If your dog is acting strange and looking around in panic, it might be dealing with:
- Fear. Your dog might be disturbed or threatened by a person, object, or its very environment.
- Phobia. The pooch might have developed a phobia of something or someone. The result would be extreme fear and loss of control.
- General anxiety. The dog senses danger all the time and is unable to relax or let its guard down.
My Dog Is Acting Strange and Looking Around in Panic — What Should I Do?
Just like us humans, dogs sometimes experience fear, nervousness, and anxiety. Even though it’s uncomfortable for us as dog parents, we know that our pet will get over it sooner or later. However, if our dog is acting strange and looking around persistently for quite some time now, this might be a sign of a developing psychological problem. So what can we do to help our pooch?
Well, we need to be able to determine when our dog is nervous and anxious, as well as figure out the cause. That way, we will be able to define how exactly we can help it resolve the issue. Also, this should allow us to start developing a strategy for preventing anxiety in the future. Extremely anxious dogs can sometimes run away from their homes, so we should do everything in our power to avoid such a scenario.
Today, I have outlined the different types of stress, fear, and anxiety issues that may cause a dog to look panicked and confused. If your dog is acting strange and looking around as though something is wrong, keep on reading.
Recognizing Fear and Anxiety in Dogs
So, how can we accurately determine if our dog is nervous or scared?
Well, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to its body language and general behavior. Of course, different dogs might express their anxiety in different ways, but generally, they would be doing one of the following things:
- Looking around in panic
- Panting excessively
- Trying to hide or escape
- Sudden defecation or urination while at home
- Avoiding eye contact or interactions
- Weird stuff like “shaking off” as if they were wet, sniffing the air, or licking their lips
Sure, many of those behaviors are quite normal if they happen once in a while. However, if they become extreme or start occurring routinely, that might be a sign of developing phobias or general anxiety.
How to Differentiate Between Anxiety, Fear, and Phobia
Whenever a dog is acting strange and looking around nervously, it is because of one of three things — general anxiety, temporary fear, or a phobia. The problem is that all three have almost the exact same symptoms, so it is difficult to determine which one we’re dealing with.
The one thing that separates anxiety, fear, and phobia is the trigger — the exact thing that causes the behavior. Therefore, we need to pay close attention and see if our dog is acting strange all the time or only under specific circumstances.
Let’s take a detailed look at each of the three main causes. This should help us determine the exact reason our dog is exhibiting unusual behavior.
Dogs, just like pretty much all living things, always keep an eye out for potential dangers. Fear is a normal response to detecting a threat. Our dog’s fight-or-flight response might be triggered in the presence of a specific object or person. It is also possible that new environments and situations are making our dog uncomfortable.
If our dog exhibits fear toward a specific thing or situation, we can determine that with relative ease. Is our dog generally relaxed, and only starts freaking out in specific situations? We need to identify what is triggering its anxiety. Perhaps it doesn’t feel safe around a certain dog, or it doesn’t find the park a comforting spot?
Fortunately, there are surefire ways of eliminating this temporary fear and anxiety. With training and gradual exposure to the perceived threat, our dog will learn to remain calm. We should be mindful, though. If we do not address the issue on time, this temporary fear might evolve into a phobia.
A dog that is consistently exposed to something scary is likely to develop an extreme reaction to it. Phobias manifest themselves not only in the presence of the trigger but even if our dog is merely anticipating it. Dogs who have a phobia of something will exhibit extreme fear and loss of control. Sometimes, they might even engage in destructive behavior.
It is not unusual for a dog to develop a phobia of loud noises, like fireworks, for example. However, I’ve seen dogs become terrified of really unusual things — like lamps or people who wear glasses.
Phobias in dogs can be treated with behavior modification and conditioning. Still, if our dog keeps getting exposed to the object of its phobia, its fear might develop into a permanent state of general anxiety.
If our dog is acting strangely and looking around even when there are no threats present, it might be suffering from general anxiety. Our pooch might constantly sense danger and is thus unable to relax or let its guard down. It’s as if our furry friend is waiting for something to go wrong at all times.
General anxiety doesn’t have any triggers — it is a constant state of unease that can be extremely harmful to our dog’s well-being and quality of life.
Anxiety in dogs can be the result of phobias taken to the extreme, or a sudden change in lifestyle. For example, a new home, new routine, or the absence of a certain person can be considered a dramatic shift in our dog’s life.
It is important to note that anxiety can be a symptom of a medical condition or a disease too. If our dog feels unwell, it may naturally act nervous and stressed. However, if we suspect that our dog suffers from anxiety, it’s better not to guess the cause — we ought to take it to the vet for a checkup.
How to Help Our Dog Deal With Anxiety
Fears, phobias, and anxiety in dogs usually develop when the pups are between 12–36 months old. During that period, dogs generally hit social maturity, so it is extremely important to deal with such issues as soon as we detect them. Our dog must be gradually exposed to other people, animals, and different environments. That way, it will learn to socialize and adapt.
Older dogs are also prone to developing anxiety, but for very different reasons. More often than not, they get nervous due to an underlying medical condition.
If this is not the case, however, there are steps we can take to reduce their fears and anxiety. If we know the exact trigger that’s scaring the dog and making it uncomfortable, we can:
- Train our dog to have a positive or neutral association with the trigger.
- Make sure we avoid the trigger by controlling our dog’s environment.
- Use anti-anxiety medication recommended by our veterinarian.
I cannot stress this enough — before we attempt to do anything to treat our dog’s anxiety, we need to rule out a health problem. As soon as we take care of that, we can start searching for triggers and determining the cause of the issue.
Have You Figured Out Why Your Dog Is Acting Strange and Looking Around in Panic?
While being scared from time to time is nothing unusual for a dog, constant nervousness is something we should definitely address. Fears, phobias, and general anxiety can take a heavy toll on our dog’s physical and mental health. Thus, we need to determine the cause of the problem and work toward solving it.
If we fail to address our dog’s fear, they might turn into phobias, and eventually, into a generalized anxiety disorder. Because of that, we have to be alert and pay attention to how our dog behaves. Better still, we ought to be ready to act on any irregularities.
Hopefully, I’ve shed some light on why your dog is acting strange and looking around, seemingly stressed. Don’t worry — fears, phobias, and anxiety are treatable. Your dog should go back to normal in no time, provided you take the necessary steps.
For more interesting articles on dog care and health, make sure you check out the rest of my blog. See you at the next one!