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What is Extreme Fear and Anxiety?

Excessive fear and anxiety is a common problem in dogs. Anxiety related disorders can take many forms. Separation anxiety associated with the dog being left alone is the most common; some experts estimate that about 14 % of dogs suffer from this disorder to some extent. Other common triggers for anxiety behaviors are loud noises, riding in the car, or any confined space. Excessive anxiety, especially toward a specific and inexplicable trigger, is called a phobia. Dogs can develop phobias in response to unlikely triggers like people with glasses, children, or even toasters. Excessive anxiety and phobias in relation to different people and strange situation are commonly the result of poor socialization at a young age. There are several specific windows in a dog’s development when socialization is very important: between eight and fourteen weeks of age, when puppies first start to become shy of strangers, and between five and eight months,  as they may develop fear and aggression toward unfamiliar groups of people. It is extremely important to expose dogs as much as possible to new situations and people in these time periods, always in a non-threatening way so that they feel comfortable and safe and don’t develop irrational fear or anxiety triggers. Occasionally dogs can acquire unusual phobias later in life especially during a stressful or traumatic time period. Genetic factors can also play a part. Many dogs are predisposed to develop anxiety disorders based on their breed or temperament. Fearful behavior can quickly turn into aggression, so dogs with anxiety disorders make less good pets and can even be dangerous, especially around small children. Dogs that develop fear or anxiety can sometimes be reconditioned to reduce the behavior to a manageable level, however this requires more work than initial socialization when a puppy’s age makes him predisposed to adjust and learn new information.

Fear is a normal response to some situations, but extreme fear or anxiety in dogs is a sign of behavior problems. Anxiety related behaviors can become aggressive quickly, so teaching your dog to avoid these responses can be a very important part of training.

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Symptoms of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

These are some of the signs that might indicate your dog is excessively fearful or anxious.

  • Pacing
  • Posturing with flattened ears and tail between the legs
  • Cowering and hiding
  • Hair raised on the back of the neck
  • Drooling
  • Trembling
  • Panting
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Yawning
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive grooming
  • Chronic barking
  • Chewing on objects such as furniture or shoes
  • Incontinence of bowels or urine
  • Growling
  • Snapping

Types

These are the most common types of anxiety in dogs.

  • Separation anxiety – occurs when the owner leaves or whenever the dog is left alone
  • Noise anxiety – loud noises such as thunder, fireworks, or noisy trucks
  • Travel anxiety – becomes anxious riding in the car
  • Confinement anxiety – reacts negatively to confined spaces
  • Phobia – unexplained anxiety reaction in relation to various triggers
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Causes of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

Many factors can be related to excessive fear and anxiety in dogs. These are some of the most common.

  • Poor socialization in early life
  • Predisposition due to breed or temperament
  • A stressful or traumatic event
  • A medical condition or illness
  • Age related degeneration in the brain
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Diagnosis of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

Most anxiety disorders develop in the first year and a half of a dog’s life, so this is the time to watch your dog closely and discuss any abnormal reactions with the veterinarian. Anxiety disorders are first diagnosed through the careful attention of the owner, so you should watch your dog and document unusual behaviors in a log if necessary. The veterinarian will examine your dog physically to determine if there is a medical condition that could be causing or contributing to your dog’s symptoms. If you have any information about the dog’s breeding history or the temperament of the parents this will be relevant. In older dogs, past experience can also be extremely important since a history of abuse will often give the dog a lifelong predisposition toward anxiety. Some dogs may also develop more pronounced anxiety as they age.

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Treatment of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

Depending on the severity of the problem, the veterinarian may give you training exercises to do at home or recommend an animal behavior specialist for more extensive reconditioning. The best way to react to signs of anxiety in your dog is not to encourage it. Petting or comforting the dog may be the most natural response for an owner, but the dog will see this as encouragement to continue. Putting a dog through his typical training routine during an anxiety attack may seem harsh, but it will help assure the dog that things are normal and can discourage the behavior in the future. To the dog, you are the leader of his pack, so if you act as if everything is fine, the dog will assume this is true.

Dogs with more developed anxiety disorders and phobias may need to be desensitized by exposing them to a mild version of the trigger first. Through repeated exposure and training the dog will become desensitized and learn there is nothing to fear. Treats and rewards for good behavior can help to reinforce the process. In extreme cases, classes or private sessions with a behavior therapist may be necessary to help your dog overcome anxiety. This is especially true if your dog is older and has a history of abuse.

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Recovery of Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

Proper socialization can usually reduce symptoms of anxiety in young dogs before the disorder becomes a serious problem. Older dogs that develop isolated phobias can often be retrained also. If the dog has a very anxious temperament, you may need to maintain a carefully regimented response to anxiety behaviors and continue long-term training exercises to manage the problem. Rescue dogs or older dogs with severe anxiety may be difficult to retrain regardless of the effort you put in. You may have to compensate for this by avoiding situations that trigger anxiety as much as possible. The veterinarian may be able to give you medication for isolated instances, especially car trips.

