What Are Nervous Habits of Dogs?


Nervous dogs often exhibit signs such as shaking, nonstop barking and hyperactive behaviors. Many different situations can bring out these kinds of habits in dogs, notably the presence of strangers, loud noises and even separation anxiety.

Common Nervous Habits and Behaviors

Common nervous habits and behaviors in canines include:

  • Incessant whining, howling and barking 
  • Repetitive chewing
  • Repetitive licking, often of the lips 
  • Yawning 
  • Circling 
  • Pacing
  • Panting 
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Clingy behavior such as soliciting affection or attention 
  • Shaking
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Destructive behavior in the home
  • Escape attempts 
  • Hiding
  • Indoor elimination in spite of housetraining 

When dogs whine due to anxiety, they often combine it with licking, circling and pacing behaviors. Severely stressed out dogs are often unable to stop their whining.

Some dogs respond to their feelings of anxiety by displaying aggressive behavior, even toward their owners. Some examples of aggressive actions they may exhibit include growling and snapping.

Potential Causes of Nervousness in Dogs

Many things can cause anxiety and apprehension in dogs. Some dogs get nervous when they are adopted and meet their new families. Others are nervous when they hear fireworks or thunderstorms. Some even panic when their beloved owners leave home for extended periods of time. Other potential causes of nervousness in canines include schedule adjustments, the abrupt loss of their owners and moves.

Intense anxieties typically emerge in dogs when they reach social maturity. This happens when they're between 1 and 3 years old.

Management of Nervous Canine Behaviors

Since anxiety in dogs has so many potential causes, there's no one specific way to manage it. Take your dog to the veterinarian to make sure his nervous habits aren't the result of a medical condition. Lead poisoning and thyroid problems are two examples of health situations that can sometimes trigger nervous behaviors in dogs. If the vet confirms that your dog isn't sick, she may refer you to an experienced animal behavior expert who can provide you with options to manage and eliminate your pet's fears and anxieties.

If your dog starts to behave nervously whenever he hears fireworks, for example, the behaviorist may suggest you handle the situation by making him associate the sounds with something that makes him happy and at ease, like tasty treats. Behavior modification techniques are common management options for dogs suffering from intense anxiety. The goal of these techniques is to desensitize canines to the things that activate their nerves.

If your dog's anxiety is severe, your vet may suggest he take medication to minimize it. Tranquilizers are sometimes given to anxious dogs. Refrain from giving your pet any anti-anxiety medicine unless you have the prior approval of a vet.


  • If your dog has nervous tendencies, speak to your vet about his diet. Anxious behaviors in dogs occasionally are triggered by or enhanced by unhealthy ingredients and insufficient nutrition in general. If this is the case with your dog, your vet may be able to help you establish an improved meal plan for him. Foods that lack chemical preservatives and nondigestible components often work well.

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