Can dogs sense anxiety in humans? Extensive research has studied the relationship between the feelings and moods of dogs and their owners. It has been revealed that since dogs can sense emotions, they are affected by their owner’s distress.
Therefore, it is possible that if you are chronically stressed, your dog may develop anxiety as well.
Most owners will agree that dogs are like four-legged babies who experience and express all kinds of emotions. They’re also highly intuitive and react to strong human emotions accordingly. If you’re going through a rough patch and you notice your dog acting differently too, you might be wondering if they’re somehow sensing your feelings.
The short answer: yes, they can. Dogs can sense your anxiety and might respond to it, too. Not just stress, but your behavior could also make your dog anxious.
Do you want to know what triggers a dog’s anxiety? We’ve covered everything below!
Causes of Anxiety in Dogs
Like humans, dogs can experience different kinds of anxiety. Anxiety affects dogs of all breeds but may manifest differently.
The most common causes of anxiety in dogs, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual are:
- Fear – this is usually caused by new environments, strange people or creatures, loud noises, and other triggers. It might only cause temporary stress, but some dogs might feel fear more intensely if they suffer from anxiety.
- Separation – around 14% of dogs feel separation anxiety. Greyhounds, basset hounds, French bulldogs, and Maltese might be ideal dog breeds for new owners as they have a more easy-going temperament.
- Aging – as dogs get older, they may experience symptoms similar to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Memory loss can cause confusion and stress, which can lead to anxiety.
If you speak too loudly or your surroundings are constantly noisy, your dog may develop an anxiety disorder. When dogs come across strangers they may be suspicious of, or they are regularly exposed to uncomfortable situations such as loud parties and crowded areas, their anxiety can stem from this constant fear.
As many as one in four dogs experience separation anxiety. They might become very distressed and destructive if you leave them alone frequently or for long periods.
When left alone, dogs suffering from separation anxiety often tend to howl or bark, break or chew things such as furniture and clothes, or poop where they know they aren’t supposed to.
Old age can be difficult for humans and dogs alike. This is because the symptoms of aging in dogs manifest themselves similarly to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
This can lead to cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), in which there is a decline in their memory, perception, awareness, learning, and other cognitive abilities. Understandably, this can cause confusion, stress, and anxiety as they struggle to perform basic tasks.
These are all entirely natural causes and triggers for anxiety in dogs. But if your dog doesn’t quite fit these descriptions and still seems anxious, what could be the reason?
You might now be wondering, can humans give dogs anxiety? Well, there’s more to it than what meets the eye. Can dogs sense anxiety in humans, and can human stress affect dogs?
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Can My Dog Sense My Problems?
Can dogs really sense your emotions? is a question some owners may ask at one point or another.
The truth is that dogs are extremely attuned to human emotions and might sense when their owners are upset. Seeing your dog happy and wagging their tail is uplifting, and if they seem stressed, it might upset you too. Studies have shown that it’s a two-way street.
Sweden’s Linköping University published a study that found that dogs mirror their owner’s stress levels and are greatly influenced by them. If your feelings are synchronized with your dog, any big changes in your moods or emotions will impact them too. This means that your dog might be more susceptible to feeling anxious if you are suffering from chronic stress.
Dogs tend to go up to people who are sad and try to cheer them up by rubbing their snouts against them. There might also be times where you have been upset and your dog has come up to you to try to cheer you up.
This points to the fact that when you are sad, your dog also feels distressed and reacts to your negative emotions. The intensity of emotional contagion is determined by the relationship between a dog and its owner.
How Does Your Dog Sense Your Distress?
Dogs have the ability to communicate with humans better than other animals. They can read facial expressions, and also judge tone of voice. This makes them effectively able to understand your mood. That’s not all though; it’s said that they are able to hear emotions in your voice as well!
The Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Bari Aldo Moro based in Italy studied how dogs sense human emotions through their vocalizations. This means that dogs can distinguish the sound of laughter from the sound of crying, and they can tell when you might be upset.
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Signs Your Anxiety Is Stressing Your Dog
Canines can sense and absorb your emotions, especially female dogs, that are more responsive than males. Observe your dog and look out for symptoms that your anxiety is affecting so that you can address the problem sooner.
Have you been wondering, can dogs sense anxiety in humans? Here are some signs that your dog is being adversely affected by your anxiety:
If your dog has become uncharacteristically aggressive and you can’t seem to find a source or cause for this behavior, it may just be responding to your stress.
If you are chronically stressed, your dog might pick up on it and become anxious and aggressive.
Anxiety might manifest as excessive barking, whining, or growling. It can even include snapping and destructive behavior such as chewing your belongings and spoiling your things. It may also become disobedient and may be difficult to discipline.
Your dog might become restless if it is anxious, but this is different from its excited zoomies. If your dog begins to pace back and forth, finds it difficult to get comfortable, or sleeps less than usual, it could be that its anxiety is the underlying issue.
Pacing is a common symptom of anxiety in many dogs, according to Dr. Lore Haug, a veterinary behaviorist at the Texas Veterinary Behavior Service in Sugar Land, Texas.
If your dog cannot seem to settle down, they may be feeling stressed. This could be due to many different factors, including your own anxiety.
Lack of Appetite, Digestive Problems
It’s common for humans to lose their appetite when upset or stressed. Well, it’s the same for dogs. If your dog senses that you are upset, stressed, or are generally sad and aren’t eating properly, it might mirror your behavior and lose its appetite too.
Chronic stress might also cause other digestive problems like vomiting. These problems can extend to your dog soiling some areas in the house despite being potty-trained. This is yet another sign of chronic stress.
How Do My Stress and Anxiety Harm My Dog?
If your dog is suffering from anxiety, it can have the following effects on its physical health and behavior:
- Shaking, trembling, or shivering
- Drooling, licking, or yawning more than usual
- Dilated pupils, wide eyes, and ears pinned to the back
- Tucked tail, weight shifted to hind legs, cowering
- Excessive shedding of hair or thinning coat
- Unnecessary panting without exercise
- Becoming avoidant
- Hiding or frequently escaping in non-stressful situations
Since your dog looks to you for cues on how to behave, seeing you under stress can make them on edge. If they’re on high alert for extended periods, it isn’t good for them.
There’s also a chance that stress is affecting your behavior and bond with your dog.
If you have begun to exercise less, you might also be neglecting your dog’s need for playtime. Your change in lifestyle due to stress might also disrupt your dog’s routine, which can cause it to feel uncomfortable and distressed.
If your dog’s appetite has been affected, or if it isn’t eating enough because it’s mirroring you, it might lack sufficient nutrition. All of this combined can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
Mitigating your stress can be very beneficial to you and your dog. Your simple efforts can include:
- Regular exercise
- Eating properly
- Trying to control your nervous tics such as biting your nails around your dog
Dogs are highly sensitive creatures and pick up on seemingly minor, insignificant changes in your behavior, expression, voice, or tone.
Research has shown that dogs can sense their owners’ feelings, and they can be affected by what they perceive. If you are experiencing chronic stress and anxiety, it’s likely that your furry friend is feeling it too. These strong feelings can manifest as aggression, restlessness, behavioral problems, and even serious health issues.