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Dog licking Paws - How to Recognise Dog Anxiety Symptoms by PetWell

How to Recognise Dog Anxiety Symptoms


How to recognise dog anxiety symptoms is crucial for providing the best care and support to your fur family. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the causes, symptoms, and management techniques for canine anxiety. 

We'll also discuss various products and tips available to help ease your dog's anxiety and improve their overall well-being.

Understanding the signs of anxiety in dogs is the first step in providing proper care. These symptoms can be categorised into behavioural, physical, and emotional indicators.

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Behavioural Signs of Dog Anxiety

Here are behavioural signs of dog anxiety to help you better understand each of these symptoms:

Excessive Barking or Howling

Dogs may bark or howl excessively when they are anxious. This can be a response to perceived threats, fear, or stress. 

It's important to note that not all barking is indicative of anxiety; however, if it becomes constant, especially in situations where it's unwarranted, it can be a sign that your dog is anxious.

Aggressive Behaviour

Anxiety can sometimes manifest as aggression. An anxious dog might become defensive or fearful, leading to growling, snarling, or even biting. This aggression is often a response to feeling threatened or cornered. Read more about What Causes Canine Aggression?

Pacing or Restlessness

Restlessness is a common sign of anxiety in dogs. Anxious dogs may pace back and forth or have difficulty settling down. They might seem on edge, unable to relax or find a comfortable spot.

Destructive Chewing

Dogs often chew things to relieve anxiety or boredom. Destructive chewing can occur when dogs are anxious, especially if they are left alone for long periods. 

Dog chewing - How to Recognise Dog Anxiety Symptoms by PetWell

Excessive Digging

Anxious dogs may dig excessively, whether in the yard or even inside the house. This behaviour can be an outlet for nervous energy or a way to create a safe space or escape route.

Inappropriate Elimination

Inappropriate elimination - urination and defecation, can be a clear sign of anxiety in dogs. It can result from stress or fear, especially when the dog feels threatened or insecure in their environment.

Isolation or Withdrawal

They might hide in a quiet corner or under furniture. This isolation is a defence mechanism to reduce exposure to perceived stressors.

Panting or Drooling

Excessive panting and drooling can be physiological responses to anxiety. When dogs are anxious, their bodies release stress hormones, which can lead to increased salivation and panting. 

Consulting with a professional dog behaviourist can help you determine the cause of these behaviours

The presence of one or more of these behavioural signs doesn't necessarily mean your dog is experiencing anxiety. Some dogs are naturally more vocal, energetic, or prone to specific behaviours. However, when these behaviours are out of character or significantly intensified, it's a good indication that your dog might be struggling with anxiety.

Observe your dog's overall behaviour. Consider the context and consulting with a professional dog behaviourist can help you determine the cause of these behaviours and provide appropriate support and intervention for your anxious dog.

Physical Symptoms of Dog Anxiety

Dog licking his paw for a blog on How to Recognise Dog Anxiety Symptoms by PetWell

Shaking or Trembling

Nervous trembling is a visible sign of anxiety. It's like a shiver resulting from heightened stress or fear. This trembling is a physiological response to the body's "fight or flight" mechanism, indicating that the dog feels threatened or uneasy.

Increased Heart Rate

Anxiety accelerates the heart rate, mirroring the dog's heightened arousal. This heightened heart rate is the body's response to prepare for action, even though the dog may not be in immediate physical danger.

Excessive Salivation

Stress-induced drooling occurs when a dog feels anxious or threatened. Excess salivation is a response to anxiety, and it's often seen in situations that make the dog uncomfortable or fearful.

Pupil Dilation

Enlarged pupils suggest anxiety in dogs. This is part of the body's physiological preparation for a "fight or flight" response. It indicates that the dog is in a state of alertness and readiness to react to a perceived threat.

Excessive Grooming or Licking

Compulsive grooming or licking may indicate anxiety or discomfort. Dogs sometimes engage in this behaviour to soothe themselves when they are anxious or stressed.

Loss of Appetite

Anxiety can suppress a dog's appetite. They may lose interest in food, eat less, or even refuse to eat at all. This is a common response to stress and discomfort.

Frequent Yawning

Dogs often yawn when anxious. Frequent yawning can serve as a calming mechanism. It's a way for the dog to self-soothe and release tension, like how humans might take deep breaths to calm themselves down.

