If your dog is difficult to walk, it’s because he gets anxious before walks. Now, you must be wondering how to ease dog anxiety on walks. There are many effective ways to calm your pup down for a good walk outdoors.
Read these questions in order to know whether this is the right article for you or not! Is your dog showing any of these behaviors? If so, keep on reading, my fellow Smart Dog Owner!
Your dog starts acting weird or frustrated when you’re heading out?
Acts out and goes berserk when you try to make him step out of the door?
Keeps pulling on his leash, refusing to go outdoors?
Your dog’s body language is tense during walks?
Your pup keeps whining, howling, or barking at onlookers?
If your answer to these questions is yes, your dog has anxiety issues. Many dogs face anxiety on walks. You don’t need to worry because there are ways to manage and mitigate dog anxiety on walks.
Dogs also experience unpleasant emotions like humans; they get anxious. Anxiety in dogs is pretty common and affects all breeds. In fact, all dogs suffer from anxiety every so often. If left ignored, anxiety in dogs could result in severe distress and behavioral issues.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about why your dog gets anxious before walks — from causes, symptoms, triggers, and how to ease dog anxiety on walks.
Key Takeaways | How to Ease Dog Anxiety on Walks
- It is a nightmare for many pet owners to walk their dogs because their dog suffers from anxiety on walks.
- Many symptoms can help you identify anxious behavior in dogs during walks. These include aggression, drooling, panting, pacing, restlessness, uneasy body language, refusing socialization, lunging at triggers, excessive whining, compulsive behaviors, etc.
- To soothe anxiety symptoms in dogs, you need to realize what makes your dog anxious. There are various possibilities for why dogs get anxious on walks. These include usual or unfamiliar sights, loud noises, negative social encounters, abuse, etc.
- There are many different solutions to calm your dog and relieve symptoms of anxiety. These include anxiety medication, calming supplements, behavioral therapy, and other remedies.
Symptoms of Dog Anxiety On Walks
Like any other mental, physical and emotional disorder, anxiety also has its own symptoms. These signs and symptoms can help you identify if your dog has anxiety on walks.
Here are different physical and behavioral cues to look out for in your furry friend:
Changes In Bodily Functions:
Dogs who are nervous about going outside often get a sudden urge to urinate. So, if your dog pees shortly after stepping out or meeting a new canine on the walk, he is reacting to anxious feelings. Some other indicators include loss of appetite and irregular bowel functions.
Changes in Body Language:
Even a slight change in your dog’s body language can tell you a lot about what’s going on with them. So, if you notice anything like flattened ears, tucked tail, or raised hackles, know that your doggo is feeling anxious.
9 Avoidance Or Displacement Behavior: How to ease Dog anxiety on walks!
When dogs face an uncomfortable situation, they shift their focus to something as an escape tactic. They start licking their body parts, sniffing the ground, turning away, circling around you, etc.
So, if your dog is ignoring you and exhibiting any of these behaviors, let it be. Do not force your dog, and respect his decision.
You might have noticed that your dog moves behind you and hides. Does your dog do that? You also get nudged to keep walking along? This means that your dog is avoiding a tense and possibly frightening encounter by using you as an escape. Sometimes dogs also hide behind trees and parked cars.
It is pretty standard for dogs to be distracted when outdoors. However, if your dog does not respond to you at all, he is anxious about something.
Reactivity is when your dog is constantly in a reactive mood, like nonstop barking, baring his teeth, aggressive snaring, etc. Most dogs get into a state of reactivity when they feel triggered by external threats.
When your dog walks funny on walks, they’re not trying to be cute. Walking unusually or in a weird manner is a sign of dog anxiety on walks. So, you must be worried if you notice a “chaotic” or disorganized walking pattern in your dog.
Dogs love treats and are always ready for some yummy snacking. So, if your dog avoids treats outdoors, then he is feeling stressed and has walking anxiety.
Dogs become overly fixated and watchful when they feel threatened. Your dog might look side to side and scan his surroundings if he feels unsafe. So, if your dog has walking anxiety, you might find your dog doing that during outdoor walks.
Pulling On the Leash:
Dogs have walking anxiety because they feel uneasy and unsafe outdoors. If this is the case, your dog will constantly pull on the leash while walking to stop you from taking them any further. Such dogs also only feel comfortable walking back home.
Strong Reaction To Noises:
Anxious dogs get very jumpy and shaken even by slightly loud or unexpected noises. So, if your dog overreacts to loud noises when outdoors, he is anxious.
Refusing To Walk:
Many dogs with extreme walking anxiety refuse to walk. Either they keep stopping throughout the stroll or lying down to avoid moving.
Why is My Dog Anxious On Walks?
Your dog has anxiety on walks if your pup exhibits any or a combination of the above-mentioned signs. So, how do you help your pup feel better?
