Can Puppies Get Anxiety?
Yes, puppies can get anxiety. Anxiety is not always a behavior problem; sometimes, it can be a natural emotion. However, if unmanaged, puppy anxiety becomes an emotionally-taxing medical condition for both the puppy and the owner.
According to a study by the Finland’s University of Helsinki, 72.5% of dogs manifest anxiety signs and symptoms. Because puppies carry their anxieties into adulthood, it is vital to manage puppy anxiety in its early stages.
Is it Common for Puppies to Have Anxiety?
Yes, puppy anxiety is a common issue. Interestingly, puppies from certain breeds are more likely to grow into anxious dogs. Such dog breeds include:
- German & Australian Shepherds
- Labrador Retrievers
- Border Collies
- Shorthair Pointers
- Cocker Spaniels
- Bichon Frise
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Havanese Dogs.
If your puppy’s breed is mentioned in this list, do not assume that your puppy will automatically have troublesome anxiety as an adult. However, be observant and consult with a veterinary behaviorist if you notice troublesome signs.
What Causes Puppy Anxiety?
Puppy anxiety has various causes. Canna-Pet describes three common types of anxiety in puppies:
- Separation Anxiety. Puppy separation anxiety occurs when new puppies are separated from their owners for a long or short period of time. Common signs of separation anxiety are restlessness and destructive behavior. Unfortunately, these signs can be why first-time pet owners decide to return a puppy.
- Social Anxiety. Puppy social anxiety develops when puppies do not spend enough time with other dogs or people. Socialization is a critical process and is based on interactions and new experiences. This process should begin soon after a puppy is born. The optimal socialization window is from shortly after birth to about four months of age. Unsocialized puppies often grow into scared or aggressive dogs because they do not know how to appropriately respond to new experiences and situations.
- Noise Anxiety. Puppy noise anxiety can be caused by loud noises or trauma. The exact cause of noise anxiety in puppies is rarely determined, thus making its management a challenging process. Excessive clinginess and hiding are the main signs of noise anxiety in puppies.
What are the Signs of Puppy Anxiety?
Clingy and destructive behaviors are the main signs of puppy anxiety. However, the exact clinical manifestation depends on the type of anxiety.
Here are the signs of anxiety based on the puppy anxiety type:
- Separation Anxiety
- Urination or defecation accidents in potty trained pups
- Furniture chewing, excessive digging, and scratching
- Vocalization (barking, howling, whining)
- Social Anxiety
- Acting fearful around other dogs or people
- Cowering/hiding when around other dogs or people
- Aggression (excessive growling, barking, biting)
- Noise Anxiety
- Panting and/or drooling
- Excessive barking and whining
- Pacing back and forth
- Trembling and/or shaking
- Standing frozen in place
- Cowering and being overly clingy.
If your dog experiences some of these signs, it may have anxiety. Call your vet and ask for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist to manage the issue as soon as possible.
How can I Help My Puppy With Anxiety?
According to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty in Animals, there are several ways pet parents can manage puppy anxiety. Here are some helpful methods:
- Exercise. Exercise is excellent for tiring a puppy out and preventing behavior problems. Anxious puppies have excess energy that they need to spend on something. Unless you give your puppy plenty of opportunities for physical activity, they will channel the energy into destructive behavior.
- Mental Stimulation. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Playing interactive games with your puppy provides mental stimulation and prevents episodes of puppy anxiety. Puzzle toys are also great for managing puppy anxiety.
- Physical Contact. An owner’s touch can sometimes be just what a puppy needs to calm down. No matter the type of anxiety, simply approaching the puppy, picking them up, or petting them can be enough for relaxation and anxiety relief.
- Music Therapy. Music can be extremely powerful for puppies with anxiety, as it has a calming and soothing effect. If your puppy suffers from separation anxiety, you can leave the music on while they are home alone.
- Time-Out. Giving your puppy a time-out may seem harsh, but quiet alone time is often relaxing. Get a high-quality puppy crate and start crate training. If done properly, crate training will help with anxiety management and other training, like potty training. The crate will be a place of relaxation and comfort for your puppy rather than a place of punishment.
- Calming Coats. Calming coats and shirts, such as the ThunderShirt, can help ease a puppy’s anxiety as they apply mild, constant pressure to the body. This produces a swaddling effect and can help calm a puppy down.
If these approaches are not working, talk to your vet about calming supplements or medications. Alternatively, you can discuss other anti-anxiety methods with the veterinary behaviorist. Here are some options:
- Behavior Modification. This approach is based on several techniques that help change the puppy’s perspective and the way they experience the problem. Counter-conditioning and desensitization are common methods of behavior modification.
- Calming Medications. Anti-anxiety meds for dogs can be used in combination with behavior modification to reduce a puppy’s anxiety. The treatment may be short- or long-term, depending on a puppy’s anxiety. Some anti-anxiety medications are available over-the-counter, but we strongly advise talking to your vet first.
Can Puppies Grow Out of Anxiety?
Unfortunately, anxious behavior in puppies is not something they can grow out of on their own. SpiritDog states that if left untreated, anxiety in puppies tends to get worse.
Therefore, puppy anxiety must not be ignored. Social, noise, and separation anxiety create bad habits. Unless managed, these bad and often destructive habits will be carried on to adulthood.
How Can I Prevent Puppy Anxiety?
There are many things pet owners can try to prevent anxiety in puppies.
For example, to prevent social anxiety, ensure the puppy lives and grows in a healthy social environment. This means spending a significant amount of time interacting with new people and other dogs.
During puppyhood, pets tend to attach to a family member, which may grow into separation anxiety. To prevent this, enroll the puppy in doggy daycare or hire a dog trainer or a sitter.
Crate training and investing in interactive dog toys (puzzle and chew toys) are also helpful in preventing puppy anxiety.