How To Train & Teach Dogs With Anxiety

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It is not easy to train and teach dogs with anxiety. Dogs who suffer anxiety are easily agitated if not trained, necessitating different training methods.

Training and teaching a dog with anxiety involves evaluating the dog's emotional state, recognizing the early warning signs of anxiety, building their confidence, and counter conditioning and desensitization. You also need to know what causes dogs to become anxious and how to treat it.

It can be extremely difficult to train an anxious and fearful dog, whether their anxiety shoots up by the noise of the vacuum, other dogs, or in the presence of strangers. Nonetheless, the extra effort required to bring these dogs out of their shell is well worth it. Because shy or frightened dogs are more likely to bite or display other signs of aggression, training them as early as possible is critical.

As the proud owners of a fair few dogs, we know how to train dogs of different breeds and mental states. We have also compiled some recommendations by our leading experts in dog training on how to train and teach a dog with anxiety using socializing and relaxation techniques.

In this article

‍Consider the Dog's Emotional State

Fear can obstruct the learning process in dogs, just as it does in people. When dogs are nervous, they are more concerned about their fears than they are about you. Hence, getting their attention can be a bit of a struggle. And don't even think about giving them treats or playing games because an agitated dog will not be interested. Fear causes dogs to shut down, and training is impossible without cognitive connections.

Rather than attempting to train a terrified dog, you should respect their feelings. You can adjust their situation so that they can cope or remove them from it. Be an advocate for your dog. Put your dog's emotional needs first, even if it appears unpleasant to do so. Your dog's training can be postponed until they are in a more relaxed emotional condition.

Recognize Early Warning Signs of Anxiety

You must be aware of your dog's body language to help him overcome his worries. If you notice any signs of anxiety, panic, or worry, you can intervene before the situation becomes too overwhelming for your pup. You may also figure out what triggers your dog by watching how they react to various circumstances. After you've identified these triggers, you can start working on them.

Fear can manifest itself in various ways, including crouching, shivering, or fleeing. But you should try and avoid things going in that direction in the first place. It would help if you were on the lookout for your dog's often-misunderstood indications of discomfort. The following list can assist you determine whether or not your dog is anxious:


This is not to be confused with boredom. Dogs may yawn to convey their distress.


If your dog refuses to eat or play with toys that they generally enjoy, anxiety has likely taken hold of them.


Your dog will pant if it's feeling hot. However, this is also a sign of stress.


When dogs are worried, they will typically try to distract themselves by sniffing to divert their attention from the trigger.

Lunging or Growling

Some dogs will demonstrate aggressive behavior in the hopes of scaring the trigger away. Fear may be the root of this ostensibly violent conduct.

If your dog displays these behaviors, it's time to help them gain confidence and tackle their concerns in a healthy and constructive manner.

Building Confidence

Whether your dog is anxious because of lack of socialization or due to a traumatic event in the past, you may make significant progress in helping them overcome their concerns. However, don't anticipate that your dog's personality will completely change. An anxious dog may not become the life of the party, but they can learn to feel more at ease in their surroundings, which will result in a happier, calmer dog.

There are numerous methods for increasing your dog's overall confidence. To begin, establish a consistent routine so that their life becomes more predictable. Teach your dog basic obedience commands and use those actions to urge them to gain rewards so that they feel in charge of their surroundings. For instance, before you lay down their favorite meal, ask them to sit.

Another way to boost your dog's confidence is to participate in sports. Don't expect your dog to play along right away, though. What's more important is the experience of taking on new tasks. Agility training, for example, teaches dogs how to overcome obstacles like jumps, which might help them feel more confident about their abilities.

Counter Conditioning and Desensitization

You may also help your dog gain confidence by using their unique triggers. The objective is to help your dog form positive connections with the things that scare them. The key is to gradually expose your dog to their triggers until they no longer react. Staying 20 feet away from strangers or being in the same room as the vacuum while it is turned off are examples of this. This is what it means to keep your dog below the threshold.

Once your dog is below the threshold, you can combine that exposure with something your dog enjoys, such as tasty meals. You can increase the intensity a little and pair it with rewards after your dog is satisfied to be at that distance from the trigger. You'll eventually work your way up to the full-fledged predicament. This process may be time-consuming but generates positive results.

Training Pointers

You'll be able to train your dog in different scenarios and introduce additional distractions after they've gained confidence. The following pointers will help you get the most out of your training:

Use Positive Training Methods

Rather than punishing your dog, ignore and redirect unpleasant behavior. Rewarding your dog will help him form good associations with the training process.

Be Patient

You must not set unrealistic goals and conditions for your dog. If your dog feels nervous during their training sessions with a trainer, for example, consider private classes at home.

Follow the Pace

Remember that fear obstructs learning, so your dog may take longer than expected to learn new habits. Teach your dog to use his nose to find a target. This simple and enjoyable "touch" action can be used to encourage your dog to approach new people or other dogs, as well as to divert and distract them from their triggers.


Early socialization is critical to a dog's training and prevention of aggressive or anxious behavior. Poor socialization is one of the most common reasons for timid or anxious behavior in dogs, so it's crucial to introduce your dog to other animals and people from a young age.

Walk Your Dog

Introduce your puppy to new people and animals in the first 3 to 12 weeks of his life to socialize him. During this stage, puppies are more inclined to accept new and varied people, animals, places, and objects. Adult dogs acquire apprehension, shyness, or anxiety when it comes to new experiences if they have not been socialized.

What Causes Anxiety in Dogs?

A multitude of factors can cause anxiety in dogs. The following are some of the most common reasons for dog anxiety:

  • Aging
  • Fear
  • Separation

Dogs cannot find peace when they are separated from their family or left alone in the house. This condition is called separation anxiety. Unwanted actions, including urinating and defecating in the house, destroying furniture and furnishings, and barking, are common manifestations of anxiety.

Separation anxiety is associated with destructive behavior. Damage to access and exit points, such as doorways and windows, is common, but dogs in a state of high anxiety are also at risk of injuring themselves. Breaking out of dog cages, windows, and even doors can result in painful injuries and costly veterinarian treatment.

Older dogs suffer from age-related anxiety, which has been linked to cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). Awareness, perception, learning, and memory begin to deteriorate in dogs with CDS. As a result of this, most older dogs are generally anxious and confused.

Symptoms of Dog Anxiety

So, how can you know whether your dog suffers from anxiety? There are a few key signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Aggression
  • Urinating or defecating in the house
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Depression
  • Excessive barking
  • Pacing
  • Restlessness
  • Compulsive or repetitive habits

Some of these symptoms may be the result of one-time anxiety-inducing situations, but any of them might become persistent, leading to more significant problems. Aggression is, without a doubt, the most hazardous indication of dog anxiety. Depending on the situation, this aggressiveness can be focused directly or indirectly.

Direct aggression is displayed when a dog acts violently against other animals or people. On the other hand, indirect aggression occurs when a person jumps between a dog and the cause of the dog's aggression; this can be very dangerous. Even if a dog is not capable of injuring people, aggressive actions such as growling or barking can result in unpleasant situations for both humans and canines.