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Many dogs experience anxiety in some way, regardless of breed or age. However, studies show that some dog breeds may be more predisposed to some types of anxiety than others. If you’re looking for the right dog for your lifestyle, or you’re wondering whether your furry friend is more predisposed to anxiety, it’s smart to know what genetic backgrounds make certain dog breeds more susceptible.
Read on to discover dog breeds prone to anxiety, as well as what you can do to alleviate your dog’s anxiety if they do show symptoms.
Use the links below to jump straight to the section of your interest:
- Which dog breeds are most prone to anxiety?
- Signs your dog has anxiety
- How to help your dog with anxiety
- Final Notes
We’ll start by exploring the top anxiety dog breeds.
Note: In this context, “anxiety” is an umbrella term used for simplicity's sake. Veterinary behaviorists use the phrase “fear, anxiety, and stress” to describe related behavioral problems in dogs. For more information on fear, anxiety, and stress, refer to our post on dog anxiety.
Which Dog Breeds Are Most Prone To Anxiety?
All dog breeds can experience anxiety, but some dog breeds like lagotto romagnolos, wheaten terriers, and Spanish water dogs can all experience anxiety at higher rates.1 Many people are taken aback when they realize that dogs may experience anxiety. Dogs, like people, are emotionally complex, and they may react differently to their situations in the same manner that humans do. And, just as humans may get apprehensive under certain conditions, so can dogs.
Rather than a single cause, anxiety in dogs is induced by a combination of environmental variables.
Certain dog breeds, as well as family histories of anxiety, may lead your dog to act anxiously.
Genetics, breed predisposition, lack of socialization, traumatic events, and old age are just a few of the factors that might cause dog anxiety. Whatever is causing your dog's anxiety, the most important thing is to figure out how to manage it so that they may live a happy and healthier life. Knowing how to identify signs of anxiety is the first step in finding quality treatment, so it’s critical to know if your dog is of a high-risk breed.
The prevalence of anxiety in particular breeds can vary significantly, though, as mentioned above, all dogs can experience anxiety under stressful circumstances. The following are some of the more anxiety-prone breeds, along with information on the ways they are most likely to express symptoms.
Lagotto romagnolos, a fluffy poodle-like breed of dog, are some of the most anxious dogs. They are prone to experiencing a high rate of fear of thunder2, for example, which is also generally a common anxiety trigger for many dogs regardless of breed. They may also experience noise anxiety from other sources, such as loud vehicles, gunshots, and even loud music.
Wheaten terriers were also among the dogs with the highest risk of developing noise sensitivity anxiety2. If you are considering adopting a wheaten terrier, or you already have one, it’s a good idea to make accommodations for the dog to ensure to adequately socialize them from a young age with noises, as outlined by a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist. If they are exposed to frequent loud noises, they are likely to express symptoms like barking and panting.
Spanish Water Dogs
Spanish water dogs, known for their loyalty and hard work ethic, are prone to anxiety-related symptoms. Spanish water dogs are more likely to develop fear or anxiety to stimuli in their surroundings. Often, that stimulus is strangers—the study referenced above found that Spanish water dogs were the most likely breed in Finland to exhibit a fear of strangers. Less common symptoms of anxiety in this breed include tail chasing and fly-snapping.
Similar to Spanish water dogs, Shetland sheepdogs also suffer from fear of strangers. Through the right training and medication, this can be mitigated, but if you’re considering a Shetland sheepdog and you know you’re likely to encounter strangers often, or often have new people coming to your home, it’s important to be aware of this predisposition so that you can proactively socialize them from an early age, and treat this fear appropriately with your vet for the best long term outcome.
Miniature schnauzers are among the most aggressive dog breeds.3 When faced with anxiety-inducing stimuli, such as strangers, unfamiliar dogs, or loud noises, miniature schnauzers have an increased risk compared to other breeds of showing aggression towards unfamiliar people. They may also have an increased risk of developing separation anxiety compared to other breeds.
While mixed-breed dogs are often lauded for their lower incidence of health problems in general when compared to purebreds, they are the most commonly identified breed in studies to be anxious4. This may not be because mixed breeds are more likely to be anxious than pure breeds. It may just be because there are more mixed breeds in all these studies than pure breeds.
All Dogs Can Have Anxiety
It’s important to know whether your dog has a predisposition toward anxiety. However, it’s also important to know that, just because your dog is one of the anxiety dog breeds mentioned above, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily have an anxiety problem. It also doesn’t mean that because your dog isn’t one of the breeds listed above, it won’t have anxiety. The same study found that as many as 72.5% of dogs suffer from anxiety due to some stimulus.1
Some of the most common causes included:
- 32% of dogs suffered from noise sensitivity from at least one trigger.
- 29% had a strong fear response to strangers or other unfamiliar triggers.
- 24% had a fear of heights or other uneven surfaces.
- 20% were inattentive when triggered
- 17% engaged in repetitive behaviors, often when left alone.
- 16% were hyperactive or impulsive.
- 14% were aggressive.
- 5% had separation anxiety behavior.
The takeaway? While it’s smart to be mindful of whether your dog is prone to have anxious responses, it’s also important that, no matter what breed of dog you adopt, you keep an eye out for anxious behavior. Probabilities are just probabilities—it’s good to remember that things with a 5% chance of happening still happen 1 in 20 times. Which means that even dogs with a lower prevalence of anxiety may still show symptoms.
Next, we’ll take a look at some of the most common signs and symptoms that may present if your dog has an anxiety disorder.
Signs Your Dog Has Anxiety
You must first be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of anxiety in your dog before you can treat them. Anxiety in dogs can be expressed in a variety of ways, so knowing what to look for is crucial. Some of the more common symptoms to look out for include:
- Drooling and panting more than usual: An anxious dog may drool and pant excessively as a result of the stress of being left alone, new dogs in their area, or other triggers.
