Other Types of Dog Anxieties
- Social anxiety: This type of anxiety can lead dogs to become agitated around strangers (humans or animals) or when they’re in unfamiliar environments. A dog might exhibit extreme nervousness or fear-aggressive behavior.
- General anxiety: For some dogs, their anxiety isn’t triggered by anything specific. Instead, they seem stressed, frightened and unhappy most of the time — no matter where they are, who they’re with or what’s happening around them.
- Canine obsessive-compulsive disorder: Dogs with this psychological issue are driven to repeat certain behaviors as a way to deal with their stress. They might spin in circles, chase their tail, fixate on certain objects, ingest non-food items (known as pica), or lick themselves to the point of self-harm.
Dogs suffering from social or general anxiety, or a compulsive disorder, may exhibit one or more of these symptoms:
- Ears pinned back
- Look of panic in their eyes
- Whining or barking
- Panting, yawning or drooling
- Constant lip-licking
- Chewing or licking themselves
- Destructive chewing, digging and scratching
- Trying to escape their environment
- Urinating or defecating
- Aggression directed at people or other animals
- Repeated behaviors (canine obsessive-compulsive disorder)
A variety of factors can lead to social or general anxiety or a compulsive disorder:
- Medical condition
- Lack of socialization
- Moving to a new home or other change in environment
- Change in the family’s routine
- Losing or gaining a family member (animal or human)
- Other anxieties, such as noise anxiety or separation anxiety
- Previous traumatic experience
- Past abuse
- Previously abandoned or rehomed
- Old age
- Weaned too early or the only puppy in the litter
- Genetic predisposition
Anxieties don’t go away by themselves and can get worse if they’re not treated. To explore your options and create a plan of action, make an appointment with your veterinarian, or a veterinary behaviorist, certified behavior consultant or certified dog trainer.
In more severe cases of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive behaviors, medication can be helpful — especially when used in combination with other training techniques and therapies. Talk with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.
Note: Never give your dog human medication without first consulting your veterinarian.
Counter Conditioning and Desensitization
When used together, these behavior modification techniques are highly effective in reducing and treating anxiety:
- Counter conditioning teaches your dog that good things happen (e.g., treats, toys, etc.) whenever they’re slowly exposed to the cause of their anxiety. Over time, they learn to associate the trigger with something positive.
- Desensitization slowly and gradually exposes your dog to the cause of their anxiety — being careful to never push them to the point of distress or fear.
What if your dog is suffering from general anxiety? Training, including clicker training, nose work and agility is a great way to build up your pet’s confidence. A consistent daily routine and creating a comfortable, low-stress environment can also help them feel more secure.
In dogs suffering from a compulsive disorder, rewards-based training is used to distract them and redirect their attention.
Note: You should never scold or “discipline” your dog for their behavior. This will only create more stress and fear.
In addition to medication and training options, you can also explore:
- Anti-anxiety wearables, such as a compression jacket or hood
- Calming supplements and pheromones
- Soothing music or white noise