Dog anxiety

How and why it happens - and what you can do about it.


How and why it happens - and what you can do about it.

There are certain things you want to understand as a pet parent that can make your dogs life a lot simpler and more joyous, and in turn, yours too!

What is pet anxiety and what are the causes?

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual dog anxiety can have a variety of causes. Some of the most common causes of dog anxiety are:

  • Fear
  • Separation
  • Aging

Fear-related anxiety can be caused by loud noises, strange people or animals, visual stimuli like hats or umbrellas, new or strange environments, specific situations — like the vet’s office or car rides — or surfaces like grass or wood floors.

What is pet anxiety and what are the causes?

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual dog anxiety can have a variety of causes. Some of the most common causes of dog anxiety are:

  • Fear
  • Separation
  • Aging

Fear-related anxiety can be caused by loud noises, strange people or animals, visual stimuli like hats or umbrellas, new or strange environments, specific situations — like the vet’s office or car rides — or surfaces like grass or wood floors.

Anxiety in the Home

Whether your fur baby is skittish, terrified of a storm or pees on the floor in a panic situation - you’ve probably seen it all as a dog owner. Tail tucked between the legs, aggressiveness or whimpering, jumpiness… you get the idea.

It’s heartbreaking to watch our loved pets so on edge, and not even be able to enjoy quality family time.

Pets are “surprisingly human” as NatGeo puts it - they don’t like to be left alone, overstimulation can freak them out, and generally, they need to be cared for in a methodical way.

From Wikipedia, “As a result of this physical and social evolution, dogs, more than any other species, have acquired the ability to understand and communicate with humans and they are uniquely attuned to their behavior”.

Meaning, how we act affects our pets in a clear way.

What types of dog anxiety exist

By definition - dog anxiety is a common condition in which animals display fear, anger or skittishness.

It’s generally one of three types:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Illness-induced anxiety
  • Being a rescue / shelter anxiety

And of course, there’s overarching, general dog anxiety. As you can imagine, cats and other pets/animals suffer from anxiety too.

Our natural ability to improve a dog’s life

As noted above, we have a big impact on our dog’s daily life. Not just what kind of crate they go back to. There’s a lot of nuances.

Before you begin addressing your dog’s anxiety, it’s worthwhile to zoom out and look at our overall relationship to canines.

Pet intelligence:

As you probably know, dogs are smart and discerning. And can solve problems. Dogs have also been shown to learn by inference.

One study showed that the dog knew the labels of over 200 different items. Meaning, they have a keen memory, just like humans, and traumas are often the most salient memories.


Humans communicate with dogs by speaking, hand signals, and posture. Dogs can also learn to understand communication of emotions with humans by reading human facial expressions.

Just like a big meeting at work, you should think about what overall presence you bring to your interactions.


Also called “Emotional contagion” - is linked to facial mimicry in humans and primates. Facial mimicry is an automatic response that occurs in less than 1 second in which one person involuntary mimics another person's facial expressions, forming empathy.

It has also been found in dogs at play, and play sessions lasted longer when there were facial mimicry signals from one dog to another. So connection with your pet is natural and encouraged.


Play between dogs are often seen in aggressive encounters, for example, nipping, biting and growling. It is therefore important for the dogs to place these behaviours in the context of play, rather than aggression.

Dogs that get to play with other dogs and their owners - in a rough-and-tumble way are more amenable and show lower separation anxiety than dogs which play other types of games, and dogs playing tug-of-war and "fetch" are more confident.

Moving Along:

Now that you understand the fundamentals of how we connect with dogs and the effect on them, let’s look at the symptoms, and more importantly, the causes of dog anxiety. And then of course, some solutions.

What are the symptoms of dog anxiety?

Walking on eggshells? Dog jumping at the quick movements?

The symptoms of dog anxiety include:

Spontaneous urination

Destructive behaviors - chewing, biting




Passive escape


Excessive licking

Dilated pupils

Avoiding interactions

Displacement behaviors: yawning, lip licking, air sniffing, “shaking it off” like a wet dog

If you’re a pet parent, chances are you’ve seen all the above at least once each. And that’s normal if it’s an uncomfortable situation. When it becomes concerning is when multiple symptoms occur at once, or constantly, or in extreme.

What Causes Dog Anxiety?

Now for the really important part. As noted above, dog anxiety is generally rooted in three areas.

Separation anxiety:

Just like you don’t want to leave your child at home alone for hours, a dog can have a similar response. Very few dogs “like” to be left home alone. They’re naturally social. The cause here is boredom and loneliness.

The result is usually:

  • Chewing up furniture and other belongings
  • Excessive barking, howling
  • Potty indoor

Shelter anxiety:

Your foster pet can have a lot of negative experience from being in a kennel, ranging from a small cage, to constant noise/stimulation, abandonment, inconsistency, lack of connection and sickness. None of which are conducive to a balanced personality.

Resulting in:

  • Fear
  • Skittishness
  • Biting

Illness-based anxiety:

Feeling unhealthy can make us second guess ourselves. Which can make an otherwise non anxious dog, anxious.

