Fear and Anxiety in Dogs: Types of Dog Anxiety and Management

Filed in Dog Health by on June 29, 2024

fear related anxiety

Dogs commonly experience fear and anxiety, and can be triggered by various factors such as loud noises, unfamiliar environments, separation from their owners, or traumatic experiences.

Dog owners need to understand and address these emotions to ensure the well-being of their furry friends!

By recognizing signs of fear and anxiety in dogs, such as trembling, panting, excessive barking, or hiding, owners can take steps to help their canine companions overcome these emotions.

Fear-Related Anxiety in Dogs

Fear-related anxiety in dogs is a common issue that many pet owners face! Dogs can develop anxiety due to various reasons, like lack of socialization, past traumatic experiences, or genetic predisposition.

When a dog experiences fear-related anxiety, they may display behaviors like trembling, pacing, excessive barking, destructive chewing, and attempts to escape.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from fear-related anxiety, look below for a few tips to help manage and alleviate their anxiety!

Create a safe environment:

Provide a safe and secure space for your dog, such as a crate or a designated area with their bed and familiar items. This can give them a sense of security.


Gradually expose your dog’s anxiety-causing triggers in a controlled manner. Pair the presence of the trigger with positive experiences like treats or playtime. This can help to change their association with the trigger.


Slowly introduce your dog to the feared stimulus at a distance that doesn’t elicit anxiety. Gradually decrease the distance over time while using positive reinforcement to reward calm behavior.

Behavior modification:

Consult a professional dog trainer or an animal behaviorist who can create a behavior modification plan tailored to your dog’s needs. They can guide you through exercises and techniques to help your dog overcome anxiety.


In some cases, medication may be necessary to manage your dog’s anxiety. Consult your veterinarian to assess whether medication is appropriate for your dog’s situation.

Symptoms of Fear-related Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs that experience fear-related anxiety may exhibit various symptoms. These symptoms might be different depending on the individual dog and the specific triggers that cause their anxiety.

  • Trembling/Shaking: Dogs suffering from anxiety may shake or tremble, even without cold temperatures or medical conditions.
  • Panting: Excessive panting, even when the weather isn’t hot or after physical activity, can be a sign of anxiety.
  • Pacing: Dogs with anxiety often pace back and forth, unable to settle down or relax.
  • Excessive Vocalization: Barking, howling, or whining more than usual can be a way for dogs to express their anxious feelings.
  • Destructive Behavior: Anxiety can lead dogs to engage in dangerous behaviors, such as chewing furniture, digging, or scratching doors or walls.
  • Attempts to Escape: Dogs may attempt to escape or find refuge from their perceived fear by scratching at doors, jumping fences, or running away.
  • Hiding: Some dogs may seek hiding spots, such as under furniture or closets, when anxious or fearful.
  • Aggression: Fear-related anxiety can sometimes manifest as aggression, where dogs may growl, snap, or bite when they feel threatened or overwhelmed.
  • Changes in Appetite: Anxious dogs may show a decrease or loss of appetite, or exhibit increased restlessness or hyperactivity during meal times.
  • Excessive Drooling: Excessive drooling beyond normal circumstances can also indicate anxiety in dogs.

Seperation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety is a prevalent type of anxiety in dogs that occurs when they are left alone or separated from their owners.

Dogs with separation anxiety can even exhibit something as extreme as destructive behavior, excessive vocalization, or engage in escape attempts when left alone!

Symptoms of Seperation Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs are social animals, and the sudden absence of their trusted human companion can trigger anxiety and related behaviors!

  • Excessive Vocalization: Dogs suffering from separation anxiety might make extreme sounds such as barking, howling, or whining when alone.
  • Destructive Behavior: Dogs may engage in dangerous behaviors such as chewing furniture, scratching doors or walls, or digging to escape or alleviate their anxiety.
  • Pacing and Restlessness: Anxious dogs may exhibit restless behavior like pacing back and forth or wandering throughout the house.
  • Inappropriate Elimination: Dogs with separation anxiety may urinate or defecate indoors even when they are otherwise house-trained.
  • Escape Attempts: In extreme cases, dogs may try to escape from their confined area, which can result in injury or damage to property.
  • Excessive Drooling or Panting: Dogs may exhibit excessive drooling or panting beyond what is considered normal when left alone.
  • Loss of Appetite: Some dogs may experience a decreased appetite or refuse to eat when separated from their owners.

Avoiding Seperation Anxiety in Dogs

It’s essential to address separation anxiety in dogs to improve their well-being and prevent further distress.

