Why is Your Dog Nervous

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It’s no joke: dogs suffer anxiety just like people do. And just like in people, anxiety can manifest itself in dozens of different ways. Maybe your dog flies off the handle when the doorbell rings. Maybe he even loses it when people merely walk by on the sidewalk. Or maybe your dog growls inappropriately, like when a friendly stranger reaches out to pet him. Noise phobias anyone?

While it’s pretty easy to identify the signs of dog with anxiety, it’s not always that easy to know why they’re there. Vets, researchers and even pet owners all have their theories. There’ seven a TV show dedicated to treated dogs with behavioral problems, many of which are caused by anxiety. It’s called The Dog Whisperer.

So, theories and conjecture aside, what are the documented causes of anxiety in dogs? Does anyone even know?

Fear vs. Anxiety

A lot of dogs are fearful. They fear strangers. They fear the vacuum cleaner’s harsh, persistent sounds. Some even fear statues. While this may cause you to feel annoyed or, in the case of the silly statue-fearing dogs, embarrassed, it’s perfectly normal for dogs to exhibit fear.

With a little effort put forth, you can coach your dog out of being so fearful and sometimes as he ages and figures out he’s never been harmed by a statue, the fears lessen with time.

Anxiety, what we’re interested in here today, is something different. Anxiety is worrying about future danger…imagining the statue or the scary person who walks by the house every afternoon. You’ll know if your dog suffers from anxiety because the symptoms are pretty noticeable:

  1. urination at odd times and in odd places
  2. destroying things
  3. diarrhea
  4. always trying to escape
  5. lots of barking
  6. crying…yes crying

Most dogs, if they’re going to develop anxiety, do so around 1 to 3 years old, when social maturity occurs. What’s causing it? Take your pick:

Some Possible Causes of Your Dog’s Anxiety

So, you’ve determined that your dog’s behavior exhibits signs of anxiety, not just normal fear. What to do? Remove the source, your logic tells you. Here are some possible causes, so check for them first before you spend tons of money on a vet, who will do the same check before he moves on to testing for other causes:

  • your dog is ill
  • your dog is experiencing some sort of painful condition
  • your dog had a terrible experience in his past
  • anxiety over inability to escape may result from being locked in a crate
  • dogs can experience separation anxiety due to:
    • multiple owners
    • neglect
    • abandonment
  • your dog was isolated after he was born
  • your dog might be suffering from a nervous system condition like exposure to lead paint
  • sometimes being spayed or neutered can lead to dog depression

If you suspect any of these events in your dog’s life, get to the bottom of it and see if you can’t fix things for your pet. There’s not much you can do about your dog’s depression over being spayed or neutered. If that’s truly the cause and the depression is lowering his quality of life, then it’s time to go see the vet.

Of course there’s nothing you can do about your dog’s past life and what may have happened to him before he came to your home, but persistent and patient attention to your dog’s sensitivities can eventually pan out and allow him to relax and let go of his phobias.

Beyond that, a vet may be able to help, but be prepared for the treatment to be drug-based (Prozac for pets is also no joke) and pricey.

If you’re going to reach out for professional help, you might do better to start with a dog psychologist or a highly recommended trainer who can work on behavior modification in a drug-free regimen.

Want to help your dog?

Many people have luck with items like Thundershirt or calming chews, etc.  We’ve linked to a couple highly recommended products below.

Thundershirt – is an excellent treatment for most types of dog anxiety and fear issues. The Thundershirt creates a gentle, constant pressure that has a dramatic calming effect.

Calming Chews are recommended for the following:

  • Changes to environment
  • Company or parties
  • Veterinary or grooming visits
  • Boarding or holidays
  • Boredom or separation anxiety
  • Moving or traveling
  • Fireworks and thunderstorms


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