Dog Anxiety Symptoms

Have you ever wondered if your dog suffers from anxiety? Dog anxiety symptoms are easy to identify when you know what you are looking for. Some people just think that their dog is just badly behaved and dog anxiety can manifest in dogs in many different ways. Anxiety in dogs is extremely common and is the second highest reason why people give up on their dogs and send them to the pound or dog shelter.

All dogs are different with individual reactions to situations; and so to they will show anxiety symptoms in different ways. There are some common themes of behavior and most dogs suffering from dog anxiety will show. The following are the top four dog anxiety symptoms.

  1. Making Noise – Barking, whining, yelping and howling.
  2. Physical activities – Destroying property or digging holes.
  3. Over excitement.
  4. Self Harm – Chewing on feet or tail.

Making Noise – Barking, Whining, Yelping and Howling.

Have you ever come home to distasteful glances from your neighbors and you are not sure why? Or even worse, a note under the door complaining about your dog’s noisy antics. You come to the instant conclusion that the neighbors are over reacting, after all, you have never heard your dog making unbearable noise. But; what if they are right and your dog is howling, barking, yelping or whining all day long – when you are not there?

Typically, your dog will be displaying certain behaviors before you leave. They will become anxious or seem to be over excited as they notice you getting ready to leave the house. Take note if your dog is verbal, whining or making short low level barking  noises, chances are that this will escalate in frequency and volume when you leave and may last for many hours. (It’s no wonder the neighbors complain)

It is believed that dogs do not understand the concept of time and they do not like to be alone.  It is likely that your dog knows you are leaving because you do things in a certain pattern before leaving the house and they really think that you are not coming back.

Dogs, by nature, are a pack animals and thrive in groups. Essentially, you are dog’s pack – not only his family – but also an essential part of his survival. When you are preparing to leave home, your dog begins to panic because they have an instinctual need to be with you and be protected by you.

anxiety symptoms image

Next Level of  Dog Anxiety – Physical Activities.

One step up in dog anxiety is when it goes from vocal noise  to physical activities. Physical activities sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? However, this type of physical activity is not the type you want. Dog anxiety, when demonstrated physically, means that your dog is doing physical things like chewing, scratching and digging. The reason why your dog will display this type of behavior is because it is an attempt to distract them from their anxiety and in some cases they are trying to break free of the confines of the home or yard and trying to find you.

This can be called “boundary anxiety”  where your dog pushes way past the boundaries of normal, accepted dog behavior.  In the worst cases some dogs have been known to tear down dry wall, rip up carpeted flooring and break windows in their attempt to follow you. This results in costly home repairs and in some cases huge veterinarian fees when your dog becomes physically injured through damaging yours and others property.

Look Out For Over Excitement:

I give you a scenario, when you get home your dog is really excited, they excessively jump on you, lick you and try to be as close as they can to you. It’s gets to the point of irritating and you find yourself chastising or growling at your dog to try and calm down their excessive greeting behavior.

What I just described is one of the most common symptoms of dog anxiety. If the greeting  you receive from your dog is not calm and it is more frantic and uncontrolled it is likely that your dog suffers from separation anxiety. It is possible that your dog thought you would never come home. If their behavior is ‘over the top’ and they are not just saying ‘Hi’, but are completely thrilled to be reunited with you, this is one of the most common symptoms of a dog with anxiety issues.

Self Harm – Chewing on themselves.

In most extreme cases of dog anxiety some dogs will chew on their paws or tail. This type of anxiety may only be temporary and they may only chew on their own bodies in times of extreme stress but this can become almost habitual because as the wounds start to heal they can tingle and itch causing the dog to chew more and reopen the wounds. It can become a vicious cycle and just as healing begins they cause even more damage. In most extreme cases your vet may suggest amputation of the effected areas.

Minor skin conditions, like dog eczema, can also make a dog chew on their tails and toes. In those cases your vet can prescribe creams that can reduce itching. The problem can be that your dog may lick off the cream because they don’t like foreign substances on their fur.