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Written by Darlene Stott

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 06/08/2016, edited: 03/24/2021

Extreme Fear and Anxiety Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Stan

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chihuahua mix

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Panting
Hiding

I recently moved out of my parent's home and took my dog with me. My parent's house in the only home he's known prior to this. He is having a difficult time adjusting. He will follow me around and shake uncontrollably. He will hide in small places around the apartment. He has also become increasingly stubborn, not listening to us when we call him (even if we're making direct eye-contact with him). He's even refused to eat from time to time. These symptoms seems to intensify at night. We visit my parent's place often and the behaviors have started happening there as well. He's always been a fearful dog but happy and comfortable in the home. It has been two months since we moved and his anxiety seems to be getting worse.

Aug. 13, 2018

Stan's Owner

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This certainly seems like a behavioural issue and you need to work with a trainer to overcome this anxiety which Stan is suffering from; there is no quick fix or other solution I can recommend to you as each case is different. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/training/behavior

Aug. 13, 2018

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Honey

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Terrier cross

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Three Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Travel Sickness

I have had my rescue dog (from abroad) for just over four months. She was originally found on the street, having been hit by a car. She is a fearful little dog but gaining confidence in quite a few areas. I can now walk down the road to the park with her as cars go by which at first she was terrified to do. She no longer runs away when I get the lead. She enjoys walks and other dogs and she is responding to reward based commands. Even her caution of people is a little better. The big problem is her fear of the car. Although she is good about being left alone, I need to be able to just put her in the car and take her with me when I visit people etc. She is sick after five minutes. I stopped all rides and started from scratch, just sitting in the car with the engine on and rewarding with a piece of chicken (kept exclusively for the car - her favourite.) I have now managed drives of 5 minutes to the sea and once we arrive at the destination, she loves her walk. But she HATES the car and drools and looks utterly miserable. I have tried various places and today she sat on the seat beside me and I could stroke her for a lot of the time which helped a bit. Still afraid though and drooling and retched a bit. If I persevere, is there any possibility she will get used to it if I continue every day? She has improved in other things. I do not want to give her tablets every day though I wouldn't mind for a long distance. I have ordered herbal travel sickness tablets as if they work, it might be a good alternative. We do have very bumpy roads here. I do not know if she is afraid because she has been sick or if the fear brought on the sickness. I don't want to give her back but feel that if we cannot beat this, she would be better with someone who never uses a car. Yet she is so attached to me it would feel like betrayal. I feel she has been through a lot in her (estimated) three years of life. Thanks for any thoughts you may have.

July 17, 2018

Honey's Owner


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Some dogs (like humans) are nauseous by being in a car, I cannot say with certainty that the past experience is directly linked to these episodes of drooling and retching; you should continue with the steps you’re taking but don’t keep her in the car all day trying to get her used to it, just go about your business and see how she is with each journey. There is no quick fix and medication doesn’t help, it just masks problems; give Honey time to learn and be comfortable with the car. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 18, 2018

Thank you - I will persevere then, though it will be challenging if she is going to be sick every journey over 5 minutes!

July 18, 2018

Honey's Owner

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Brutus

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American Mastiff

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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Brutus has always had separation anxiety and would normally destroy whatever he could. In the beginning years it was lilies, remotes, and shoes. We would then block him to only one room that seemed to work for a while. We moved in August of 2017. Since then he has become much more destructive when left alone. He would open doors, get stuck in a room and then eat the Sheetrock to try and get out. We started leaving him in the garage which worked for a while. As of the last three-four weeks he has tried to get back into the house, chew on door handles, (when someone forgets to lock the door to the house) gets locked in the laundry room and ears the Sheetrock and whatever else he can get access to. While in the garage (it’s 2 1/2 car garage) it’s full access. He has food and water. Toys, windows, bed. We really aren’t sure what else to do for him (or us) at this point.

July 9, 2018

Brutus' Owner

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Separation anxiety has no quick fix, but there are some techniques which may be used to control and manage the condition; the article below will cover some of these, also at the bottom of the article there is a section where you may ask a certified dog trainer a question if you have any follow up questions. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-separation-anxiety

July 9, 2018

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Cash

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Labrador Retriever

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Refusing To Move

My 9 year old chocolate lab has developed a fear of floors especially if they are shiny. He refuses to walk on them without help and if he go through doorways he turns around and walks backwards. He is well socialized we take him with us as much as we can and he loves to ride in the car, yesterday he began to refuse to get out of the car. He sat in the car shaking and refusing to move. I had to pull him out. After that he was fine.