Emotional Distress in Dogs

Dog looking away - How to Recognise Dog Anxiety Symptoms by PetWell

Whimpering or Whining

Dogs express distress through vocalisation, often due to fear, discomfort, or anxiety.

Avoidance Behaviour

Dogs may avoid triggers that cause anxiety, such as people or situations, to reduce stress.

Seeking Comfort from the Owner

Anxious dogs seek reassurance, staying close to their owners for safety and emotional support.

Tail Tucked Between Legs

This is a submissive gesture, indicating fear or submission in response to perceived threats.

Avoiding Eye Contact

Dogs may avert their gaze when anxious, signalling unease, submission, or social anxiety.

Decreased Playfulness

Anxiety can reduce a dog's enthusiasm and willingness to engage in playful activities they typically enjoy.

Read more about Emotional Distress in Anxious Dogs

Common Causes of Anxiety in Canines

Dog hiding - How to Recognise Dog Anxiety Symptoms by PetWell

Understanding the root causes of anxiety in dogs is crucial for effective management and support. Here's a more detailed elaboration on each common cause:

Separation Anxiety

Dogs with separation anxiety become distressed when left alone. They often exhibit behaviours like excessive barking, chewing, or house-soiling. This condition can result from attachment issues or previous abandonment.  

Fear of Loud Noises (Thunderstorms, Fireworks)

Many dogs fear the loud noises associated with thunderstorms and fireworks. The sudden, unpredictable sounds can trigger anxiety and lead to behaviours like hiding, trembling, or even destructive actions.

Lack of Socialisation

Proper socialisation is essential for puppies to develop into well-adjusted adults. Dogs that miss out on early socialisation may struggle with fear or anxiety when encountering new people, animals, or environments.  Read more about Dog Socialisation Tips

Read more for the Common Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

Tips for Calming an Anxious Dog

Dog training - How to Recognise Dog Anxiety Symptoms by PetWell

Managing anxiety in dogs often requires a multifaceted approach, and consulting with experts is a great idea. Here's a deeper look at anxiety management for canines:

Consulting with a Holistic Veterinarian

A holistic veterinarian can rule out any underlying medical causes, offer diagnostic insights, and recommend or prescribe medication, if necessary, only in extreme cases. (Note: prolonged use of synthetic medications to manage anxiety can lead to organ failure).

They can also refer you to a canine behaviourist for more specialised help.

Professional Dog Trainer

A professional dog trainer, particularly one experienced in canine behaviour and anxiety management, can work with your dog to address specific anxiety-related issues. 

They will develop a training plan tailored to your dog's needs, using positive reinforcement methods to modify behaviour and improve their confidence.

Behavioural Training

Behavioural training involves desensitisation and counter-conditioning techniques, gradually exposing your dog to their anxiety triggers in a controlled and positive way. This helps your dog build confidence and reduce their fearful responses.

Lifestyle Changes

Adjusting your dog's daily routine, providing a safe and secure environment, and ensuring they receive ample exercise and mental stimulation are essential components of anxiety management. A consistent routine and a predictable environment can provide comfort and stability for your dog.

Natural Remedies

There are natural remedies such as calming supplements, and herbal remedies that can help reduce anxiety in dogs. These can be used in conjunction with other management strategies.

 Every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Consulting with professionals allows for a personalised approach, addressing your dog's specific anxiety triggers and symptoms.

Dog Relaxation Techniques

Helping your dog manage anxiety involves various techniques and strategies:

  • Creating a Safe Space: Designate a quiet, comfortable area where your dog can find security and relaxation when anxious.
  • Regular Exercise and Playtime: Engage in physical activities that release endorphins, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being.
  • Positive Reinforcement Training: Reward-based training methods to build your dog's confidence and reduce anxiety.
  • Calming Music or White Noise: Play soothing sounds to mask anxiety triggers and promote relaxation, helping your dog feel at ease.
  • Consistent Routines: Establish daily schedules to make your dog feel secure, reduce uncertainty, diminish anxiety, and encourage calm behaviour.

For more detail read Dog Relaxation Techniques: Help Ease Your Dog’s Anxiety

Treating Anxiety in Puppies

Puppy - How to Recognise Dog Anxiety Symptoms by PetWell

Puppies are like little sponges, absorbing the world around them. Here are some effective ways to address anxiety in young dogs:


Introduce your puppy to a variety of people, animals, and environments to build confidence and reduce fear.

