16 Signs Your Dog is Anxious

Sep 22, 2022

An anxious dog can be quite challenging to handle, besides the heartache that seeing your beloved pet suffering can cause, an anxious dog can act out in destructive or painful ways, making life more difficult for the whole household. 

What if you can’t tell if your dog is anxious? While some of the ways anxiety in dogs manifests are similar to humans, some of the other ways aren’t as obvious. Anxiety in dogs can manifest in a variety of different ways. Hear 16 signs of anxiety in dogs, starting with the most subtle tells. 

1. Lip licking

This is one of the more subtle signs of anxiety, but for dogs, anxiety can show itself through them licking their lips

2. Showing the whites of their eyes

This is more subtle, but this can be a precursor to more obvious shows of anxiety.

3. Lifting a paw

 A subtle body language clue that your dog is feeling anxious.

4. Looking away / won’t make eye contact 

If your dog is looking away, it could be a sign that he or she is feeling anxious.

5. Barking and howling

One of the more problematic ways that anxiety in dogs’ manifests is barking or howling when you aren’t home. This is often considered a sign of separation anxiety and means your dog is under constant stress, which is bad for their overall health. Imagine how hard it would be for you to yell non-stop for hours. In addition, this can make neighbor relationships fraught, especially if you share walls with your neighbors. No one wants your dog to suffer but barking and howling can make other people suffer as well. 

dog howling at home

6. Panting

It’s normal for dogs to pant when it’s hot; this is one of the ways their bodies are designed to cool off. However, excessive panting can also be a sign that your dog is experiencing anxiety and is trying to calm themselves down. If your dog is panting when the temperature is mild, he or she is likely experiencing anxiety and having a nervous reaction that they are trying to lessen by panting.

7. Pacing.

Is your dog pacing around the house? Does it seem like they are wearing out the floor with constant back and forth pacing? Maybe they have a specific route they travel, which might keep you from calming down after a long day. If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, you can likely relate to the desire to pace. Try comforting your pet with some affection or taking them on a walk can reduce their urge to pace.

8. Shivering.

If your dog is shivering even though it’s not cold outside or in the house, this could be a sign that your dog is experiencing anxiety. Shivering is a way to activate the nervous system and move excess energy through it and could be a sign that your dog is trying to relieve their anxiety. This can be upsetting because it may seem like there’s nothing you can do to get your dog to stop shivering, adorable sweaters aside. 

9. Running away /Trying to escape

 Is your dog trying to get out the door every time it’s open? Does he or she make like a bolt of lightning down the street at any and every opportunity? This is one of the more challenging and dangerous ways a dog can express anxiety. At best, it is obnoxious to chase after and find a dog who’s run halfway down the street. Unfortunately, this also means that at worst running away can be life-threatening, along with the chance that the dog will not be found. Chasing after a dog who’s run away can also be dangerous if you must navigate traffic of any kind, and dogs don’t necessarily know to avoid running headlong in front of cars. Be sure to exercise caution when chasing after your runaway dog. 

10. Cowering in a corner 

This is one of the more obvious ways a dog can express anxiety. Cowering in a corner is a clear response to the fight/flight stress they are experiencing. While not as challenging as other forms of anxiety, it can still be heartbreaking to watch your pup suffer, especially if it seems as though there isn’t any logical reason for them to be afraid. Unfortunately, anxiety isn’t logical for humans or dogs. It may help your pup if you put a blanket or bed in their favorite cowering spot, but that isn’t a real solution, which makes witnessing this even harder. Cowering for no explainable reason also means that there is less time for playing and cuddling if you can’t calm your dog down, which can be especially sad and frustrating. 

two dogs covered in a pillow they chewed up


Digging can be a compulsive behavior and is also problematic. This challenging expression of anxiety can range from annoying to dangerous. Digging can destroy lovingly planted gardens and costly landscaping, result in a dirty dog (and then likely a dirty house), and presents tripping hazards for the two-legged members of the household. This is dangerous for all members of a household but presents special challenges for households with young children who might be the same size as the hole Fido dug, or who are still unsteady on their feet and more prone to tripping. 

12.Destroying furniture

Dogs can be incredibly destructive when it comes down to it and destroying the furniture can be one of the compulsive ways your dog has to express its anxiety. This is also in the more challenging group because furniture can be expensive, not to mention the mess that your dog can make by gnawing on couch cushions. 

13. Self-harm

 This is one of the saddest, scariest, and most expensive ways a pup can express their anxiety. Self-harm in dogs can look like excessive grooming or licking of their skin, hair, or fur, or chewing of their limbs or skin. Unchecked, this can lead to patches or even swathes of exposed skin if the hair or fur has been licked away and can even result in open sores or wounds. This can lead to expensive vet visits for medication to reduce the risk of infection and it is generally alarming and stressful to witness. 

14. Not eating

 While not all dogs are food motivated, you’ll likely be alarmed if your dog expresses their anxiety this way. Similarly, with humans, stress can negatively impact the appetite and if your dog is feeling stressed and anxious, they may turn their noses up at their food because of an anxious stomach. If this happens only occasionally, there’s likely no need for concern, but if this becomes a chronic problem, your dog becomes at risk of other health issues associated with not eating. 

15. Urinating more frequently

 Like the fear response in humans, an anxious dog could need to urinate more frequently. If you have a doggie door and your pup is good about going to the bathroom outside, then this may not be as noticeable or cause much disruption to the household. But if your dog is anxiously urinating inside the home, this can be annoying at best and at worst harm carpets, rugs and cause an unwelcome odor. It can also be problematic when a dog anxiously urinates when greeting guests inside or outside of the home. 

16. A general inability to settle

Like pacing, a dog that can’t settle down to sleep or rest is likely anxious. This can look like your dog getting up and down from their favorite spot on the floor or the couch and can impinge on quality cuddle time. 

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