Excessive barking and vocalizing can be a symptom of hyperactivity as well as anxiety in dogs. Both conditions cause dogs to become more agitated than normal, and may make them loud, nervous, or even aggressive.
But even though they cause similar behaviors, hyperactivity and anxiety in dogs should be dealt with in different ways.
Here’s how to tell whether your dog may be suffering from canine anxiety, or whether it’s more likely that they’re experiencing an excess of pent-up energy.
What breed is your dog?
First off, it’s worth considering whether your dog’s breed makes them more prone to nervousness or hyperactivity.
Working dogs, especially Retrievers and Pointers, are bred to spend long periods outside performing energy-intensive tasks. This makes them capable of walking and running for hours, as well engage with complex mental tasks. As a result, many working breeds require lots of physical and mental stimulation every day to meet their needs.
While dogs of all breeds can suffer from anxiety, Shepards, Spaniels, Toy breeds, and Terriers are often marked out as being most susceptible. Some experts point to the fact that many of these dogs were bred to spend all day by the side of their owners, leading to distress when separated.
Even though dog breed isn’t a super reliable indicator of canine issues, owners of working dogs should be on the lookout for signs that their pup isn’t getting enough stimulation. On the other hand, owners of lap dogs and some other breeds should consider whether anxiety is feeding into bad behavior.
When does your dog behave badly?
When dogs are experiencing some form of canine anxiety, episodes of barking, destruction, aggression, and other unwanted behavior can often be matched up with a specific trigger. Some triggers are obvious and easy to spot. For example, a dog with a phobia of water or the vet may become unruly when taken to the beach or the clinic.
Other triggers, however, can be more subtle. Dogs suffering from canine separation anxiety may form hyper-attachment to particular members of their family, resulting in panic when separated, even over short distances or for short amounts of time.
If you can’t find any trigger at all for your dog’s behavior, it may be more likely that they’re experiencing an excess of energy than an anxiety condition.
Does your dog respond to anti-anxiety treatments?
One way to test whether your dog’s behavior is due to anxiety or hyper-activeness is to try out some safe, simple canine anxiety treatments.
CBD oil has become a popular anti-anxiety supplement for many owners, thanks to the way it can reduce nervousness in dogs without any serious side effects. The best CBD products for dogs are infused into oils for better absorption, while allowing owners to easily deliver the supplement with normal mealtimes.
Another natural anti-anxiety treatment for dogs is to apply constant, soothing pressure to dog’s bodies, creating feelings of safety and security. Devices such as ThunderShirts are designed to be worn by dogs and apply gentle pressure to promote a calming effect.
Both CBD and heavy blankets or coats can make dogs more susceptible to behavioral training techniques, such as crate training. This helps lower the chance of anxiety reappearing later on.
If dogs aren’t more receptive to training when given anti-anxiety treatments, then the cause of their barking behavior may be more likely to be hyperactivity.
How often does your dog get to play?
Exercise is almost always a good thing for dogs (and us!). But dogs also need the right type of mental and physical stimulation to avoid developing symptoms of hyperactivity and anxiety.
It’s important to vary the kinds of exercise and play a dog receives. This includes walks of different lengths and in different settings. Daily walks in your neighborhood are great for creating a stable routine, while trips to parks and outdoor settings give dogs the chance to experience new sights and smells.
It also includes different kinds of play, so that dogs get lots of opportunities for stimulation and socialization. Regular social contact with humans and other dogs is essential for healthy development, especially in puppy years.
Regular, varied exercise and play is often an effective way of reducing canine anxiety. If dogs are so distracted that they’re unable to play when given the opportunity, it may be a sign that they’re hyperactive.
Separating everyday hyper-activeness from medical ‘hyperactivity’
When talking about dogs being hyper, it’s important to point out that true hyperactivity in dogs is actually a pretty rare disorder.
Medical hyperactivity is also known as hyper-kinesis. It’s a condition that affects dogs by causing things like increased heart rate, salivation, and an overactive metabolism.
Hyperkinesis isn’t a psychological issue or the result of a lack of training. However, it can still cause the same types of symptoms normally associated with hyperactivity or anxiety \. If you suspect that your dog’s behavior could have an underlying medical cause, it’s important to talk with a vet.
Here are a few questions for owners to consider when trying to decide if their dog’s behavior is a result of anxiety or hyperactivity:
- What breed is your dog?
- When does your dog behave badly?
- Does your dog respond to anti-anxiety treatments?
- How often does your dog get to play?