List of Dog Breeds Prone to Anxiety
Is your dog a “Nervous Nelly?” Does she seem excessively apprehensive or uneasy around strange people or animals, loud noises, or car rides? It’s likely she suffers from anxiety, which all dogs experience every now and then.
Some dog breeds tend to be more prone to high levels of anxiety, as well as to separation anxiety, which is a common behavioral problem among dogs, especially newly adopted dogs, puppies, and rescue dogs.
We talk more in depth about separation anxiety in this post called “Home Alone? What to Do About Separation Anxiety in Dogs.” You might also find this post about dog toys for dogs with separation anxiety.
How can you tell if your dog has anxiety? What can you do to help your pet? And, are some dog breeds more anxious than others?
Dog Breeds Prone to Anxiety
According to a report shared on Medical News Today, 70% of dogs display some form of anxiety. Of those, 32% had a noise sensitivity (especially fireworks), 17% showed fear of other dogs, 15% toward strangers, and 11% displayed nervousness toward new situations.
These types of anxiety tend to be more situational than breed-specific. That said, there do tend to be some differences among breeds when it comes to specific types of anxieties.
Breeds prone to noise anxiety
Some breeds tend to be more sensitive to noise, and this could be because they have keener senses of hearing. An often-quoted Norwegian study of anxiety across 17 dog breeds (keep in mind — there are nearly 200 recognized dog breeds around the world, so this is a very small sample) found that the Norwegian Buhund, Irish soft-coated wheaten terrier, and Lagotto Romagnolo had high frequencies of noise-triggered anxiety.
Breeds prone to separation anxiety
The following dog breeds tend to be prone to separation anxiety:
- Bichon frise
- Border collie
- Cavalier King Charles spaniel
- Cocker spaniel
- French bulldog
- German shepherd dog
- German shorthaired pointer
- Italian greyhound
- Labrador retriever
- Toy poodle
Nervous dog breeds
Working dog breeds tend to exhibit nervousness and anxiety. A working dog breed without a job needs an outlet for pent-up energy. These breeds might seem to be “nervous dog breeds,” but the truth is that they might just be bored out of their minds.
Does Your Dog Have a Fear, Phobia, or Anxiety?
To help you determine the best method for treating your fearful pet, you must first understand the difference between fear, aphobia, and anxiety.
Fear in dogs: An instinctual apprehensive feeling brought on by a real or perceived threat, like a person, object, or situation. A dog will go into a fight, flight, or freeze mode. The situation itself determines whether the dog’s response is expected or inappropriate.
Phobias in dogs: A phobia is the persistent and irrational fear of a specific stimulus. Experience with or a memory of a phobic event like fireworks can trigger a response. Most phobias in dogs are noise-related.
Anxiety in dogs: Feeling nervous, uneasy, or apprehensive over anticipated (unknown or imagined) future dangers. The most common disorder in dogs is separation anxiety, however, general anxiety (constant signs of fear or anxiety regardless of the situation or stimuli) in dogs exists as well.
Signs You Have an Anxious Dog
If your dog tends to tuck his tail often or hides more than you think he should, your pet may have anxiety. In addition to a tucked tail and retreating other signs of anxiety to watch for include:
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive barking
- Repetitive or compulsive behaviors
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Whining or whimpering
Faced with an uncomfortable situation, it’s normal for a dog to display one or more of these behaviors. With that said, you know you have a problem if:
- Your dog exhibits several signs at the same time.
- Your dog displays one symptom to the extreme.
- Your dog is in a continuous state of anxiety.
Before you can address your pet’s anxiety you must understand what’s behind the fear.
Causes of Dog Anxiety
When stress and fear take over your pet and becomes persistent it’s time to identify what’s causing her constant state of anxiety.
- Genetics: Recent research performed on Great Danes suggests genetics may be to blame for your pet’s fear (Science Daily). Other work suggests 72.5% of dogs display at least one anxiety-related behavior (Nature.com) with a genetic component behind the fear of noises (noise sensitivity), fear of strangers, fear of other dogs, or new situations.
- Age: Growing old can cause a decline in memory, perception, and awareness, which can lead to anxiety in senior dogs. On the flip side puppies can display anxiety
- Environment: Fearful reactions to loud noises, new settings, car rides, and visits to the vet or groomer can cause anxiety. Even small things like visual stimuli such as umbrellas, hats and helium-filled balloons have been known to trigger anxiety in dogs.
- Separation: Dogs are pack animals that become attached to their humans, so much so that they become anxious when left alone or are separated from their family.
How to Treat Dog Anxiety
Speaking with your veterinarian can help you determine what type of anxiety your dog suffers from and rule out potential health issues that could be causing your pet’s symptoms.
Combining training strategies like counterconditioning and desensitization can relieve anxiety in dogs. Counterconditioning changes your dog’s response to anxiety-inducing stimuli. You change your pet’s reaction by replacing her fear and anxiety with a positive experience. To accomplish this, offer your dog a reward each time she is exposed to a trigger (person, place, noise, and so forth) and behaves in a good way. Reinforce positive behaviors.
Desensitization requires you to repeatedly expose your dog to a stimulus that would typically cause an adverse reaction. It’s done at such a low level your dog doesn’t respond. For example, if being around other dogs is a trigger for your pet, walk your pet far enough away that she doesn’t react negatively. Reward her positive response. Repeat the process. Over time you can move closer to the stimulus, rewarding your pet when she doesn’t have a negative reaction. Any time she shows fear or anxiety, move further away again.
Anti-anxiety medications, natural therapies, even CBD oil may be useful in treating your dog’s anxiety.
Tips to Prevent Dog Anxiety
One of the best ways to address dog anxiety is to prevent it from occurring. Here are a few tips that can help:
- Early and regular socialization: Introduce your pet to new people, animals, environments, and situations to ensure your dog is well-adjusted and less likely to have negative responses. The sooner, the better — socialization should begin during puppyhood.
- Regular exercise: Physical exercise and mental stimulation satisfy energy needs and produce endorphins that help relieve stress.
- Read your dog’s body language. Knowing the signs when your pet is uncomfortable or afraid can help you remove your pet from an anxiety-inducing situation. You should also be aware of your behavior as dogs can feed off their humans; so if you’re anxious, chances are your pet will be too.
- Redirect anxiety-inducing triggers: If possible, avoid situations that cause your pet anxiety. Mask sights and sounds in the home when leaving your dog alone. Close curtains and blinds, and playing music or the TV can alleviate separation anxiety.
- Distraction: Give your pet busy toys to keep your pet occupied and calm when you’re not around.
- Exercise patience: Never scold, punish, or yell at your dog, as this can lead to greater fear and anxiety. Practice patience when addressing your dog’s anxiety, which can take months.
Anxiety in dogs can be debilitating, knowing the causes and signs and providing the correct treatment can help your pet enjoy life without constant angst.