What Happens When Dogs Feel Anxious?
There are several symptoms of anxiety in dogs that you should look out for, especially if you feel anxious near your dog.
Anxious behaviors can include chewing objects around the house, having accidents even though they’re housetrained, licking or chewing at their own paws or skin, barking or whining, pacing, scratching, trying to escape, or showing physiological responses like dilated pupils, shaking, and excessive panting.
If you see these signs on a regular basis, it may mean your dog has an anxiety disorder instead of just a general feeling of anxiety.
The problem can go from bad to worse when dogs react to anxious humans and become anxious, themselves. For example, a person who’s anxious or fearful around dogs might tense up and stare.
Dogs can take this as a challenge posture and become anxious and defensive. This is when incidents can happen.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests that less emotionally stable people are more likely to be bitten by dogs. This is a correlation, not a causation, but it’s possible that anxious behaviors lead dogs to feel more anxious and respond with fear or aggression.
The study also sheds further light on the concept of “emotional contagion,” the sharing or mirroring of emotional response between animals living in a group.
“It almost seems intuitively obvious that there is an association between human stress and emotions and that of their pets. I believe many of us have suspected that relationship. Clearly, by measuring cortisol levels, the researchers were able to demonstrate this using scientific data,” said Greg Nelson, DVM, a veterinarian at Central Veterinary Associates in Valley Stream, New York.
Dog owners answered questions about their own personality traits, including neuroticism and openness. They also performed a similar task for their dogs, answering a dog personality questionnaire wherein they scored their dog on traits like excitability, fearfulness, and aggression.
If you think your dog gets stressed out, part of the problem could be… well, you.
Other noticeable effects on cortisol levels included season (during the winter there were higher levels) and sex (female dogs showed higher cortisol concentrations than their male counterparts).
Let the Music Play
Play classical music or something similar with low frequencies and a slow tempo. The soothing sounds can help calm your dog and lower their stress level.