Positive Exposure to New Experiences

Gradually expose your puppy to new situations, making sure they associate them with positive outcomes.

Crate Training

A training crate can serve as a safe haven for your puppy, offering security and comfort.

Obedience Training

Basic obedience commands help your puppy understand what's expected, providing structure and reducing anxiety.

Social Anxiety in Dogs

Just like humans, dogs can experience social anxiety. Here are ways to help your dog feel more at ease in social situations:

Gradual Exposure to Social Situations

Introduce your dog slowly to unfamiliar people, animals, and places to build confidence.

Obedience Classes

Enrol in obedience classes to improve your dog's social skills and behaviour in controlled environments.

Positive Reinforcement for Social Interactions

Reward your dog for positive social behaviours, encouraging them to be more comfortable and relaxed around others.

Canine Anxiety Disorders 

Scared dog 2 - How to Recognise Dog Anxiety Symptoms by PetWell

Signs of anxiety in dogs for many dogs may be occasional, however, some may develop more severe and persistent anxiety disorders, including:

Separation Anxiety

Dogs with separation anxiety become extremely distressed when separated from their owners, often displaying behaviours like excessive barking, destructiveness, or house soiling. This condition requires professional help, such as from a veterinary behaviourist or dog trainer, to develop a tailored treatment plan. Read more about Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Noise Phobia

Noise phobia, commonly triggered by thunderstorms, fireworks, or loud noises, can cause severe anxiety and panic in dogs. Professional guidance can help manage this condition through behavioural therapies and, in some cases, medications.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Some dogs exhibit chronic and generalised anxiety, leading to a wide range of anxious behaviours. A veterinary behaviourist can create a specialised treatment plan, which may include a combination of training, medication, and lifestyle modifications.

A trained expert in anxiety-related behaviour in dogs can accurately diagnose the condition. And provide a customised treatment approach for the best chance of improvement and a happier, more relaxed life for your dog.

Read more 10 Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

In Summary

By identifying the signs, understanding the causes, and implementing appropriate management techniques and products, you can help your dog lead a happier, more relaxed life. Seeking professional guidance when needed and tailoring your approach to your dog's unique needs is key to successfully managing canine anxiety.

Best Calming Supplements for Dogs

Reviews on PetWell's all-natural CALM supplement for dogs:

"I have been using the anxiety powder for a few weeks and it works very well! she still is a little anxious when I am not around but she has settled a lot. Only whining for a little bit then relaxing. but i believe the powder has taken the edge off a lot" - Caitlin

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"I love the PetWell supplements. I use them with my three dogs, as well as with clients. Made with REAL ingredients. No synthetic vitamins! No fillers! Formulated with beneficial ingredients. Calm is great for those highly strung dogs to help calm their nervous system. Not all supplements are created equal. Highly recommended PetWell supplements." - Jacinta, Canine Nutritionist at Chadwick Nutrition

 "My border collie Jack has been taking Calm for his anxiety and it’s helped him settle down" - Manuk

"Bear loves his CALM. I give it to him daily. We call it his happy treat! Definitely has improved his anxiety. Love it!" - Carolyn

More Rave Reviews for CALM

"We’ve been using the pet calm supplement. The dogs love it. I notice a difference in Captain. He’s less anxious when we leave the house and calmer with other dogs. Also noticing he doesn’t pull on the leash or tense up. Will definitely continue to buy more when it runs out. I’m keen to keep them on it. Great product." - Sasha 

"Simba (Toy Cavoodle) has calmed down considerably since being on Petwell Calm daily. He was suffering from some mild separation anxiety due to my returning to the office (used to Mum being at home 24/7 in lockdown.)
He is no longer barking when I leave, I have a nest camera on him and he just naps on the bed- super content. I feel so much better about leaving him now too. Thanks 😊"
- Janet

"Max has been using Calm for months now. This supplement with hemp oil has replaced the anxiety medication he was on and he is just as calm now then ever before. Awesome product that works for him." - Josh 

Disclaimer: The entire contents of this email and website are not to be taken as medical advice. The team at PetWell encourages you to make your own pet healthcare decisions based on your research. And in partnership with a qualified pet healthcare professional.

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