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23 Critical Signs Of Anxiety In Dogs + How To Treat It (2023)

Signs Of Anxiety In Dogs

You’ve been noticing out-of-place behaviors in your pooch.

Your hunch is it’s due to anxiety…

Which is a worrying thought.

So let’s confirm your suspicion, shall we?

And while we’re at it, I’ll also help you handle it.

Continue reading to find out:

  • How to treat your canine’s anxiety.
  • 23 alarming signs of anxiety in dogs (#9 is unexpected).
  • The differences between active and passive escape in anxious canines.
  • And that’s just the beginning…

23 signs of anxiety in dogs

#1: Lip-licking

This sign is often overlooked because it’s subtle.

But research says that if your pooch is licking their lips…

It’s a hint they’re anxious.

And they do it as a way to appease you or their trigger.

As if saying, “Please be gentle with me.”

Because they’re under too much fear already, they don’t want it to get worse.

#2: ‘Forehead paw’

This one often gets misunderstood.

When your doggo covers their eyes with their paw…

That’s not their way of playing peek-a-boo or acting cute.

Instead, a study says it’s a signal of uncertainty in dogs.

And as AKC stated, canines thrive in predictability…

Because it lets them know what to expect, and it comforts them.

With that, doubt makes your pup anxious. 

Not knowing what comes next causes Fido to cover their eyes in fear and dismay. 

#3: ‘Whale eyes’

PetMD says dogs can sometimes overthink too. 

They can imagine or anticipate future troubles.

Which leads to anxiety and stress.

When your pup senses conflict, whether their gut is right or wrong…

They unintentionally react by displaying ‘whale eyes.’

It’s when their eyes are open wide…

And their sclera, or the white part of the eyes, is more exposed.

#4: Avoiding eye contact

Avoiding Eye Contact Is A Sign Of Dog Anxiety

Some find it hilarious when a dog does a side-eye.

Or when they briefly look at you, then gaze away.

Well, it might be amusing for you…

But internally, Fido is feeling anxious.

Research says a dog’s eye behavior is informative in canine communication.

And as you learned, Fido is capable of sensing a threat.

So when they detect ill-intentions from someone, they’ll avoid eye contact.

Which is their way to decrease the tension they’re perceiving.

#5: Restlessness

As you discovered, dogs do well when they have a routine.

With that, your pooch should have a sleeping schedule they follow.

And when you catch them awake past their bedtime…

Or if they’re stirring in their bed and constantly changing positions…

That means they’re anxious.

And there could be 2 reasons they’re restless due to anxiety:

#1: Increased energy

When something made your pooch anxious during the day…

They can be affected by it until night.

Because according to vets, anxiety causes a surge in adrenaline.

It’s the main hormone associated with stress and fear.

This surge enables the body to react toward a threat quickly. 

Doctors say it does that by increasing the following:

  • Heart rate.
  • Breathing cycle.
  • Blood flow from the brain to the muscles.

All of that stimulate the body to convert more sugar into energy.

With that, your pup is fueled throughout the day…

Come night, they can’t shake off the excess stamina from the adrenaline rush.

#2: Presence of fearful stimulus at night

Dogs can hear twice as well as humans.

That’s why research says canines are more noise sensitive.

And most places are the quietest in the evening.

So, dogs can better hear distant and unfamiliar noises at that time.

Which can make them anxious and get them restless.

“What’s the difference between this reason and the previous one?”

Since your pup is actively fearful in this case…

They’ll show other signs mentioned in this article.

Continue reading: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Is So Restless At Night + 9 Tips

#6: Pacing

As AKC stated, short periods of pacing in dogs are normal. 

Because you’ll typically see them do it after a meal.

Then, after a while, they’ll stop.

However, if their pacing is out of context and repetitive…

It becomes an indication of anxiety in your canine.

Moreover, this sign usually comes with restlessness.

Because when they have so much energy due to anxiety…

Your pooch will pace back and forth.

Which is their way to relieve the extra stamina they need to burn.

#7: Increased urination

A while ago, I talked about anxiety causing an adrenaline rush.

And aside from leading to restlessness…

It can also cause trouble in your dog’s urinary organs.

As an adrenaline rush also urges them to pee more.

For further reading: Why Is My Dog Suddenly Peeing A Lot (In The House)? 27 Tips

#8: Breaking house training

In severe cases of anxiety, your dog might disregard their house training.

Again, this is due to the adrenaline rush they experience.

Too much of it can lead to loss of control in bowel movements. 

But sometimes, it could be due to your pupper holding their need to go.

As they only feel comfortable peeing or pooping when they’re feeling fine.