You can apply a dog cone collar to reduce your dog chewing on the feet, toes or tail and stop them from licking off creams and minimize the likelihood of casing more damage. Dog cones are usually clear or white in color and attach at the collar and funnel out toward the dog’s face.

Remember This.

It is important to remember that not all dogs display these exact behaviors. Some show milder symptoms such as whining, while others  will be to the other end of the spectrum and will destroy a whole room, including all of the furniture in the room, until you return. Dog separation anxiety is a serious condition. It effects at least 35% of all dogs and it robs both you and your dog of a healthy relationship.

What to do next?

If you can identify with any of the information above, there are easy solutions. Visit our FREE GIFT page to get your free Dog Anxiety Checklist to determine if you dog has dog separation anxiety. There is plenty of help available to assist you to diagnose and implement effective treatment for your dog.  Also, check out for our new book titled Stop Dog Anxiety which gives you everything you need to know to stop dog anxiety and enjoy a great relationship with your dog.

Thanks for reading our article all about Dog Anxiety Symptoms.

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  1. I have a question about chewing. My Labradore Sophie is six months old and chews everything, especially shoes. I’ve tried chew toys but she always goes back to our shoes. She has even bought home shoes from the neighbours on three different occassions. This is getting expensive and I’m scared that someone will see Sophie taking shoes from our neighbours homes.
    I have a few questions.
    1. Will Sophie grow out of this?
    2. Is this a symptom of dog anxiety?
    3. How do I train Sophie to stop chewing up shoes?
    Any ideas will be appreciated.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Chamile,

      Thanks for your questions. I have just completed an article all about dog chewing behavior titled Stop A Dog From Chewing.
      I hope this answers your questions and let me know how things work out.
      All the best!

  2. Very interesting information about the way in which your dog greets you when arriving home. I had never associated that with anxiety. Our dog was always happy to see us, lots of tail wagging and running to get a ball but no jumping. Good to know he probably wasn’t too anxious while we were away.
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    • Thanks for your comment Compost King,

      Good to hear that there is not an anxiety problem for your dog. It’s is normal for your dog to be happy to see you, however if there behavior is “over the top” or goes on for more than a minute or two then it is likely that your dog has missed you more than you thought. It is best to take note of behaviors not only when you arrive home but also before you leave the home before worrying if separation anxiety is a problem. From what you I gained from your comment – I don’t think there is anything to worry about.

  3. Thanks for bringing this topic to our attention, to be honest I had not thought about dogs and anxiety. Thankfully after reading your article our Labradoodle does not show any symptoms, but I now know what signs to look for and more aware. Great information.
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  4. Hi, Very interesting article on anxiety in dogs. I never knew that an over excited dog when you return home is a sign of anxiety. I have two dogs a 2 year old chocolate labrador called MacKenzie and a 2 1/2 year old beagle named Coco. MacKenzie has been with us since she was a small pup, she goes absolutely mad when I arrive home from work. It can be annoying because it hurts when she jumps up and scratches me or you get head butted. Coco has been with us for 6 months she has a barking problem and sometimes we need to put a citronella collar on her. They are both very affectionate and loveable dogs. I think with perservance they will overcome their problems.
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  5. Hi,
    I am as layed back as you could get, nothing much bothers me but Penny on the other hand jumps at everything and if there is any new sound she goes into hiding.
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  6. My dog suddenly lost a patch of hair on his back in Nov 2010. Just in the 1 spot and it hasn’t grown back. He also itches constantly, sometimes to the point of bleeding, and has done that since I found him as a stray a few years back. I have talked to 4 different vets about both of these issues and have found no solutions.

    It isn’t fleas. I have had a skin test for bacteria done, fungus test, and test for mites on the bald spot and they all came back neg. I have had 1 vet say the spot was a staph infection, the other 3 said it wasn’t. He has been on 3 different rounds of antibiotics, 2 kinds of creams for the bald spot, I’ve tried benedryl for the itching as well as another pill medicine that I can not recall the name of.

