s important to make a concentrated effort to ensure your pup is around more than just one person as well as other dogs and animals so that they learn proper social skills.

When puppies are socialized well, it helps them to adapt to changing situations and environments without fear or anxiousness, and makes for a much nicer pet.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety in Puppies

Social anxiety will often manifest based on your pup’s temperament. If your dog is naturally aggressive, social anxiety can make them behave in an aggressive manner. If your dog tends to be timid, your pup may display timid and fearful behavior.

With time and consistent exposure to stimuli that make your pup anxious, social anxiety can be overcome.

Noise Anxiety in Puppies

If you’ve ever seen a dog go diving under the bed during a thunderstorm, or get worked up and anxious over a repeated noise such as smoke detectors sounding off, or the sound of a running vacuum, you’ve probably witnessed noise anxiety.

There’s really no way of knowing what causes noise anxiety in dogs. Sometimes trauma can play a role, and sometimes it may not be the noise itself, but pressure changes associated with the sound (such as pressure changes that accompany thunderstorms).

It is thought that genetics could play a role in noise anxiety too. Herding breeds such as Border Collies and German Shepherds sometimes display a tendency toward anxious behavior in response to loud noises.

A pup experiencing noise anxiety could hear the same sound on repeat, and still continue to react the same way, over and over, perceiving the sound as a threat.

Whatever the cause, it’s important to try to alleviate your pet’s anxiety however you can.

Symptoms of Noise Anxiety in Puppies

Symptoms can vary, but most commonly a pup suffering from noise anxiety will:

  • Pant or salivate excessively
  • Whine and bark
  • Pace back and forth
  • Tremble and shake
  • Stand frozen in place

Your dog also may become clingy, or try to cower and hide somewhere to ‘avoid’ the noise.

Puppy Separation Anxiety

Puppies with separation anxiety tend to get anxious when they are separated from their owners for any period of time, and the disorder could result in home and property destruction while you are away.

There’s nothing that can put a damper on excitement like bringing home a new puppy, leaving them home alone for the day, and coming back to find your house has been demolished.

Unfortunately, this is a very common reason why new owners wind up getting rid of their newest addition within the first few weeks. They are surprised at the unexpected stress response and behavior problems that sometimes manifest when a new pup is left alone and suffers from separation anxiety.

This is sad because a pup’s separation anxiety is often easily remedied with a bit of time, love, and consistency.

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Puppies

Symptoms of puppy separation anxiety can run the gamut. Typically, your pup may:

  • Urinate or defecate all over your floors
  • Chomp your furniture to bits
  • Tip over your garbage cans to rummage through them
  • Sometimes they may shred your carpet or rugs
  • In fact, chewing and shredding anything is common
  • Digging and scratching at door frames and walls
  • Whining, barking, howling, and crying

Unfortunately, humans often mistakenly reinforce these bad behaviors by coming back to give our pup attention and reassurance. It is basically like rewarding a child for a temper tantrum. Dogs come to associate the reward with the behavior, and so the behavior only continues to manifest.

Just like with children, puppies are smart and they quickly learn how to manipulate.

Sometimes separation anxiety can be confused with simple boredom and a pup looking to entertain itself. It’s easy to get the two confused. However, one just means your pup needs to be taught some manners, while real anxiety could require treatment by a vet and/or behavior modification training with a professional.

Generally, if you notice that core behaviors are also associated with other signs of anxiety like drooling, trembling, and/or pacing, you can be relatively certain it’s not mere boredom but true distress your pet is suffering from, and act accordingly.

Also, when a dog is truly anxious, their escape attempts can be desperate and often extreme. They could even result in injury of your pooch, in addition to property destruction.

Sometimes anxious puppies may try to prevent their owner from leaving, or mope around while you get ready, seemingly depressed.

With true separation anxiety, as soon as you leave your dog behind and shut the door, they will begin barking, yelping, and whining. Such signs of real distress are exhibited very quickly, and when you open the door and ‘return home’, your pooch may behave as though he or she hasn’t seen you in ages.

These are all ways you can tell the difference between real separation anxiety and a puppy that is bored or trying to keep himself entertained.

Treating and Preventing Social Anxiety in Puppies

Desensitization is usually the preferred treatment option when it comes to social anxiety. Desensitization requires consistent and gradual exposure to the stimuli that makes your dog nervous, so that eventually they no longer see the stimuli as a threat.

So, if your dog gets anxious around strangers, making consistent efforts to introduce them to strangers and allowing them to spend increasing amounts of time with them can help your pup overcome these feelings.

The same goes for anxiety around other dogs… slow, gradual, repeated social interactions with friendly dogs can help your pup become more comfortable around his fellow canines.

The key is to take things slow and steady, and don’t rush the process. When possible, allow your dog to take the initiative, especially with people, and try not to place them in situations where they feel overwhelmed.

Be sure to reward desired behaviors and responses, and do not reward undesirable behavior, neither with treats or nor with attention.