Sadly, that relief didn’t come as soon as they expected…

With that, they go inside the house as they can’t stop it anymore.

Read also: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Suddenly Poops In The House (Again)

#9: Gut problems

Believe it or not, there’s something called a brain-gut connection.

Because the mind has a direct effect on your dog’s stomach and intestines.

According to Harvard, the gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotions.

That’s why we have expressions like “butterflies in the stomach.” 

Which we use to explain a giddy feeling.

In that sense, anxiety can trigger certain symptoms in the gut, like:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Abdominal pain.

Among those symptoms, the most prevailing one is diarrhea.

Which is an unexpected sign of anxiety in dogs. 

#10: Trying to escape

An anxious dog is an escape artist.

That’s why you’ll notice these 2 kinds of fleeing in dogs:

Active escape

This behavior is mainly due to separation anxiety.

That when you leave the house…

You’ll notice your pooch trying to go after you. 

Their ways of doing that could be via:

  • Racing you through the door.
  • Scratching the door or window.

Reading tip: Why Does My Dog All Of A Sudden Have (Separation) Anxiety?

Passive escape

Although it’s unbelievable for some…

Sometimes your dog gets so anxious they want you to leave them alone.

And this leads to behaviors like:

  • Climbing over objects to run away.
  • Digging under or jumping over the fence.

#11: Hiding from you

As I mentioned, some cases of anxiety make your dog want to go solo.

So, in the hopes of being alone…

They’ll try to hide from you.

You might go looking for Fido and see them camped in the bathroom

Sometimes, they’ll be at the back of the couch.

Or other pieces of furniture they can hide behind.

And if they fail to lie low…

They might resort to escaping instead. 

#12: Panting

When it’s not hot or your pooch has no reason to be physically exhausted…

Yet they suddenly pant

That can mean they’re anxious.

And this is a sign that’s hard to connect with anxiety.

Because PetMD tells us panting is also an indication of happiness or excitement in dogs.

The only way to tell the difference is to assess the situation.

An excited pooch will pant once they see an incoming treat or meal.

While an anxious doggo pants due to the presence of a fearful stimulus. 

According to the MSD Vet Manual, examples of those stimuli are:

  • Loud noises.
  • Situations (ex. grooming session).
  • Specific environment (ex. vet clinic).
  • Visually stimulating objects (ex. hats or umbrellas). 
  • Being exposed to unfamiliar places, people, or animals.

#13: Excessive drooling

There’s one scene where this sign is most obvious.

And it’s when your pooch is anxious to ride in the car

Because aside from anxiety, your dog is also experiencing motion sickness.

That feeling makes them sick to their stomach.

Then, it leads to nausea…

According to VCA Hospitals, that causes an overdrive in your dog’s salivary glands.

Which then brings a flash flood of saliva into their mouth.

#14: Destructive behaviors

Anxiety is a heavy feeling.

That’s why your pup needs an outlet to relieve themself.

With that, they must find ways to get rid of their extra energy…

Or distract themself from what they’re feeling.

So, your anxious pup will resort to destructive behaviors.

And according to PetMD, there are different types of that in dogs. Namely: 

Type of destructive behaviorDefinitionExamples
PrimaryThis is the general type of destruction dogs. You may or may not be around to catch these behaviors.Chewing your pieces of furniture or house plants. 
SecondaryYour pup destroys your belongings to get your attention. Stealing things from you and trying to destroy them.
Separation anxiety relatedIt’s hard to spot these because your pup does them when you’re not around. Specifically destroying your personal belongings (ex. Socks, clothes, blankets, and shoes). 

#15: Excessive vocalizations

Sometimes, your anxious dog will skip being destructive…

Instead, they’ll bug you with their constant vocalization.

And again, your dog does it to reduce their energy.

Sometimes, they cry for help because they can no longer stand the feeling.

Moreover, they show it in many ways like:

#1: Barking

According to AKC, when a dog barks too much…

It means their needs aren’t being met, which causes them anxiety and stress.

Moreover, you can consider barking excessive when it’s:

  • Rhythmic.
  • Repetitive. 
  • Occurring randomly.

#2: Whining

In dogs, this is their version of crying.

And similar to humans, this response is usually involuntary.

#3: Howling

In most cases, dog parents don’t report this kind of vocalization in their anxious pups.

However, howling is a sign of separation anxiety in dogs.

That’s why Fido only shows it when you’re not around.

So it might not bother you…

But surely your neighbors deal with it every time you’re out. 

#16: Digging 

Another energy outlet for anxious dogs is to dig.

As I mentioned, some do it to escape.

That’s the case if they’re digging in the yard, specifically under the fence.

Or they’re doing it near exits, like doors or windows.

