Working with and Treating Anxiety in Dogs

behaviour May 05, 2023

As a dog behaviour consultant, working with anxious dogs is a common concern you will work with. Anxiety in dogs can lead to a range of behavioural problems, and it can be challenging to treat. Fortunately, there are several evidence-based strategies that can help.

In this article, we will explore working with and treating anxiety in dogs, including the use of medication, behaviour modification techniques, and environmental modifications.

Understanding Anxiety in Dogs

As behaviour consultants, it is important to have a thorough understanding of anxiety in dogs. Anxiety is a common behavioural issue in dogs and can manifest in a variety of ways, such as excessive barking, destructive behaviour, and even aggression. Understanding the signs of anxiety is crucial in order to properly identify and treat the issue. Some common signs of anxiety in dogs include panting, trembling, excessive licking, and pacing. Additionally, it is important to note that anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, past experiences, and medical conditions. By having a deep understanding of anxiety in dogs, behaviour consultants can provide the appropriate interventions and create a tailored treatment plan for each individual dog.

Prevention and Management

A key part of prevention and management when working with anxiety, is environmental modification. Managing the environment is used to reduce anxiety in dogs. These modifications aim to create a safe and comfortable environment for the dog, reduce their exposure to anxiety-provoking stimuli, and to prevent the dog from practicing the behaviour.

For example, if a dog is anxious around strangers, the owner could keep the dogs at a distance from people where they feel safe. Or if a dog reacts to people going by the house, they could block access to the windows or cover them to block the visual for the dog.

Behaviour Modification Techniques

Behaviour modification techniques involve changing a dog's behaviour through a comprehensive training and behaviour modification plan. These techniques aim to reduce the dog's anxiety and increase their confidence and comfort in specific situations.

One behaviour modification technique commonly used to treat anxiety in dogs is desensitization and counterconditioning. This technique involves gradually exposing the dog to the anxiety-provoking stimulus while simultaneously rewarding them for calm behaviour. This helps the dog associate the stimulus with positive outcomes, reducing their anxiety. The key to success is working the dog below threshold and going at their pace.

Medication for Anxiety in Dogs

One strategy for treating anxiety in dogs is the use of medication. Several medications have been approved for the treatment of anxiety in dogs, including fluoxetine, clomipramine, and trazodone.

A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Behavior found that dogs treated with fluoxetine was effective at significantly reducing anxiety when used as part of a behaviour modification plan. Another study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that clomipramine was effective in reducing the severity of separation anxiety in dogs.

However, medication should not be the only treatment strategy. It should be used in conjunction with other strategies, such as behaviour modification techniques and environmental modifications. And well, it’s important for behaviour consultants to understand the benefits of medication for treating anxiety, we must never recommend options and always refer our clients to speak with their vet or a veterinary behaviourist.


Anxiety in dogs is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. As a dog behaviour consultant, it is essential to understand the science behind anxiety in dogs and the evidence-based strategies that can be used to treat it.

These strategies include the use of medication, behaviour modification techniques, and environmental modifications. By using a combination of these strategies, you can help your clients' dogs feel more comfortable, confident, and happy.