July 3, 2018

Cash's Owner

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There is no quick fix for these types of issues, it is a case of normally gently showing a dog that the item or thing they are being fearful of isn’t anything to be worried about; however shiny floors is something I haven’t come across before. I would recommend reaching out to a certified dog trainer to get some one on one advice on this as it isn’t something I generally come across, the link below has a section towards the bottom where you may ask a certified dog trainer a question. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-being-fearful

July 3, 2018

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Louise

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Plott Hound

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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Anxiety

My Plott hound/Bluetick coonhound mix is just over a year old. We rescued her when she was 9 weeks old from an uncertain past. Three months ago she all of a sudden decided she did NOT want to go for walks, where previously she'd loved going for long walks around our neighborhood and playing with other dogs in the off-leash area at the dog park. We live in a small apartment building in a residential part of a large city, and three months ago, our neighbors, whom we're friendly with, adopted a dog. We worked with the neighbors to make the dogs comfortable around each other, but they always barked and seemed mutually afraid of each other. Eventually, the neighbors re-homed their dog for unrelated reasons, so she's no longer in the building. However, the fear of going for walks in our girl has stayed! I lure her out with treats and give her lots and lots of praise, have worked with a trainer, and have even put her on medication. It seems to only be giving her moderate relief. She barely sets foot outside of our front yard, and is barely getting any exercise, despite being a breed that needs lots and lots of exercise. I really want her to be able to enjoy her old life of going for long, fun walks and enjoying adventuring in the outdoors. I've researched adolescent fear periods, and I'm starting to fear that the trauma of the upstairs dog may be permanent. Any advice? Thank you!

June 27, 2018

Louise's Owner

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These issues can be difficult to manage or change especially since we rarely fully understand the root cause of the fear, there isn’t anything I can recommend for you apart from encouraging her to go outside and rewarding her as you seem to be doing already; I don’t think medication is a good solution long term, but you should be persistent which I know may feel unrewarding. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-being-fearful

June 27, 2018

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Kickz dooley

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English Bulldog

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Anxiety

have a male english bulldog he is 5 years old not fixed i got a female english bulldog puppy and she went into heat and now my male dog has more anxiety then before can he be jellious ??? He use to be calm and cool now won't take medication won't let you cut his nails give him bath what do i do???

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Marley

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Collie shepherd

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Trembling, Whining, Hiding, Panting

My 2 year old collie shepherd mix is very afraid of gun shots fireworks thunder,etc. She was abused by her previous owner and after the recent firework season she became very paranoid anxious fearful all the time every day! She would hide in the bedroom shake uncontrollably not eat or drink. In a constant state of fear had to be right beside me or on my lap. I don't know what to do I have given her melatonin but I don't like doing this everyday and I feel her quality of life is suffering she's not the same dog.

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Max

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Staff/mastiff

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking

My dog is an 11yr old mixed staff/mastiff I have had him for 5 years he has been mistreated by one of his previous owners. My son suffers from EUPD and gets hungry and has outbursts. My dog started losing his fur. Then he began to shake and fur came back. Now he shakes and loses his fur.he I know he is scared I have petted him told him it's ok but he shakes worse. Not sure what to do. I try n take him out for a walk if my skn gets stressed his escaped over a 6ft fence 3x. I am hoping for the council to find accomadation for my son. Which will sort the problem but not sure what to do .I take him upstairs with me but still anxious . Please help it is heartbreaking for me to watch.

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Buddy

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

9 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

My lab mix seems to be afraid of people. He is nine months old and I’ve had him since he was four months. He came from a rescue and a foster home that had four young hyper children. While on the leash he will pull hide and do anything To get away from people. The more people the more severe the interaction. If he is off the leash he will approach and pass at his own leisure and space. It seems that while on the leash his interactions with people are high and anxiety. While off the leash he will approach people at his own leisure. Still not letting people touch them but much closer than on the leash. I’ve trained my dog to do amazing things like ring a bell when he asked to go to the bathroom. But I’m starting to question if I’m doing the right thing. Can somebody please offer advice!

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Niko

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Heeler mix

dog-age-icon

7 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Fear, Anxiety, Growling

I rescued a Heeler mix when he was approximately 6 months old. He was supposedly "shy" and was shy at the meet and greet. I've had him one month and he is not shy, he is severely, severely fearful and anxiety-ridden about everything. People, other dogs, my timid cat, noises. He spends 23 1/2 hours a day in his crate because he is afraid to come out. I am very calm with him, giving him high value treats, and pet or massage him gently; leaving him alone if he starts licking his lips. I never yell at him, never abuse him. I purchased a pheromone diffuser, a pheromone collar, and herbal calming drops. They have not helped at all. I hired 2 different behavioral trainers who have suggested similar techniques that I have been using, such as the T-Touch massage. I could not take him to the vet as he would have melted down. I had a vet come to my house and she prescribed Buspirone 2 weeks ago and has now prescribed Fluoxetine. Just started that. The vet and one of the behavioral trainers when I asked the severity of his anxiety felt like it was the worst they had ever seen! I am beside myself. This is no quality of "life" if he stays in his crate 23 1/2 hours a day. I have had medically challenged dogs before and did not hesitate to spend whatever it took; time or money wise to help them, however I just don't know if he can be helped.

Extreme Fear and Anxiety Average Cost

From 60 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$300

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