Bonding with your dog at sunset

Bond with Your Animal: Ease Anxiety for Your Service Dog & You

If your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal has anxiety, it can be very upsetting for both of you.

No-one wants their dog to be unhappy, but because of the special bond between Service Dog and Emotional Support Animals and their human companions, symptoms of anxiety can be even more heart-felt.

If your dog experiences anxiety, there are a number of things you can do to help him.

Here's what you need to know.

What are the symptoms of anxiety in dogs?

One of the most challenging things about sharing your life with a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal is the fact that sometimes you know there is something wrong, but it can be hard to work out what it is.

I'm sure you've wished more than once that your canine friend can tell you what's bothering him.

Thankfully, dogs are effective communicators if you know what to look for.

These are the most common symptoms of anxiety in dogs.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Pacing, seems unable to settle down
  • Barking, howling or crying when left alone
  • Shaking or cowering in a corner
  • Digging
  • Running away from home
  • Destructive behavior
  • Excessive licking or biting themselves
  • More frequent urinating

Why do dogs experience anxiety?

If your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal displays any of the symptoms above, the first stage in his treatment is to try to determine what triggers his anxiety.

Just like anxiety in humans, this can be difficult to work out. The most common reasons why dogs experience anxiety are separation anxiety, fear of loud noises, and fear of unfamiliar places or people.

Does your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal have separation anxiety?

Sleeping with your service dog or emotional support animal

One of the most common forms of anxiety in dogs is separation anxiety - this is when your dog displays symptoms of anxiety when you leave him or he is left alone.

It is also one of the most common forms of anxiety in Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals because they are used to being with their human companions most of the time.

Plus, Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals are used to keeping busy because they work a lot of the time. They sometimes get unhappy when they have nothing to do.

If your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal is a puppy, it's a good idea to get them used to being left alone while they are young as this is the easiest time to train them.

If your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal is older it can be more tricky to get them used to being away from you. It's very important you address the problem as it's not only upsetting for your dog, it might cause you to have anxiety as well.

How to help a dog with separation anxiety

Some dogs feel safer if they have a crate to retreat to when they are sleeping or alone. This is because the feeling of being enclosed is most like the dens dogs naturally seek out when they are wild. Alternatively, you could try putting their bed under a table or in a corner to give them a feeling of security.

Wherever you're leaving your dog, ensure they have something soft to curl up on, plenty of water, and something to keep them amused. As well as chew toys, puzzle toys (available in pet stores) are a good way to keep dogs occupied, particularly Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals that are used to having very active brains.

It might also be comforting for your dog if you leave something that smells of you with them, such as a sweater.

Start by leaving them for a short time and build up the length of time you're away gradually.

If your dog finds being left alone too traumatic, you could try leaving them with a doggie daycare or a pet sitter at first and build up to leaving them at home alone once they are used to being parted from you.

Fear of loud noises

Many dogs are frightened of loud noises such as thunder or fireworks, so if your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal shows symptoms of anxiety during a storm, he's definitely not alone. Some dogs experience anxiety when they feel a storm coming.

Dog trainers used to believe that you shouldn't comfort your dog when they are feeling anxious as it might prompt them to display anxiety symptoms in order to get attention. Thankfully, this opinion has been disproved.

Now experts say it's good to comfort your dog by stroking him and speaking in a calm voice when he is frightened. You can also wrap your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal in a blanket or a purpose made storm-coat to make him feel more secure, just like swaddling a baby often stops them from crying.

Fear of change, or unfamiliar people and places

Wet dog on a boogie board in a pool

Many people feel anxious during times of change, but it sounds odd to say that your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal might also show anxiety symptoms when they sense change is coming. My dog doesn't like it when we get the suitcases out. He must realize this is a sign we're leaving him to go on vacation and he gets very mopey!

Some dogs find it difficult to settle in a place they don't know, others are unhappy with the car or going to the vet.

If your dog shows symptoms of anxiety when you do something new with them or take them to an unfamiliar place or introduce them to someone they don't know, it's best to get them used to change gradually over a few days.

For example, if they are anxious in the car, get them to sit inside at first without going anywhere and reward them with a treat. Then go on short journeys and reward them building up to longer journeys once they feel more comfortable.

In some instances, your vet might prescribe anti-anxiety medicine for your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal, for instance, if you're going on a long journey and you know they are anxious in the car. Always consult with your vet before giving your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal any medication.

Other tips for training dogs with anxiety

  • Make sure your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal has a healthy diet and isn't eating foods with too many additives. Processed food can cause anxiety in dogs just like it can in humans
  • Ensure he gets lots of exercise. Especially if he has separation anxiety, take him for a good walk before you leave him and he is more likely to settle down for a sleep while you're away
  • Sometimes a doggie playmate can help with anxiety, but before you run out to get another dog try introducing him to the pet of a friend. Some dogs still experience anxiety, even when they have a canine friend in the house

Anxiety in dogs: top takeaways

  • Symptoms of anxiety include: Loss of appetite, pacing, barking, howling or crying, shaking or cowering in a corner, digging, running away, destructive behavior, excessive licking or biting themselves, urinating more frequently.
  • The most common causes of anxiety are: separation anxiety, fear of loud noises and fear of unfamiliar places or people
  • If your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal is anxious it's important to address it for your sake as well as his, as it could cause you to feel anxious too
  • You can help a dog with separation anxiety by, putting his bed in an enclosed space or using a crate, leaving him with something that smells of you, and toys to keep him occupied
  • Sometimes hugging or wrapping your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal in a blanket can help ease his anxiety, particularly when there's a storm or during fireworks
  • When your dog is scared of something, try to get him used to it gradually
  • If your dog continues to display symptoms of anxiety, always consult your vet

If you need any support or advice about this topic or any others related to Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals, please contact us. We'd love to help.