  • Hypothyroidism: when fear responses and anxiety symptoms are coupled with weight gain, hair loss or lethargy, the cause might be a thyroid gland that doesn’t produce enough hormones.
  • Thyrotoxicosis: also called Grave’s Disease, a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland.
  • Encephalitis: inflammation and swelling of brain tissue can lead to anxiety behavior, as well as aggression, seizures, clumsy gait and even coma.
  • Pre-diabetes: when new generalized anxiety is accompanied by weight gain, excessive thirst or appearance of cataracts, pre-diabetes may be the issue.
  • Hearing or vision loss: dogs without one of their senses may startle easily and become anxious of their unknown surrounding.

General anxiety:

Now this is actually the most interesting, because general anxiety opens itself up to all kinds of stimuli, of which you’ve probably seen a few. Even if it’s temporary, things like storms can make your pet pretty unruly.

Factors that can stimulate poor dog behavior and produce anxiety include:

  • Storms
  • Sirens
  • Travel
  • Fireworks
  • Aging
  • Pain / chronic illness
  • Stress

How do deal with your pet anxiety

Think natural. You don’t need to get overly elaborate!

Just like humans, a good balance of fun, adventure and connection sets a great foundation. Dogs have a lot of energy, and it needs to be used! That’s the beautiful part.

They’ll provide endless good vibes if you foster that environment.

Play with your dog, even some rough and tumble

Walk it - until your dog is out of energy, if possible

Connect in a meaningful way - eye contact, body language, touch/petting

Create a home environment of balance, connection, consistency, positivity

If you’ve tried the fundamentals, and still having trouble, you may consider bringing in more alternative methods.

Just one thing to remember- you don’t need prescriptions! Plant over Pills!

CBD and hemp oil products: a simple, safe solution that doesn’t require any lab-made compounds and acids.

CBD acts as a 5HT1A (a very important serotonin receptor) agonist, which in turn helps our brain transmit more serotonin, reducing stress and improving our overall mood & function.

Thankfully, CBD won’t get your pet “high” either.

Here’s everything pet parents need to know about hemp oil for dogs.

Hemp products will not produce any euphoric sensations. This is very important to the compound that makes it special. Being an inert compound hemp users and hemp oil for dogs get many of the benefits of the medicinal aspects without the “high” and this is big from both a medical and a legal standpoint.

The cool thing is that humans are not the only species known to have this Endocannabinoid system. Many species have been shown in research to have these receptors that cannabinoids have an effect too. One of the more popular researched species is dogs who have been shown to have positive reactions to other prescription drugs can be toxic, this is a place for hemp oil for dogs to shine.

Dr. Gary Richter, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California, points out that hemp oil has no psychoactive effect on dogs when dosed properly. “Depending on the nature of the product, if it contains little or no psychoactive triggers, then the dog is not going to get high.”

How to Use Hemp oil:

It’s easy. Just add a serving to your dog's food or administered directly into their mouth. Adding to food is much easier.

Serving Size:

  • Under 25lbs dogs: 10 drops
  • 26-50lb dogs: 20 drops
  • Over 50lb dogs: 30 drops

There are about 1,400 drops per bottle. That will provide around 47 to 140 servings depending on the size of your dog and the dosage you use.

What NOT to do with your anxious dog

Leave your dog alone in the car

Leave your dog outside or live on a chain

Assume your dog doesn't have feelings - just like we talked about today

Skip veterinary visits - Yes, vets are expensive but they can save your pet’s health

Use a crate or barricade your dog for the wrong reasons - be intentional!

Pet from above - Because they can’t see your hand, it could scare them

Be over lenient - Dogs crave structure and won’t be mad if you set hard & fast rules.

Stare at Them - Dogs can take this as aggression

Take Them on The Same Boring Walks - she needs you to mix things up!

Confuse Them - Your dog needs to learn right from wrong but he can’t do that if you give him affection while he’s in trouble.

Allow them to pull you - When you walk your dog, you should lead, not the other way around.

Feed them table scraps - Even if you don’t see any problems now, this habit can lead to severe health problems later on

More information and stats around dog anxiety that may make you feel better

Fear is an important emotion, that’s needed for survival, but when prolonged and frequent, causes suffering in both humans and animals.

The most common forms of anxiety we discussed today are: general fearfulness, noise sensitivity, illness, shelter and separation anxiety - they’re responsible for a large proportion of behavioral problems.

57.4% of dogs that showed fear toward strangers were also afraid of unfamiliar dogs

39.2% report their dog reacts fearfully to loud noises

26.2% was the general fearfulness in our study population

26.2% showed fear either toward unfamiliar people or in novel situations

17.2% with separation anxiety

The median age of onset was 2 years, varying from 8 weeks to 10 years

Dogs breeds with the most anxiety:

  • The Labrador Retriever
  • The Border Collie
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • German Shepherd
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Bichon Frise
  • Vizsla
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Toy Poodle

Average age of dogs who get anxiety

So if you’re feeling exhausted or broken down from your struggles with pet anxiety, know that you’re not alone. More than half of dog owners have felt that pain too. Just know that there’s help out there, and it’s not very expensive.

If you’ve tried all the tricks above, it may be time to get help from hemp oils. You can find our favorites here.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with another dog mom or dad you think would benefit from it.

Til then, ciao!


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