    None of those have helped the itching or grow any hair back. He has had 2 cortizone shots on 2 separate occations and those have been the only thing that has helped his itching. After all of the different vet visits the vets then go back to saying they believe it is a food allergy.

    I now have him on a grain free dry dog food and he has been for about 3 weeks. They say to have him on it at least 8 weeks to see results. So far I have not seen any. I have recently had someone ask me if it was an anxiety issue. I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts or info about this? One other piece of info is that he does lick the air a lot and the carpet a lot. Espec if someone comes over.

    I have asked a couple of vets about that and they both said it was from anxiety but neither vet offered any treatment or solutions. I’m just trying to find out if the bald spot is a major issue and what I can do to stop his itching, b/c I know it has to hurt!


    • Hi Christy,
      Before I start I’ll just let you know that I’m not a veterinarian. I do have some experience with dogs with skin conditions but I’m not an expert on dog skin conditions.

      All skin conditions are tricky. It always seems to more a process of elimination rather than a definite diagnosis. You are obviously a caring pet owner who has spent a considerable amount of money going through this process of elimination and the good news is that the vets have been able to rule out a number of dangerous things.

      I’m just going to put this out there – Is the patch round in shape? I hope that the vet suggested a ring worm treatment such as applying an anti fungal cream. Ring worm can cause hair loss, itching and baldness. It is more common in cats than dogs but is still a common problem that can be easily missed while searching for a more complicated diagnosis. The ring worm can continue re-infecting in the long term if not treated and it is also contagious. A simple thing like ring worm is very easily treated with an broad spectrum anti fungal cream applying as directed.

      If it is not ring worm -from what you are describing it sounds like it might be a kind of eczema. Considering that the cortisone worked (cortisone is effective in treating eczema) and the fact that someone has told you that the condition may be connected with anxiety or stress. Eczema is characteristically becomes more inflamed when stressed, or anxious and certain diets and additives can also be a factor. The bad news is that there is no cure for eczema, all you can do is treat the symptoms.

      The problem is with eczema is that it is itchy at all stages. When it first appears as a tingling sensation will make your dog lick it, the moistening of the area makes eczema escalate and itch more. Dogs have been known to chew off their own toes and the tips of their tails when affected by severe anxiety and also from chronic eczema. In the healing stage of eczema it is also itchy – it’s a vicious cycle. Eczema can also cause the loss of hair, often in patches.

      With conditions like eczema and psoriasis can be improved by an organic, high fibre diet. You can make a big pot and boil up organic minced meat (of your choice, beef or chicken both work well) cooked up with organic vegetables (carrots, small handful of spinach, peas, beans, but don’t use capsicum, cabbage, brussel sprouts, potatoes or pumpkin as these vegetables cause excessive gas and potato has been known to impact the bowel) and organic brown rice (for fibre) and store it in the fridge. This can be done every few days – enough meals to last a few days. It doesn’t take long to make and you will know exactly what your dog is eating. You can buy organic dog foods already made if you choose to but they are quite expensive.

      Another suggestion can be to change your dog’s hygiene. Dogs don’t need to be washed all the time. You could try a cold tar shampoo (developed for treatment of eczema and psoriasis available from health food store or pharmacy) once a week to help reduce the itching. It smells awful while being used but much better after your dog is dry. If your dog has a lightly colored coat the cold tar shampoo may stain the coat so dilute it in some water before applying to reduce the staining. While washing your dog don’t scrub, this will make the affected area itch more and might even hurt, be gentle and keep it soothing, patting motion. Use luke warm water, or even on the cool side – warm water will inflame the skin and cause more itching.