Then, others dig on tiled floors or wooden surfaces…

So that they can expend their excess stamina.

#17: Freezing

You might’ve heard of the term “fight-or-flight” response in stressful situations.

Although that’s the most common feedback to anxiety…

There are times when an anxious individual will hit a pause on everything.

That’s why when your doggo is uneasy, they’ll freeze. 

This is due to the overwhelming feeling that comes with worry.

It overloads their brain so much they don’t know how to respond.

So, they just stay in one place. 

Often, they’re shaking or trembling as well.

#18: Reduced activity

Since your dog is overwhelmed with anxiety…

They won’t find activities they usually love to be interesting anymore.

So, they reduce their activity.

However, don’t get me wrong…

Their disinterest at the moment doesn’t mean they lost inspiration.

Right now, your anxious pooch just can’t figure out what to do.

With that, they refuse to socialize or partake in any tasks.

Instead, they want to lie down and rest in 1 place.

You’ll also notice your pooch will sleep more when they’re anxious. 

#19: Change in appetite

Sometimes, your dog will refuse to eat.

As you learned, it’s due to having no energy to do their usual activities.

Moreover, if your pooch has separation anxiety…

Your pooch won’t eat while you’re gone.

But they’ll regain their appetite once you get home.

On the other hand, some cases of stress can make your dog eat more.

So, you’ll observe a spike in their appetite. Example scenarios of that are:

  • Whining while you’re eating.
  • Seeking your attention for more treats.
  • Going through the trash for leftover food.
  • Counter surfing (reaching food from the table).
  • Getting overly excited when you’re about to feed them.

#20: Unsettledness

This is the opposite of restlessness.

As anxious canines also experience the inability to relax.

I already talked about pacing and vocalization.

Which are common manifestations of unsettledness.

But in extreme cases of anxiety, it turns into panic.

And that makes your dog act too hastily.

So without thinking, they expose themself to injurious risks like:

  • Jumping over the fence.
  • Running too fast and clashing with objects.
  • Rushing to the street (they might get hit by a car).

#21: Developing displacement behaviors

As I mentioned, anxious dogs try to escape their feelings.

But they don’t just do it in the literal sense, where they jump over fences.

Because your dog also develops displacement behaviors.

According to VCA Hospitals, those are:

Behaviors that dogs practice to make them focus on something else.

Thus, mentally running away from their worries.

And here are some examples of that in dogs:

  • Licking (themself or surfaces like your floor).
  • Sniffing (the ground, air, or objects like their toy).

#22: Compulsive behaviors

For some, watching a dog go around and chase their tail is entertaining. 

Like what this pooch frantically does in this video:

However, this isn’t fun for some canines…

Because when your pup has severe anxiety…

They’ll also develop compulsive behaviors like tail-chasing.

And some more that you’ll spot are:

Moreover, other signs I mentioned before (ex. pacing) can turn compulsive.

That’s also the case for displacement behaviors.

“How do they become compulsive?”

Every time your pup experiences anxiety…

They become more dependent on their reaction.

Now, when they find that sniffing the ground distracts them…

Or that pacing gets rid of their energy and calms them…

They’ll start to turn to the behavior every time they get anxious. 

Until it becomes their automatic response. 

“How will I know if a sign is already a compulsive behavior?”

The way to tell is to identify its cause. As well as how often they do it.

For example, dogs normally lick their fur to clean themself.

But if they’re not dirty, yet they groom their fur…

And they do it excessively…

You can consider it compulsive behavior.

Because these are practices that happen out of context. 

And your pupper also has trouble trying to stop it. So, they can’t control it.

#23: Self-harm

This is the most worrying sign of anxiety in dogs.

According to research, canines are self-aware.

Although not as much as us…

But they still understand their body in some sense.

As well as knowing that actions have consequences.

And with that self-awareness comes the ability to self-harm due to anxiety.

They’ll do it in the following ways:

  • Biting and gnawing their skin.
  • Repeatedly licking an area of their body.

Learn more: Can Dogs Be Suicidal? 9 Shocking Stories Revealed  

How to treat it

Treatment will depend on the severity of the anxiety. If it’s only mild, you can opt for training or calming aids. But if it’s severe, then you might need to consult the vet.

For moderate levels of anxiety, you can try desensitization and counter condition. 

Or try calming activities like massaging your dog

If that doesn’t work, next time, play some soothing music. Especially when your pup is restless due to anxiety.

And if they have separation anxiety and like to cuddle

You can buy a pouch hoodie to snuggle with them.  

But if your pup’s anxiety is extreme, they need to be checked by a vet.

From which the doctors can prescribe medications for your canine. As well as refer you to a canine behaviorist.