To learn how to ease dog anxiety on walks, you need to know what makes dogs anxious in the first place. Your dog might be afraid to go outside for many reasons.
Recognizing the signs and determining the cause of anxiety will ensure that your doggo is not exposed to triggering stimuli or situations.
Let’s take a look at some of the common causes of walking anxiety in dogs:
If you have adopted a new dog or puppy, they may be experiencing “puppy Blues.” This is an emotional state where the dog feels overwhelmed and anxious due to the change of environment. These feelings can last for weeks and months.
So, if your pup is refusing to walk or exhibiting signs of walking anxiety, it’s because they are just not comfortable yet.
Give them time to adjust to the new home and family. Once they feel safe, comfortable, and loved, they will feel much better and actively participate in physical activities outside the home.
Some dogs are reluctant to walk outside because of something terrible that happened to them in the past. The trauma of the negative and stressful experience prevents them from feeling safe outdoors. You must ensure your dog trusts you and feels safe no matter what.
Dogs with poor social skills often find it hard to go outside on walks. Mingling with other dogs and people makes them uncomfortable, so they become anxious on walks.
This is why it’s essential to teach your dog critical socialization skills at an early stage so they can enjoy being around unfamiliar faces when outdoors. If you don’t give your dog such exposure, they will feel anxious by unfamiliar faces and experiences when out for a walk.
Never Leash Walked:
Many rescue dogs often come from different backgrounds where they are not acclimated to leash walking. So, dogs with no experience walking on a leash often become anxious and find it challenging to adjust to leashes.
Pain or Discomfort:
Sometimes, dogs often avoid going for a walk because they’re suffering from pain or discomfort. Even an overgrown toenail can be a cause of distress for dogs.
On the other hand, severe skeletal and muscular diseases like arthritis also make it painful to walk. So, if your dog is unwilling to walk, it might be due to an injury or illness.
Some dogs are very sensitive to loud and scary noises like fireworks, noisy traffic, or gunshot. If you live in a location with a lot of such noises, your dog may start to avoid going outside. Mitigating such stressors can help soothe your dog’s anxiety.
How To Actually Ease Dog Anxiety On Walks
Now let’s discuss how to ease dog anxiety on walks. Here are different ways to manage and improve symptoms of anxiety in dogs:
1. Consult A Behaviorist
If you can’t figure out the source of your pup’s anxiety, you won’t be able to help them. In such a case, it is best to consult a behaviorist. A behaviorist is a professional behavior therapist that will help find the cause of your dog’s anxiety and how to manage it.
There are veterinary behaviorists and general animal behaviorists. Veterinary behaviorists are vets specializing in diagnosing, treating, and training animals with behavioral issues. Make sure you pick a board-certified and reputable one. A qualified behaviorist will help your pooch feel calm and happy on walks again!
2. Offer Yummy Treats
Never ever scold or punish your furry fur for acting weird due to fear, anxiety, or phobia. Punishing a pup because he’s upset and anxious will only make the dog more anxious and frightened. To calm and distract your dog, offer some yummy treats.
You should go for lockable treats as licking is calming to dogs. You can go for treats like mashed banana, softened cheese, or peanut butter. You can also give them chicken jerky if your canine only enjoys meaty treats.
Besides a coping mechanism, treats also work as a distraction for dogs with elevated anxiety levels. You can give your dog his favorite treat to distract him from the anxiety-causing stimulus, be it a scary incident or object.
You should never use treats to lure your dog to go somewhere or do something they don’t want to. It will only trigger your dog more.
3. Use Properly Fitted and Secure Equipment
Using correctly fitted and secure equipment does not ease dog anxiety on walks but can offer safety.
Anxious dogs have a heightened fight or flight response, so make sure to use a harness or leash that is both comfortable and properly fitted.
4. Short And Quick Walks
Some dogs just don’t like long walks. Some dog breeds, like Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, German Shepherds, and Siberian Husky, are built for long walks and treks, while others are not so much.
So, if you have a dog that does not enjoy long walks, keep the walk short. This way, you won’t overstress your pup. Short, quick walks are the perfect way to make your dog expel anxious energy while enjoying the outdoors.
5. Change The Route
Sometimes dogs exhibit anxious behavior on walks because something triggers them. It could be a bad neighbor or a dominant canine.
Simply change the route and see if it helps change your dog’s mood. Once you find a path your dog is comfortable with, walk it daily.
6. Stick To A Routine
Sometimes you like walking around the block, in the park, and sometimes in the nearby woods or hills. Well, this constant change could also be a cause of walking anxiety in many dogs.
Try walking the same path daily, as your dog will know what to expect. Walking a familiar route daily will create a sense of calm and ease in your dog.
7. Stay Close to Home
Many dogs have separation anxiety issues. Venturing out and walking on new roads and blocks will make your dog anxious.