      Cortisone has been helpful to your dog in the past, but long term use can create other health conditions. If you want to keep using it – or use it when your dog is really itchy them it can be purchase from your vet in a cream form. The problem is then to stopping your dog from licking it off. You might try applying a small amount of cream just before putting your dog to bed at night and applying a funnel collar to stop him from licking it off. It might sound extreme and uncomfortable for him, but it would have to be less uncomfortable than constant itching.

      Skin conditions can also be caused by other allergies. My friend has a dog that is allergic to grass seed. The problem is that her dog loves nothing better than to roll in the grass and many grasses seed all year round. Pollens are also another common cause of skin conditions as well as respiratory conditions in dogs – I added that because your dog is licking at the air and nasal passages can become inflamed and therefore less effective if there is an allergy to pollens in the air.

      Licking at the air can be a territorial behaviour – it’s not aggressive, just your dog getting a sense for the people visiting. Licking rather than smelling/sniffing usually happens when the dog’s sense of smell is not well developed or has been damaged (possibly from pollen allergies)so, your dog is trying to taste what he can’t smell. It is a totally natural way to deal with a sense deficit, something to think about.

      Your dog was rescued by you, so I guess you don’t know your dog’s history or what might trigger anxiety or stress for him.

      As for dealing with any anxiety issues I can recommend that you fill out the form above to give you a free 6 day dog training course. This 6 day course is mainly aimed at behavioural issues but can also give you some valuable insights about how dogs think, how they see you and how you can implement simple routines to improve the relationship with your dog. These simple strategies can improve your dog’s confidence and therefore reducing his anxiety.

      Best of luck and let me know how things work out.

  7. Have you any referral system for your course “Secrets to Dog Training”? If so, I’m glad to spread it through my blog!
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  8. I couldn’t have asked for a more well behaved sweet dog then my 7 month old mutt Sparky. He was an angel ever since I got him 4 months ago but recently I think he has been developing separation anxiety.

    He never chews anything but his toys when I’m around and he follows me everywhere…constantly at my heels. Recently, he had started barking and yipping when I put him in his crate to go to work but he doesn’t if I were to put him in his crate and go upstairs to bed.

    Since he was fully potty trained, I started trying to leave him in a room but he chewed and scratched the bottom near the door trying to get out. So I put him back in his crate but now he has managed to bend and yank the metal bars enough to where he could get stuck in there trying to get out pretty soon.

    I’m afraid if I let him out in the house while I’m at work that he will tear it up trying to find me. Any tips on what I can do?

    • The Puppy Persuader says:

      Hi Jen,

      Based on what you have said it is possible that your dog Sparky is developing dog anxiety. Anxiety usually is triggered when there is change in the dogs life. This could be as simple as the pet owner returning to work after a vacation or a change in working hours.

      It sounds like your dog knows your “leaving for work” cues. We unconsciously have a certain pattern of behaviors as we are getting ready to leave the home like getting the keys, grabbing your purse – and your dog is very aware that you are leaving – and will not return for some time.

      When you go to bed at night you will have another pattern of behavior. Your dog knows that you are not far away and are still in the house. Even when your dog can not see you, he can still hear you and knows that you are close by.

      This doesn’t sound like this is going to be difficult to manage but there are many different methods for dealing with this. Some methods work well on some dogs and not others. All of the tried and tested methods for dealing with dog anxiety will be included in my new book, “Stop Dog Anxiety” which will be available from this site very soon.

      The Stop Dog Anxiety Book proved to be a much bigger task than I originally thought. Because I want it to be a high quality book, full of solutions, it took a little more time to put together and I have recently got it back from my editor and I am just adding some finishing touches.

      Subscribe to my dog anxiety checklist or my posts feed (on the navigation bar at the top, just click on “Posts”) to get updates about this site and the release of the book.

      In the meantime you might want to check out Dog Anxiety Treatment page for some information on effective treatments.

  9. My dog gets over excited sometimes…this post helped me learn a lot of things…Thanks 🙂
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  10. Nice job on presenting the information, this was very helpful.