Dog health 101: A guide to identifying and dealing with dog anxiety

April 07, 2022

Blog image for Dog health 101: A guide to identifying and dealing with dog anxiety. The image shows a black and white spotted Australian Shepherd puppy (medium-sized dog breed) wearing a turquoise blue and rose gold Valgray collar.

As pet parents, we know dealing with dog anxiety is heartbreaking. For some, their precious pooch is too anxious to be themselves when visitors come over, and for others, it means a huge performance whenever you want to leave the house.

Every doggo has a unique personality, and they feel a range of emotions that they communicate through various actions and behaviours. Here's how to identify anxious dog behaviour, why your pup gets anxious and ways of helping dogs with anxiety.

Dog health 101: Dealing with dog anxiety

Identifying anxious dog behaviours

Valgray blog post image for Dog health 101: A guide to identifying and dealing with dog anxiety. Image shows a black pug (small-sized dog breed) wearing a Pistachio green and silver Valgray for Dogs collar and receiving a kiss on the head.

Cowering, shivering and whining are some of the most common displays of doggy anxiety. But, pups don't always behave the same or express themselves in the same manner; that's why it's up to us to learn what to look out for so we can help our four-pawed besties.

Symptoms of dog anxiety

1) Physical behaviours:

  • Frequent yawning
  • Baring teeth
  • Tail tucked between the legs or under their body
  • Obsessive sniffing
  • Impulsive lip licking and/or scratching
  • Increased or sudden drooling
  • Panting 
  • Shivering or trembling
  • Tense body posture
  • Accidents, even when fully house trained
  • Hiding or disappearing into a safe space
  • Showing you the whites of their eyes, also known as 'whale eye'
  • Pacing or walking in obsessive patterns
  • Restlessness

2) Destructive behaviours:

  • Compulsive licking or chewing of paws, limbs and tail
  • Digging or scratching at exits
  • Chewing or ripping furniture, shoes, clothing... pretty much anything they can sink their chompers into!

3) Vocal anxious behaviours: 

  • Growling or snarling
  • Sighing or audible groans of discomfort
  • Excessive or purposeless barking
  • Baying or howling
  • Crying or whining

Why do dogs get anxious?

Valgray blog post image for Dog health 101: A guide to identifying and dealing with dog anxiety. Image shows a black pug (small-sized dog breed) wearing a Pistachio green and silver Valgray for Dogs collar and looking anxious.


We know the question on everyone's lips is; why does my dog get anxious? Unfortunately, this question has a different answer depending on your floof's temperament, age and life experiences.

There are, however, three key factors that canine behaviour experts have flagged as the most common reasons dogs feel anxious.

Aging and dog anxiety

Senior dogs often start showing signs of anxiety or become anxious because of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) as their brain ages. Like the effect of Alzheimer's disease in humans, CDS causes a decline in awareness, memory, perception and learning in doggos, which understandably leads to old souls feeling confused and anxious. 

Separation anxiety in dogs

According to studies, 14% of dogs suffer from separation anxiety. The answer to why fur kids get separation anxiety lies in doggy genetics and genealogy. Dogs weren't always man's best friend; canines started as wild pack animals, and through years of domestication and selective breeding, we have made them our companions.

However, their need to be a part of a pack has never left them, and it's why dogs experience separation anxiety when we leave them alone.

To our paw-some pups, we are part of their pack, and when we leave them alone, they feel abandoned because they don't understand that we are coming back and it's not forever.  

Sadly, separation anxiety is one of the most frustrating types of dog anxiety for pet parents. Despite it stemming from your fur kid missing you, it often leads to destructive behaviour and, as some owners know, heart-wrenching cries and excessive barking when you aren't at home.

Fear-related anxiety in dogs

Fear is an essential part of canine and human survival, and it isn't something anyone can control. Various environmental factors, stimuli and situations can cause fear and lead to doggo anxiety.

  • Visual and audio stimuli

Both audio and visual stimuli can induce fear-related anxiety in dogs. Sudden sounds startle, loud noises sound even louder, and high pitches can hurt your dog's sensitive ears. 

While unfamiliar visual stimuli like someone wearing a hat or even a person carrying an umbrella can result in a lot of confusion, fear and anxiety in your pup. 

  • Unfamiliar environments and people

To our fur babies, familiarity means safety and comfort. Before domestication, canines weren't only animals who lived in family groups; they also established and maintained territories to protect their pack and claim resources. 

When we introduce pups to unfamiliar environments, like a vet clinic or dog park, their need for safety means figuring out new territories, finding their place in the doggy social hierarchy and locating resources - which is more than enough to give anyone anxiety!

