Dogs: they’re just like us, for real. Even our favorite companions get anxiety too. But animals (especially dogs) show their anxiety a little bit differently than humans. If your dog has been acting strangely, it might be a sign that they’re not feeling too good mentally. Here are 9 ways that dogs might show their anxiety—and how you can help them.
It’s also important to note that not all (or any) of these symptoms need to be present to indicate this issue, and they can be present for other perfectly valid reasons related to their surroundings. Ultimately, you know your pet better than anyone else so, if in doubt, get them checked out by your vet!
If your dog tends to be slobbery, this may not necessarily be a sign of anxiety–some breeds are just like that. But it may be if it has started out of nowhere and you are sure there isn’t an underlying issue (dental problems or eating something they don’t find tasty are other reasons why they may be drooling). It is also frequently linked to nausea, so ask your vet about next steps.
A well-rested dog in a cool environment probably should not be panting, so if you’ve noticed yours doing it in these circumstances, it can be a sign of anxious behavior. Though it isn’t always the case, it may be linked to pain stress, so have them checked by your veterinarian. Often, panting is accompanied by yawning and lip licking, and keeping an eye out for those as well can be helpful when looking for symptoms.
If your otherwise friendly and easygoing dog suddenly starts exhibiting signs of increased alertness, agitation, aggression or otherwise unpredictable behavior, it could be that it is feeling stressed. Also, as a good rule of thumb, if your dog (or someone else’s) is presenting with “whale eyes” (when you are able to see the whites), that is usually a sure sign of anxiety, and means they can become unpredictable at any moment. Being in tune with the environments you take your dogs to and how they react in them will help ensure no unfortunate accidents happen.
Going Potty Indoors
When your house-trained animal suddenly starts urinating or defecating indoors, especially in areas where they are not allowed to (for those that use things like puppy pads or astro turf trays), you may get frustrated. If it only happens on rare occasions, and usually as a response to something either very exciting or very scary, it may not be a reason for concern.
If, however, it becomes a recurring issue, retraining your dog as if it were a puppy may be your best course of action, as well as limiting their access to places they gravitate towards for their business. Crate training is a very helpful tool to manage anxiety in dogs, and they are also less likely to use that area as a bathroom, so we recommend looking into it if you haven’t already.
When most people think of anxious behaviors in dogs, destroying things is probably the first to come to mind. Whether this is as simple as chewing on a pillow or shoe, or outright disruptive (and harder to replace) like destroying furniture and door frames, chances are there is something going on with them. If they are new to your home, especially out of a shelter environment, you may need to have patience and provide them with safe spaces and engaging activities until they calm down.
An excess of energy can also easily turn into anxiety, so exercising your dog and giving it plenty of play opportunities will likely diminish these issues. Chew toys and bones are very helpful in managing them, and should also be used with teething puppies.
Barking too much (or howling) may be a sign of separation anxiety, and indicative of your dog wanting to be wherever you are–though, as with drooling, there are some breeds that just do it more than others. If you think this demeanor is being caused by some type of anxiety, it is important to address the cause, but remember it is also possible to train your dog with treats to be quiet.
Pacing, Restlessness and Sleep Changes
Pacing is a telltale signal of anxiety in dogs and is frequently observed when loud noises are present, such as fireworks and sirens. If that is the case, thunder shirts and dog videos may help lessen their stress, as well as providing them with a safe space–preferably something that mimics a den: small and dark. If this is caused by some type of chronic issue, however, medications and supplements may be in order and should be discussed with your vet beforehand. Sleep changes caused by restlessness may be both a symptom or a cause of anxiety, so keep track of their schedule to notice any sudden changes.
Repetitive or Compulsive Behaviors
Biting and gnawing at its own body or excessive licking until bald patches or sores appear are some compulsive behaviors that can be indicating your dog is feeling anxious. Other signs include spinning, chasing, and more. Interrupting these when you see it happening is very important, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A few options, however, include food puzzles, play time, and teaching them to respond to certain commands.
As with humans, suddenly tuning out of a social situation may be a sign that it is feeling anxious, and trying to manage it on their own. That’s not a bad thing! If they walk away, let them go without trying to pick them up or pet them unless they’re coming to you seeking that proximity, as doing it before they are ready may make it worse.