How to Tell if Your Dog is Anxious: Signals to Watch For

Dogs are known to be loyal and devoted companions to their owners. However, just like humans, dogs can also experience different emotions, including anxiety. Anxiety in dogs is a common issue that can manifest in various ways, causing distress to both the dog and its owner. Identifying anxiety in dogs can be challenging, but knowing the signals to watch for can go a long way in helping to manage this condition. This article discusses different signals to look out for to know if your dog is anxious.

Body Language

Dogs are known to communicate through body language, and anxiety is no exception. Dogs can display different body language when anxious. The following are some of the body signs to look out for:

Tail Position

A dog’s tail position can give us a clue about their mood. When a dog is anxious, it may hold its tail low, tucked between its legs or high, stiff, and quivering. In contrast, a relaxed dog will hold its tail in a neutral, natural position. However, some breeds, such as the Basenji, may carry their tail naturally high, even when they are anxious, so it is essential to know what’s usual for your breed.

Ears Position

Just like the tail, a dog’s ears can tell a lot about their emotions. When a dog is anxious or fearful, it may hold its ears back, sideways or pinned against the head. Typically, a relaxed dog will hold its ears in a natural position, and the ears may even flop forward. However, some breeds, such as the Greyhound, have naturally folded ears, so it would be best if you learned what’s typical for your breed.

Body Posture

A dog’s body posture can also give us an indication of how they’re feeling. When a dog is anxious, they may hold their body tensely or crouch low to the ground. Also, an anxious dog may avoid eye contact or become frozen in place when they’re uncomfortable or scared. On the other hand, when a dog is relaxed, they may hold their body in a neutral position or lay on their back with their belly up.

Behavioral Changes

Dogs may display changes in behavior when they’re anxious. Understanding these changes can help you identify when your dog is anxious and take necessary measures to help them. Here are some of the behavioral changes to look out for:


Some dogs may react aggressively when they’re anxious. This aggression can include barking, growling, snarling and even biting. Typically, a dog will only act aggressively when they feel threatened, but it can also occur when they’re anxious or scared.

Pacing and Restlessness

Anxiety can cause some dogs to become agitated, restless or fidgety. When a dog is anxious, they may pace back and forth, whine or even scratch excessively. Sometimes, the dog may seek attention or comfort from their owner or other dogs in the household.

Destructive Behavior

Some dogs may engage in destructive behavior when they’re anxious or stressed. This behavior may include chewing on furniture, digging, or scratching excessively. Destructive behavior can be a sign that your dog is not getting enough physical or mental stimulation, and they may need additional exercise or playtime.

Physical Symptoms

Anxiety can also manifest in different physical symptoms in dogs. Recognizing these physical signs can help you determine if your dog is anxious and help you take the necessary steps to manage this condition. The following are some of the physical symptoms to look out for:

Pacing and Restlessness

When a dog is anxious and nervous, it may pace back and forth or restlessly walk around. This symptom is sometimes referred to as ‘circling.’ It could also be a sign that your dog is in pain, so it’s always best to check with a vet to rule out any medical issues.

Licking and Chewing

Dogs may lick, scratch and excessively chew their skin when they’re anxious. This behavior may be their way of coping with the anxiety, but it can also be a symptom of underlying medical conditions such as allergies, skin infections, or parasites. If your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, you should take them to the vet for a check-up.

Loss of Appetite and Digestive Problems

Stress and anxiety can cause dogs to have a decreased appetite or even skip meals. This loss of appetite can lead to additional digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. If your dog is experiencing digestive issues, it’s best to seek veterinary help.

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety in dogs can occur due to various reasons. Understanding the cause of your dog’s anxiety can help you identify triggers and take necessary precautions to manage it. The following are some of the common causes of anxiety in dogs:

Past Trauma

A dog that has experienced past traumas such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment may become anxious when put in stressful situations. Some dogs may have had early traumas before they were adopted, and it can be challenging to identify why they fear certain things.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety in dogs. Dogs with separation anxiety may become anxious and destructive when left alone, and they may bark, whine or soil the house. Separation anxiety can be challenging to manage, and it’s essential to work with a veterinary behaviorist to develop a suitable treatment plan.

Fear of Loud Noises

Dogs may become anxious when exposed to loud sounds such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or gunshots. Some dogs may even develop a phobia of these sounds, and it can be challenging for the owner to manage. Fortunately, there are specific treatments available for dogs with thunderstorm phobias.

Treatment Options for Anxiety in Dogs

When it comes to treating anxiety in dogs, there is no one solution that fits all. However, there are different management techniques, medications, and behavior modification exercises that can help soothe anxious dogs. Here are some of the treatment options for anxiety in dogs:

Behavioral Modification

The first step in treating anxiety in dogs is usually behavioral modification. This type of treatment involves training the dog to behave differently when exposed to triggers that make them anxious. A veterinary behaviorist can help develop a training plan and provide additional resources to help the dog cope with its anxiety.

Environmental Management

Environmental management involves making changes to the dog’s environment to prevent triggers that might be causing anxiety. Examples include providing a ‘safe space’ for your dog to retreat to when it’s anxious, reducing exposure to loud noises or people, and avoiding any situations that might be causing anxiety.


There are several different medications available that can help soothe anxious dogs. Some of these medications include benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Medications alone may not cure anxiety, but they can help reduce the severity of symptoms.

Calming Devices

There are different calming devices available that can help reduce anxiety in dogs. These devices include calming sprays, diffusers, and body wraps, and they use pheromones to help calm the dog. Calming devices can be useful in managing mild anxiety in dogs but may not be effective for more severe cases.


Anxiety is a common condition in dogs, and it can manifest in various ways. Identifying the signals to watch for can help you determine if your dog is anxious and take necessary steps to manage the condition. Try to be patient and understanding when dealing with an anxious dog. With the right management techniques and support, it’s possible to help your dog relax and live a happy, stress-free life.

  • Q: How do I know if my dog has anxiety?
  • A: Some of the common signals of anxiety in dogs include body language changes, behavioral changes, and physical symptoms such as pacing, restlessness, loss of appetite, and digestive problems.
  • Q: What are the causes of anxiety in dogs?
  • A: Anxiety in dogs can occur due to various reasons such as past traumas, separation anxiety, and fear of loud noises.
  • Q: How can I treat anxiety in my dog?
  • A: Treatment for anxiety in dogs can include behavioral modification, environmental management, medications, and calming devices.



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