Meeting new people creates fear and anxiety in dogs because, in their eyes, this new person or group of people are unknown and therefore unpredictable. 

How would you feel if you just met someone and they started to touch you or physically lift you off the ground? That's what dogs go through! As eager dog lovers, we often forget that doggos need time and reassurance that someone new isn't going to hurt them, harm us, steal their toys or eat their food before they feel secure enough to make friends. 

  • Trauma and PTSD

Experiencing or witnessing a terrifying or traumatic event causes a psychiatric disorder in humans and dogs called post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD symptoms in dogs include chronic anxiety, hypervigilance, avoidance, sleep disturbances, the fear of being alone, decreased interest in activities, or misplaced aggression.

Any pet parent with a rehabilitated, rescue or shelter pup will agree that past traumas and doggy PTSD can lead to tremendous anxiety in dogs of all ages, no matter how long they've had a forever home and loving parents.

Helping dogs with anxiety

Valgray blog post image for Dog health 101: A guide to identifying and dealing with dog anxiety. Image shows a brindle whippet (medium-sized dog breed) wearing a Grey and Gold Valgray for Dogs collar and an anxious look on their face.

We wish there were a one-size-fits-all solution for helping dogs with anxiety, but a single cure-all dog anxiety treatment doesn't exist. 

However, we highly recommend speaking to your veterinarian about helping you identify your doggy's stressors; and find a personalised treatment plan for your pup's uniques situation. Your vet will also rule out any possible dog health problems that might cause your floof anxiety. 

5 ways of dealing with dog anxiety

Valgray blog post image for Dog health 101: A guide to identifying and dealing with dog anxiety. Image shows Juno, a white Shar Pei (medium-sized dog breed) wearing a Grey and Gold Valgray for Dogs collar  and leash set on a walk.


1) Learn to speak dog

Learning to read your dog's body language is the key to unlocking what your loveable pooch thinks and feels. Once you understand your dog, it's easier to prevent and avoid situations or stimuli that make your pup feel anxious. Learn more about dog body language here.

2) Exercise and mental stimulation
With regular mental stimulation and exercise, your doggy has a place to put all that nervous energy and can focus on being alert or taking in their surroundings.
Without an outlet like chasing a ball or going for walkies, a dog's pent up nervous energy and boredom generally result in them chewing your favourite shoes or shredding their bed.

3) Obedience training
One of the best tools for managing dog anxiety is obedience training. This type of dog training lays the foundations for a trusting and healthy relationship between you and your fur kid and makes it easier for them to socialise.

4) Counterconditioning
Counterconditioning is a dog training strategy used to treat dog anxiety. The purpose of counterconditioning is to change your pooch's response to anxiety-inducing stimuli. Usually, professional dog trainers teach anxious dogs to sit or focus on their owners instead of displaying anxious or aggressive behaviour.

5) Doggy socialisation
Proper dog socialisation helps prevent fur kids from developing anxiety and helps your dog become a cool, calm and collected canine.

Essential, by teaching your dog to meet new people, other dogs, animals or enjoy new places and experiences, you help avoid and decrease exaggerated fight or flight responses driven by anxiety.

We hope our guide to identifying and dealing with dog anxiety will allow you to understand your darling doggo's behaviour and help you find the best way to help them deal with their anxiety.

Please note that this blog is for information purposes only. Valgray for Dogs encourages pet parents to consult a veterinarian before making any changes or decisions about treating their dogs.

Click here to learn more about Valgray and our story.

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MORE TO EXPLORE

The Valgray Collar Sizing Guide
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Collars for all dog sizes!

Valgray is one of the few brands that cater for the truly tiny pooch with our X-Small collars. We also go the extra mile to ensure we cater for the giant breeds with measurements reaching up to 75cm.

Never try to guess your dog's neck size! Avoid disappointment by first making sure you measure your pup’s neck for the most accurate sizing.

Then, refer to our sizing chart below to find the most appropriate collar size for your doggie. Remember to select a collar size that will fit comfortably and allow for movement.

I don't know how to measure my dog's neck?

Don’t have a tape measure lying around? No problem! To learn how to measure your dog's neck safely with various household items, click here.

Valgray luxury dog accessory product sizing guide & sizing chart for extra large, large, medium, small and extra small dog collars. Image from The Valgray Collar Sizing Guide page.

Personal customisation

We try our best to cater to every breed, but some doggos might need a little extra at-home customisation to achieve the perfect fit. Our PVC-coated nylon straps are soft, making adjustments at home very easy. Use a standard leather punching tool to add additional holes, or use a utility knife to trim the length of your collar.

Interested in learning about the paws and humans behind Valgray? Learn about our journey and how we give back on Valgray, This Is How Our Story Started!