A Guide to Dog Anxiety: Causes, Signs & How to Help

With the 4th of July around the corner, we wanted to take this opportunity to discuss how fireworks can affect pets and what it may mean for you and your furry friend. Not too long ago, the impact of loud noises on pets was often overlooked. However, in recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of understanding and supporting our pets’ mental health. Fireworks can be particularly stressful for dogs, causing significant anxiety. We now understand that our dogs’ mental well-being, especially during events like fireworks displays, requires our attention and proactive support.

What is Canine Anxiety?

Canine anxiety encompasses a variety of behaviors such as over-excitement, nervousness, and separation anxiety, which are not uncommon among dogs. Just like humans, each dog has a unique personality and will react to situations in different ways. Understanding the various forms of anxiety can help in identifying and managing your dog’s stress.

Canine anxiety can manifest in several ways, including:

  • Noise Phobias: Fireworks are often the primary trigger, but dogs can also develop fears of other loud noises, such the vacuum cleaner.
  • Separation Anxiety: Some dogs experience significant stress when left alone or when they are left in someone else’s care.
  • Fear-Related Anxiety: Situations like trips to the vet, groomer or outings in busy urban environments can be extremely stressful for some nervous dogs.
  • Age-Related Anxiety: Although not all dogs experience age-related anxiety, some find it increasingly difficult to cope with life as they age. This is particularly true for dogs suffering from cognitive decline.

What Causes Anxiety in Dogs?

Unfortunately, there isn’t always a clear-cut answer; however, various factors contribute to canine anxiety, and understanding these can help in addressing the issue effectively.

Poor Socialization

Dogs that were not properly socialized during their formative months are at a higher risk of developing anxiety as adults. Without exposure to diverse situations, environments, and people when they are young, they may become fearful or anxious when encountering them later in life.

Lack of Routine and Training

Dogs thrive on routine and consistent training. Those who experience little to no structure may find it challenging to navigate the world, leading to heightened anxiety. Establishing a predictable routine and regular training can significantly reduce a dog’s stress levels.

Genetic Predisposition

Just as with humans, some dogs are genetically predisposed to anxiety. Certain breeds or individual dogs may naturally be more nervous or prone to anxiety due to their genetic makeup.

Rescue Dogs and Behavioral Issues

Many owners of rescue dogs assume their pets’ anxiety and behavioral issues stem from past neglect or abuse. While this can be true in some cases, it’s not always the reason. Often, these dogs simply did not receive adequate socialization and exposure during crucial developmental stages. This lack of early experiences can manifest as anxiety in various situations.

Understanding the root causes of your dog’s anxiety is the first step towards helping them lead a calmer, happier life. By recognizing the signs and addressing the underlying factors, you can provide the support and care your dog needs to thrive.

Signs & Symptoms of Dog Anxiety

While the anxious dog quivering in the corner of the vet’s waiting room is a recognizable image, many signs of canine stress are far more subtle. It’s important to be aware of these signs to address anxiety promptly and effectively. Look out for:

  • Panting: Excessive panting, even when not hot or after exercise, can be a sign of anxiety.
  • Drooling: Increased salivation or drooling may indicate your dog is stressed.
  • Pacing or Restlessness: Constant movement or inability to settle down often points to anxiety.
  • Uncharacteristic Aggression: Sudden aggressive behavior towards people or other animals can be a symptom.
  • Shaking: Trembling or shaking without an apparent cause can signal stress.
  • Excessive Barking: Frequent or incessant barking, especially in situations where your dog is usually calm, is a sign.
  • Destructive Behavior: Chewing, digging, or tearing up household items may be a response to anxiety.

Your dog might display a range of these symptoms, and the signs can vary depending on the severity of their anxiety. Initially, some dogs may become quiet and watchful. Over time, if the anxiety isn’t addressed, their behavior can escalate to more obvious symptoms. Recognizing and understanding these signs is crucial in providing the appropriate support and intervention for your anxious pet.

How to Deal with Dog Anxiety

If you’ve recognized that your dog is exhibiting signs of anxiety, you’ll likely want to address the issue promptly. While there isn’t a quick fix, numerous strategies can help alleviate your dog’s stress.

Identify Triggers

Understanding what triggers your dog’s anxiety is crucial. By identifying and understanding their triggers, you can create a more effective treatment plan. Put yourself in your dog’s shoes to better comprehend their behavior and reactions.

Training Methods

Consider using training methods such as desensitization and counter-conditioning. Desensitization involves gradually exposing your dog to the anxiety trigger in a controlled way, while counter-conditioning focuses on changing the dog’s emotional response to the trigger. Working with a professional behaviorist can be highly beneficial, as they can develop a tailored plan specific to your dog’s needs.


For some dogs, prescription anxiolytic drugs prescribed by a veterinarian can be effective. These medications can help manage anxiety and allow other behavioral interventions to be more successful.

Calming Products

Many anxious dogs benefit from calming products like supplements or cannabidiol (CBD) based products.

Establish a Routine

Never underestimate the importance of a solid routine. Dogs thrive on predictability and feel more secure when they have a consistent schedule. Ensuring that your dog is fed, walked, and exercised at the same times each day can provide a comforting structure.

