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Anxiety & Stress in Dogs

Updated: May 8, 2020

Recognizing the signs and Implementing Treatment


Our dog's personal or working, give their hearts, souls, and loyalty to you the handler. The relationships we hold with these canines are deeply personal; the trust and emotional bonds that form are for the most part unbreakable. This is why we often miss signs of emotional stress, as it can be very subtle and build over time. Other times the build-up can explode and the stress and anxiety will be very obvious and sometimes destructive.

When our dogs fail to pay attention or follow simple commands for a common skill, we view it as a person viewing the dog as being stubborn or difficult (pushing back on us like a toddler or teenager). Developing the skill to recognize the difference between your dog "testing" your limits and being emotionally stressed is key.

Listening to your dog's body language is key in understanding their needs.  This example is of a boston Terrier, but reflects the same behavior that happens in all breeds.
Physical Cues - Understanding Body-language

Early signs of frustration in your dog can lead to stress and anxiety and will present themselves with the following signs.


  • Excessive & Random Barking

  • Constant Whining

  • Increased Yawning

  • Drooling

  • Lip-smacking

  • Tremors

  • Avoidance

  • Pacing

  • Excessive shedding

  • Reluctance to Eat

  • Vomiting or Diarrhea

  • Obsessive Licking (usually localized to one area)

  • Destructive to Themselves

  • Destructive to Objects or Property

There are so many reasons why our canines get stressed and it can develop into anxiety if not properly addressed. We often times can help resolve frustration and stress by taking breaks during training (mental relaxation), adding high-intensity work (physical or mental, or introducing new skills or routines (challenge your dog's mind).

Brain Games - Mental Stimulation

We can also use games, puzzle toys and feeders to help stimulate positive behaviors. These are also great to utilize on those rainy/muddy or cold/icy days. Mental stimulation helps to alleviate boredom and can help with separation anxiety, excessive chewing or barking.

Simple at Home Games:

  • Find the Treats (place treats in challenging places, have your dog find them)

  • Food-Dispensing Toys (check out Black Paw Canine's Facebook Live REPLAY from March 12th Beers with Black Paw on how to make your own DIY toy).

  • Which Hand Game (hid treat in your hand and place behind your back and switch it up then present to your dog to find using their nose).

  • Stuffed Kong (place a few treats in the kong, top with dog-friendly peanut butter and freeze)

  • Teach them new tricks (example weave through your legs for a treat or favorite toy)

-- Jessica Koch, RVTK9 Medical Directors

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