Gradual Desensitization:

Gradually expose your dog to short periods of alone time, starting with a short duration and progressively increasing. This helps them become accustomed to being alone and reduces their anxiety.


Associate your pet’s potential positive experiences, such as treats or toys, with the departure process rather than just the act of leaving. This can help create positive associations with alone time.

Enrichment and Distraction:

Provide engaging toys, puzzles, or food-stuffed toys to keep your dog mentally stimulated and distracted during alone time.

Training and Medication:

In severe cases, a combination of behavior modification techniques and medication prescribed by a veterinarian may be necessary. Consult with a professional for proper guidance.

Why do Dogs Develop Seperation Anxiety?

Dogs can develop separation anxiety for various reasons, and it is often a complex combination of factors. It’s important to remember that every dog is unique, and the underlying causes of separation anxiety can vary.

Identifying the specific triggers and causes of your dog’s anxiety is essential in developing an effective management plan.

Lack of Socialization:

Dogs not socialized adequately during critical developmental periods may be more likely to suffer from separation anxiety. Inadequate exposure to different people, animals, and environments can lead to heightened fear and anxiety when separated from their owners.

  • Has your dog never been around other dogs or large crowds and now seems overly nervous around large crowds or at dog parks?
  • Did you fail to crate-train your dog correctly or rush the training, and now he seems frightened of the dog crate?
  • Though a terrifying scenario, children are sometimes bitten or otherwise injured. This is often because the handler failed to adequately socialize their pet with children or teach the human child how to interact with the family dog properly.

Past Traumatic Experiences:

Dogs that have suffered during/from traumatic events, such as abandonment, being in a shelter, or neglect, may develop separation anxiety.

These detrimental experiences could lead to a fear of being left alone and trigger anxiety when separated from their owners.

  • Did a past owner abuse your rescue and now seems to be afraid of people?
  • Were you in a car accident with your dog, and now your pet is terrified of car rides?
  • Did another attack your dog, and is it now frightened of other dogs?

Changes in Routine:

A significant change in a dog’s routine, such as a move to a new home, a change in family dynamics, or a sudden disruption in the daily schedule, can contribute to the development of separation anxiety.

  • Did you recently move to a different home?
  • Has there been a new addition to the family dynamic, like a new baby or a significant other?

Over-dependence on Owners:

Dogs that are overly dependent on their owners and have not learned to be independent can become more susceptible to separation anxiety.

If a dog is constantly with its owner and has not had opportunities to learn how to self-soothe or be comfortable alone, it may struggle when left on its own.


Some research suggests that certain breeds may have a higher predisposition to separation anxiety. However, it’s important to note that any dog can develop separation anxiety regardless of breed or mix.

Changes in Ownership:

Dogs that have been rehomed multiple times or have experienced frequent changes in ownership may be at an increased risk for developing something like separation anxiety due to the disruption and instability in their lives.

  • Of course, this is an enormous change in your pet’s living situation!

Age-Related Anxiety in Dogs

Just like humans, dogs can experience age-related anxiety as they get older. Aging can bring about both physical and psychological changes that can contribute to increased anxiety in senior dogs.

Cognitive Decline:

Older dogs may experience age-related cognitive decline, called canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) or “doggie dementia.” This decline in cognitive function can lead to confusion, disorientation, and heightened anxiety as they struggle to navigate their environment and process information.

Sensory Changes:

Dogs may experience changes in their senses as they age. Diminished vision or hearing can make them more sensitive or reactive to certain stimuli, leading to increased anxiety in unfamiliar situations or when confronted by new or loud sounds.

Pain and Discomfort:

Older dogs are more prone to developing various health issues, such as arthritis or other chronic pain conditions. Pain and discomfort can trigger anxiety or exacerbate existing anxiety, as the dog may fear movements or certain activities that cause pain.

Loss of Familiarity:

As dogs age, they can experience the loss of companions, either other pets in the household or their human family members. This loss can disrupt their sense of security and result in increased anxiety.

Changes in Routine:

Older dogs often rely on established routines, and any significant changes to their daily schedule or environment can cause distress and anxiety. A disruption in their routine, such as moving to a new home or changes in caregiving, can contribute to anxiety.

Fear and Anxiety in Dogs Conclusion

Monitoring your senior dog’s behavior and looking for signs of anxiety or discomfort is essential. Providing a comfortable and predictable environment, regular exercise, mental/ physical stimulation, and loving attention can also help alleviate anxiety in older dogs!

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