Mental Stimulation

Keep your dog’s mind busy. Just like humans, dogs can become anxious when they have too much idle time. Engage your dog with interesting training sessions, long walks, and stimulating games. Providing ample mental and physical stimulation can prevent boredom and reduce anxiety.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a more stable and comforting environment for your dog, helping them manage and overcome their anxiety.

How to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety in dogs is common, but with patience and consistent training, you can help your dog cope better. Dogs learn by association, so creating positive experiences around being left alone is key. Here are some strategies to help manage separation anxiety in your dog:

Ensure Adequate Exercise

A tired dog is a calm dog. Regular exercise is essential for all dogs, but it’s especially important when preparing for potentially stressful situations like being left alone. Engage your dog in activities like fetch, which not only helps expend excess energy but also provides mental stimulation. A well-exercised dog is more likely to be relaxed and ready for a nap when you leave, reducing signs of separation anxiety.

Establish a Positive Routine

Create a positive routine around your departures to help your dog adjust to being alone. Here’s how:

  • Pre-Departure Walk: Take your dog for a short walk before you leave, even if you’re only going to be gone for a short period. This helps to burn off energy and calm them down.
  • Safe Space: When you return home, settle your dog in a place where they feel safe and comfortable, such as their bed or crate.
  • Affection and Treats: Spend a few minutes giving your dog some attention and perhaps a treat before you leave.

Consistent Practice

Consistency is crucial. The more you practice this routine, the more your dog will associate being left alone with a positive experience. Here are some additional tips:

  • Short Departures: Start with short periods of leaving your dog alone and gradually increase the duration as they become more comfortable.
  • Encourage Other Family Members: Have other family members follow the same routine when they leave, so your dog becomes comfortable with being left alone regardless of who is home.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Always use positive reinforcement to reward calm behavior when you return home. Avoid making a big fuss when you leave or come back, as this can increase anxiety.

By investing time in these practices, you can help your dog develop a positive association with being alone, ultimately reducing their separation anxiety and making the experience less stressful for both of you.

How to Deal with Anxious Dog Barking

Dog barking is a natural behavior, but it can also be a sign of stress or anxiety. While you shouldn’t reward barking, it’s essential to teach your dog when barking is appropriate. Barking often occurs in response to triggers, such as a knock at the door, as your dog tries to alert and protect you. If frequent barking drives you “barking mad,” here are some strategies to manage it effectively:

Mask the Noise

Background noise can help reduce your dog’s anxiety and minimize barking. Try these techniques:

  • Radio or Television: Turn on the radio or television to create ambient noise. This can help mask the sound of knocking or other triggers, making your dog feel more at ease.

Training Techniques

Consistent training can teach your dog to remain calm and reduce anxious barking. Follow these steps:

  • Command and Settle: When your dog starts barking at a knock on the door, calmly instruct them to “sit.” Encourage them to settle down and stop barking before you answer the door.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Once your dog has settled for a few seconds without barking, reward them with praise or a treat. This positive reinforcement helps them associate calm behavior with rewards, reinforcing the desired behavior.

Additional Tips

  • Desensitization: Gradually expose your dog to the trigger (such as knocking) in a controlled manner, rewarding calm behavior each time. This helps them become less reactive over time.
  • Interactive Toys: Provide your dog with interactive toys or puzzles to keep them occupied and reduce anxiety-induced barking.
  • Exercise: Ensure your dog gets plenty of physical and mental exercise. A tired dog is less likely to bark out of anxiety or boredom.
  • Consistent Routine: Maintain a consistent daily routine to help your dog feel more secure and less anxious.

By implementing these strategies, you can help your dog manage their anxiety and reduce excessive barking, creating a more peaceful environment for both of you.

How to Calm an Anxious & Restless Dog

When your dog is restless or anxious, whether due to excitement, nervousness, or stress, there are several natural remedies and strategies you can try to help them relax and feel more at ease.

Natural Calming Remedies

  • Choose Grain-Free Food/Treats: Opt for grain-free food and treats that contain natural calming ingredients. Look for additions like chamomile and lavender, which are known for their soothing properties.
  • Calming Spritz: Create a calming spritz by mixing a few drops of lavender essential oil with water in a small spray bottle. Spray this around your dog’s bed or in the car before travel to help create a relaxing environment.

Recommended Products

  • PetFast Calming Strips: These are specifically formulated with a stress-busting calming proprietary blend consisting of L-Tryptophan, L-Theanine and Catnip together with Melatonin, making them an ideal fast-actig combination to help your pet unwind and relax. L-Tryptophan is a serotonin-boosting amino acid known for its calming effects, L-Theanine supports stress reduction, Catnip offers a natural calming effect on cats and dogs, whereas Melatonin supports normal stress, tension and hyperactivity, promotes restful sleep, also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties and improves oral health.

  • Petceuticals Transdermal CBD Organogel: Serves as an excellent option for not only addressing stress, but anxiety, itching, pain, mobility challenges, joint discomfort, as well as promoting overall physical and mental wellbeing. The hemp extract, providing 1000mg of activated CBD, has anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects in dogs by interacting with the endocannabinoid system. It aids in calming anxious dogs, especially during stressful situations. Moreover, due to its delivery method, compared to liquids and soft chews, this topical CBD product offers two times longer duration in the body and demonstrates five times greater effectiveness.

By incorporating these natural calming remedies and products into your dog’s routine, you can help manage their anxiety and restlessness effectively, creating a more peaceful environment for both you and your furry friend.