- Pacing in circles or straight lines: Some anxious dogs may regularly pace about the house in circles or straight lines.
- Attempting to flee: If your dog suffers from canine anxiety, he or she may want to flee the source of the stress, which might include your home. They could try to chew or dig their way through windows or doors, harming themselves in the process.
- Persistent howling or barking: An anxious dog will often howl, bark, and whimper in an effort to reunite or reconnect with their family.
- Urinating or defecating in the home: Even if potty trained, a dog with anxiety may urinate and/or defecate in the house if one of their anxiety triggers occurs, and they may even develop dog diarrhea.
- Destruction: Some anxious dogs engage in destructive behaviors such as chewing, digging, and clawing. Door frames, window sills, doors, and other household items will be gnawed or scratched.
Not only may these symptoms be signals of anxiety, but they can also be signs of other diseases and disorders. It's crucial to keep an eye on your dog to see if they show any other signs of anxiety before diagnosing them and treating them.
Above all, consult a veterinary professional to appropriately diagnose and treat your dog’s anxiety symptoms. Every breed and every dog is different, so it’s important to find a treatment plan that’s effective for your unique pet, as these are treatable disorders.
How To Help Your Dog With Anxiety
Anxiety in dogs may be addressed in a variety of ways. While medication, especially evidence-based choices like those a Dutch-affiliated vet can provide you with, is frequently a successful option, anxiety dog training may also be a great method to ensure your dog feels comfortable and at peace.
There are a variety of training methods you may use. The following are a few of the most popular choices:
- Environmental management: Making your dog's environment more favorable can be a strong technique for reducing their anxiety. There are numerous strategies to help your dog's anxiety by optimizing their environment. Establishing a "sanctuary space" in your home for your dog might provide them with a secure haven to retreat to when they are stressed when you leave for work or to run some errands. Additionally, enriching the environment with food puzzles and challenging their brain with activities such as nosework and teaching new tricks can keep them focused on things other than their fears and anxieties.
- Behavior modification: Behavior modification can transform your dog's perception of the environment and alleviate their anxiety at its source, resulting in long-term change. Counterconditioning and desensitization are two examples of behavioral modification methods. Please be mindful that some commonly taught or incorrectly taught techniques might exacerbate anxiety, so consult your veterinarian to develop a behavior modification plan that is appropriate for your dog.
- Medication: When it comes to anxiety, many dogs benefit from a medication-based approach. Because anxiety is a behavioral illness, even with the aid of many of these therapies, it seldom goes away on its own. Prescription drugs may be required to help calm your worried dog's mind before they can begin to learn new behaviors and healthier responses to anxiety stimuli.
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. There are several treatment choices available, and the best one for your dog is determined by their specific needs. It may take some trial and error before you find a way that works, so be persistent in your search for a solution.
It's frightening to find that your dog has anxiety. You may be concerned about the harm your dog will cause to themself or their surroundings, such as urinating on the carpet or destroying the living room furniture. Anxiety can also result in self-inflicted injuries like broken teeth and injured paws. Dealing with a dog who has anxiety can cause you to be constantly concerned about their well-being and disrupt your normal routine. Finding the finest treatment alternatives helps you and your pet have a better quality of life.
Most dogs will benefit from a combination of evidence-based medication and careful training. When it comes to medication, getting the right fit for your dog can be difficult. Different dogs and different breeds may need different kinds and dosages of medication to gain anxiety relief. That’s why Dutch takes a personalized approach to medication. Our network of expert veterinarians are familiar with the various kinds of anxiety behaviors that dogs are likely to experience. And they are committed to helping connect you with the right medication for your pet—often getting you the prescription you need in just a day.
Before you can know for sure if the approaches listed above are beneficial, you'll probably have to try them for a while. You may become frustrated if your dog does not start responding to their new anxiety training or medication immediately. However, it’s important that you don’t punish them for it. Learning new behaviors, and unlearning old anxiety responses, can be a difficult process.
Be patient and remember that, while imptoving your dog's anxiety may take some time, it will be worth it in the end. Are you looking for the best anxiety treatment for your pup? If you're not sure whether medication is the best decision for your dog, go to Dutch.com. Using Dutch, you may consult with professional veterinarians from the convenience of your own home using our specialized telemedicine for pets system. Without having to leave the house or transport your pet to the clinic, our telemedicine for pets allows you access to subscription medicines to help control your pet's separation anxiety. Start by scheduling an online consultation, and we'll work with you to determine the best course of action or treatment. You'll receive your pet's medication within 7 days, delivered directly to your home.
Having a high-anxiety dog breed doesn’t have to mean your dog will always be suffering. The right course of treatment and medication will have your dog back to tail-wagging and playing—it just takes patience and persistence, and often, the right medication.
“Prevalence, comorbidity, and breed differences in canine anxiety in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs”, Scientific Reports, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-59837-z
- Storengen LM, Lingaas F. Noise sensitivity in 17 dog breeds: Prevalence, breed risk and correlation with fear in other situations. Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2015;171:152-160. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2015.08.020.
- Arata, Sayaka, et al. "" Reactivity to Stimuli” Is a Temperamental Factor Contributing to Canine Aggression." PloS one 9.6 (2014): e100767.
- Flannigan, Gerrard, and Nicholas H. Dodman. "Risk factors and behaviors associated with separation anxiety in dogs." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 219.4 (2001): 460-466.
- Bamberger, Michelle, and Katherine A. Houpt. "Signalment factors, comorbidity, and trends in behavior diagnoses in dogs: 1,644 cases (1991–2001)." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 229.10 (2006): 1591-1601.