You will find that your dog is eager to go back home when you try to make your furry buddy walk further. If you have such a sensitive doggo, try to walk closer to home.
8. The Power Of Jolly Routine
The Jolly Routine is a dog training tactic by one of the best canine behaviorists, William Campbell. Pet parents are encouraged to act relaxed and happy to manipulate their dogs’ emotional state.
By acting calm and “jolly” to different triggers, you teach your dog to stay relaxed and happy when encountering or approaching something frightening. So, when your dog shows anxiety, take away the negativity by acting like a goofball. Say things like, “Oh, it’s just a car!“.
Do not react, and make sure you maintain a fun and happy tone. Smile and use affirmations to make your dog feel safe.
9. Create Positive Associations
Once you have discovered what triggers your dog, work on creating positive associations so your dog can feel safe around it. For example, if your dog is afraid of strangers, introduce him to friendly and nice neighbors. Mingle with the neighbors’ pets, so your dog understands that being around them is okay and safe.
Positive associations will remove your dog’s underlying fears and worries related to the trigger. It will eventually allow your dog to feel empowered and avoid any distress.
10. Attention Heeling And Praising
Attention healing works great for both kids and pets. Giving your pup extra TLC will encourage them to feel calm and at ease. Praising your dog is also a great technique to boost their confidence.
Make eye contact and pet your canine if you find your dog acting out or exhibiting anxious behavior. Rub the fur or give a little peck on the head. You can also make cute, kissy sounds to soothe them. This is not a permanent fix for dog anxiety on walks, but it can help calm down your dog.
So, the next time your dog acts anxious on walks, show your pup affection and praise them. Casually divert the attention to yourself through a gentle pat and smile. You can try saying things like, “mama loves you,” “such a good boy,” etc.
11. Pick Confident Partners
If you are a pawrent of more than one dog, you should take all your dogs for a walk together. This is because other canines easily influence dogs. Even if you don’t have other dogs, you can walk your dog with a neighbor’s or friend’s dog.
Just make sure your pup is comfortable around this new canine buddy. It will help even more if the other dog is confident and fun.
12. Try Calming Aids
Nowadays, many unique and exciting dog-calming tools are available in the market. You can try using such products to lower and manage your dog’s anxiety levels. Some of these calming aids include:
These are collars infused with calming pheromones.
You can use special sensory toys to distract and calm your dog.
Calming dog sprays contain l-theanine. A compound that stimulates the brain to produce calming and relaxing emotions.
Calming supplements include CBD oils and other relaxing extracts to calm canines. These are made with natural herbs, as well as synthesized dog hormones. You can get over-the-counter calming supplements, but it is recommended to consult your vet first.
13. Play Music
Music is a powerful tool to stimulate different emotions. Turning on certain types of music or white noise can relieve the dog’s stress by lowering stress hormones (cortisol). Many shelters use music to reduce high respiratory and heart rates, lower barking, etc.
Studies show that playing classical music like Beethoven and Mozart reduces stress and anxiety in dogs. Many dogs also love soft rock, jazz, and reggaeton. Playing such tension-taming tunes will surely help you calm your canine friend.
14. Counterconditioning And Desensitization
We have already talked about behaviorists for dogs. But you can also tame and train anxious dogs on walks using behavior modification techniques.
There are two main types of behavior modification techniques used for anxious dogs:
Counterconditioning uses positive association. You teach your dog to associate a positive feeling or experience with the triggering factor. For example, if your dog gets anxious around other dogs when out on a walk, offer a treat or hug every time your dog meets a new canine.
Over time, your dog will initiate contact with other dogs on walks without feeling threatened or anxious. This happens because your dog has associated treats with other dogs. So, now your dog expects a positive response (getting treats) and does not feel overwhelmed.
You expose your dogs to less aggressive versions of the triggers. Gradually introduce your dog to uncomfortable and unfavorable circumstances and reward them for staying calm. You can keep increasing the intensity of the trigger until your dog has learned to face it calmly.
Both these techniques can squash anxiety in dogs, but these are only effective if your dog’s walking anxiety is explicitly triggered by something. They are not suitable for generalized anxiety disorder in dogs.
Moreover, both counterconditioning and desensitization will take time. It can even take months to show results, so you need to be patient.
15. Anxiety Meds for Dogs
When behavioral treatments and all other tactics fail to help, opt for anxiety medication. Consult your vet if your dog has anxiety and panic attacks on walks. Dog behavioral and anxiety medications are helpful when:
- Dogs suffer from general anxiety disorder
- Dogs have a severe phobia of noises and strangers
- Dogs are aggressive and fearful towards humans, animals, and novel objects.
- Demonstrate persistent, compulsive, and ongoing anxious behaviors like barking, licking, pacing, chasing, etc.
- Dogs’ anxiety symptoms are not improving with training and other tactics.
