Jittery in Dogs

Why is my dog jittery?

What is Jittery?

There are some dogs that are just naturally jittery, more so than others. You may notice this in toy breeds or even some of your Terrier breeds. There could also have been an event in your dog’s past that is causing them to be jittery, such as a loud noise, severe storm or abuse. These past experiences can make your dog fearful and act jittery when something triggers a memory. Dogs can also suffer from phobias, such as walking through a gate or door. 

Sometimes, dogs lack socialization. They simply did not get the proper socialization when they were younger and social situations make them extremely jittery. They will need to look to you for leadership and you will have to assume the role of pack leader to help them. Separation anxiety can also cause them to become jittery when you leave them home alone or in extreme cases, leave the room without them. A professional dog trainer or a canine behaviorist would be beneficial in these situations. 

If your companion is not normally jittery, you need to take a few minutes and examine your dog. They may be acting jittery because they are suffering from an illness or are in pain. It can many times be difficult to understand why our dogs are acting the way they are, but taking the time to assess the situation may offer you clues and help you determine the cause of why your dog is jittery. Possible reasons of why your dog is jittery are:

  • Fear or phobia 
  • Negative past experiences 
  • Lack of socialization
  • Separation anxiety
  • Illness or pain

Why Jittery Occurs in Dogs

Fear or Phobia

Phobias are not just for people. Dogs that have experienced something negative in their past may develop a phobia to certain things such as walking through a certain door or getting into a car. When your dog faces their phobia, you will notice they will become jittery and want to get away from the thing causing their anxiety. Dogs that have had a fearful experience will also act jittery. This behavior may only occur when they are in a fearful situation or it can be so severe that they are jittery all the time. This is when you need a professional to come alongside you and help your dog overcome their fear or phobia. 

Negative Past Experiences 

This could technically be categorized under fear; however, if your dog is jittery from negative past experiences, it may not always be from fear. Obviously, dogs that have been mistreated either physically or emotionally will be fearful and jittery. Dogs that are jittery from past experiences that have caused them to not develop a strong sense of confidence will need positive reassurance and training to help them overcome their jittery behavior. 

Negative past experiences can include some form of trauma. Be sure to know what triggers your dog’s jittery behavior and provide strong leadership when confronting that trigger. Always be a strong leader for your dog and keep the situation upbeat and happy so they can learn that you will keep them safe when confronting something that reminds them of a past experience.

Lack of Socialization

Socialization is necessary for your dog to be a well adjusted and confident dog. Puppies need socialization with people and other dogs for them to learn what acceptable behavior is and what is unacceptable. Your dog’s breeder has an obligation to provide your puppy with proper socialization beginning from birth. Puppies should be handled daily by the breeder so they learn to recognize the human scent and to trust.  Once your puppy comes to your home, the obligation of proper socialization then falls to you. Dogs that do not receive proper socialization by 14 weeks of age will most likely be jittery around new people and dogs.  

Separation Anxiety

Dog owners will become extremely frustrated when their dog becomes anxious or jittery. It is especially frustrating when your dog becomes clingy and shows signs of suffering from separation anxiety. This can be mild to severe, depending on your dog’s dependency on you and how you handle the situation. Most dogs will benefit from working with a professional dog trainer to overcome their anxiety, especially separation anxiety. 

Illness or Pain

When your dog is ill or suffering from pain it is difficult for them to tell you what is wrong. If you suspect your dog is sick or in pain take a few minutes to examine your dog and watch their behavior. If they are not normally jittery, make an appointment with your veterinarian. You know your dog better than anyone else, if their jittery behavior is out of character, there is a good chance that they are either ill or in pain and in need of medical assistance.

What to do if your Dog is Jittery

Dogs that are normally jittery may benefit from formal training and working with a professional dog trainer. They may be lacking socialization or confidence and need you to take the role of pack leader and show them that their fears are unfounded. A canine behaviorist may also be beneficial if your dog has suffered from a past trauma or phobia. 

Dogs that are not normally jittery will most likely need to be seen by a veterinarian. Their jittery behavior may be a symptom of a bigger health problem that needs proper diagnosing and treatment. If you are not sure whether your dog needs to see a veterinarian, it is usually best to err on the side of caution and take them in for an examination.

Prevention of Jittery

Formal training will give your dog more confidence and teach them how to handle themselves in unfamiliar situations. It will also strengthen the bond between owner and dog. Be sure to provide a positive, upbeat home environment that creates an atmosphere of safety to help your dog mature into a well-adjusted and confident dog.

Dogs that have suffered from past traumas will need extra handling and training to erase some of the past experiences. Provide plenty of fun or special toys and little treats when your dog is facing a fear or phobia. This gives your dog a pleasant experience and helps them to forget the past bad experience.

Cost of Jittery

Costs to diagnose and treat illness or pain in your dog will greatly vary depending on the cause of the illness or pain. Costs can range from $100 to $2500 and up, but it could be less or more depending on what your veterinarian finds. If your pet is jittery due to separation anxiety, the expense will average $350; the charge for the treatment can vary according to how many visits to the behaviorist are needed before your dog begins to feel more comfortable.

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