Your vet will prescribe your dog anxiety medication to calm your pup down. The vet will first analyze and assess your dog’s condition before providing a safe and effective medication suitable for your dog’s needs.
There are many different types of anxiety meds for anxious dogs on walks. Some anxiety meds for dogs include:
This is a serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to boost serotonin (mood-boosting hormone).
It is a tricyclic antidepressant medication that increases serotonin and regulates norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter and a hormone that impacts stress response in dogs).
Note: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these anti-anxiety drugs for dogs.
Signs Of Reactive Behavior: What To Do?
When your dog overreacts, it’s called reactivity. Reactivity is often a symptom of anxiety in dogs. Reactivity can include many things like barking, growling, lunging, etc.
Most pet parents mistake reactivity for aggressive behavior. However, being reactive is not a sign of aggression. It stems from scary experiences, uncomfortable encounters, and a lack of social experiences.
Having a reactive dog can make outdoor walks with your pup a nightmare. Such dogs also misbehave in front of guests and around strangers in public places.
The best way to deal with a reactive dog is to calm them down using behavior modification therapy. Here are some other things you can do if you have a reactive dog:
- Enroll your dog in a behavior rehab class
- Use different conditioning techniques
- Provide a safe and secure environment
How To Stop A Dog From Being Defensive And Nervous
Dogs also tend to get anxious and nervous in frightful situations. Here is how you can help your dog:
- Avoid frightening and dangerous situations
- Ask strangers not to stare at your pooch
- Don’t stare your dog straight in the eyes, as it signals intimidation and dominance
- Keep other pets and animals at a distance
- Please don’t force your dog to do something or go somewhere they don’t like
- Don’t hit your dog, even playfully
- Use calming aids and prescription medication
How To Train An Anxious Dog To Walk?
Dog anxiety on walks is no less than a headache for their owners. Dealing with a dog that constantly freezes, scans his surroundings, or gets started at every little thing can be challenging. Anxious and nervous dogs take much longer to walk. This can also tire and frustrate the owner.
Fortunately, there are different things you can do if your dog suffers from walking anxiety. Try these tricks and tips to train your anxious dogs to walk:
Becoming frustrated and scolding/punishing your dog won’t help. Stay positive and influence your dog’s response and behavior with positive reinforcement.
You have to be realistic and patient. You can’t expect your dog to change overnight. Give your dog some time, and eventually, he will get better.
Pick The Right Place:
Take your dog to different places for a walk. He may enjoy walking in the park more than walking on the street. Once you find the route your dog loves, it will be much easier to train your dog for regular walks.
Make It Fun:
A stroll with your pup does not have to be simple and boring. Make daily walks a fun and exciting time for your dog. Offer him treats, and let him play or play some music!
Safety and Protection:
Your dog will feel more comfortable on walks if he feels safe and protected. Act positively, don’t force, and talk to your dog lovingly.
What Won’t Help
Many pet owners don’t know how to cope with anxious dogs and often do things that worsen the situation. Here are some things you should never do if your dog is anxious on walks:
Punishment is never an effective tactic for training dogs who have anxiety issues
People think that comparing your dog’s behavior to other pets or dogs will make them behave well. However, that does not happen. This can make your dog feel unloved and unappreciated.
Do not put anxious dogs in crates, as it can make them feel more distressed.
While music can be soothing for dogs, loud music and other noises can snake your dog more jittery and anxious.
Obedience training works on some dogs but not on anxious ones.
Wrapping Up | How To Ease Dog Anxiety On Walks?
Dogs generally love heading for a stroll, but some can experience anxiety. Understanding the symptoms and triggers of walking anxiety in dogs will allow you to help your dog.
If you think your dog might have anxiety on walks due to external stimuli, you can try the various techniques and remedies mentioned in this article. However, if your dog is suffering from a general anxiety disorder, you should consult a vet.
The vet will examine your dog for any underlying health concerns causing anxiety. If your dog is physically healthy and nothing else seems effective, the vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication for dogs.
FAQs | How To Ease Dog Anxiety On Walks?
Here are some frequently asked questions about walking anxiety in dogs and how to ease dog anxiety on walks:
Q1. Why does my dog get so anxious on walks?
There are different reasons why dogs get anxious on walks, from loud noises and unusual sights to rude strangers. Walking anxiety in dogs can also be due to a negative experience in the past, like being attacked or bullied during a walk.
Q2. How do I make my dog more confident on walks?
Try different behavior modification tectonics to make your dog more confident on walks. These include using positive associations, mitigating threats, and providing a safe space.
Q3. How do you know if your dog is anxious on walks?
Anxious dogs on walks show different signs and symptoms of anxiety:
Q4. Why is my dog so scared to walk on a leash?
Do you keep wondering, “why my dog is scared to go on walks“? There are different reasons your dog feels scared to walk on a leash. These include the following: