While some dogs have no difficulty settling down and relaxing in new environments, others find it hard to settle down when outside. This behavior is often caused by anxiety, unfamiliar environments, routine disruption, and other socialization issues. These dogs are fidgety and restless in new environments which can be disturbing. Dogs are not different from humans; they also suffer from anxiety, especially when visiting new places. Anxiety is not uncommon in dogs, but its effect on individual dogs is not the same. Left unchecked anxiety can be debilitating and lead to other behavioral issues. 

If you find yourself in this predicament, the first thing to do will be to figure out the cause of your dog’s peculiar behavior and create an effective plan to address the problem. 

Being able to distinguish between anxiety and normal dog behavior is important and requires some level of familiarity with the dog’s normal routine. A relaxed dog will breathe normally, its eyes will be round and open, with its weight resting comfortably on its four legs, and its ears pointing forward. 

An anxious dog on the other hand will exhibit certain behavior traits which could include, incessant barking, whining, or “accidents” in the house, hiding, or tucking its tail under its body. 

Each dog has its own peculiarity so you might have to do some detective work to find out the particular cause of your dog’s problem. Once you figure out what is causing your dog’s anxiety or restlessness, the next step is to find a solution to it. 

Understand Your Dogs’ Needs and Triggers

Learning to identify your dog’s stress triggers will help you recognize when your dog is anxious.

The first step to helping your dog overcome this problem is to identify the triggers that make them anxious when they visit new places. Examples of such triggers include:

Separation Anxiety

  •  Some dogs experience separation anxiety when their owner is about to leave them. This can make them anxious and restless when visiting a new place. If your normally calm dog becomes anxious and uncomfortable when you want to leave, then your canine is probably suffering from separation anxiety. 

Lack of Socialization

  •  Like humans, socialization can help your canine feel comfortable around new people. A dog that is not used to socializing is susceptible to anxiety especially when visiting a new environment. Some of them become anxious when they meet other pets which ultimately makes them restless and uncomfortable. 

Loud Noises

  •  It is not uncommon for dogs to become anxious in unfamiliar environments especially when exposed to loud and unfamiliar noises. When this happens, most dogs tend to misbehave by whining, hiding, or cowering. Though some dogs eventually get used to the situation, some dogs may take a while to adjust which is why it is important to know how to handle your dog in such situations. 

Low Sensitivity Threshold 

  •  It is not uncommon to find dogs with sensory sensitivity. These dogs are easily overwhelmed by smells, sounds, and even sights. When they perceive a new smell, especially in a new environment, they become anxious and restless and might even exhibit other behavioral problems. Pet owners in such situations must learn to be patient when dealing with dogs with anxiety and help them feel comfortable and safe in the new environment.

Every dog has its own unique needs that make it distinct. Some of these needs are often influenced by factors like age, temperament, or breed. 

Like humans, dogs experience several mental and physical changes as they grow older. These changes can cause behavioral issues like anxiety, confusion, disorientation, and irritability which can also become exaggerated when the canine is in a new environment. 

A lot of behavioral changes occur as your dog gets older; this is why it is advisable to have your vet take a look at your canine for possible underlying medical issues.

While every dog breed is susceptible to anxiety, certain dog breeds are far more prone to it. Dog breeds like the Spanish water dogs, wheaten terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, lagotto romagnolos, miniature schnauzers, and mixed breed dogs are far more prone to anxiety, especially in unfamiliar environments.  

Signs of Anxiety in Dogs 

To treat anxiety and its attendant symptoms, you must first be able to recognize the symptoms in your dog. Just like humans, dogs can express anxiety in several ways, so you need to know what to look out for. Here are some common symptoms of anxiety:

  • Excessive panting and drooling: A dog visiting a new and unfamiliar place may pant and drool more than usual as a result of stress and anxiety. 
  • Pacing in straight lines or circles: Anxiety can cause some dogs to pace in straight lines or circles about the house and generally exhibit signs of restlessness. 
  • An anxious dog, especially in a new environment may attempt to flee in a bid to escape perceived stress. If care is not taken, it might even harm itself by trying to dig or chew its way through the doors and windows.
  • Persistent whimpers, barking or howling: When a dog is anxious it whimpers, barks, and howls. This is often an effort to connect or reunite with its owners.
  • Defecating the home: Another sign of anxiety in dogs is uncontrollable defecating or urination around the place. This can happen even when the dog is potty trained as anxiety can trigger this.
  • Destruction: Some dogs become quite destructive when they’re anxious.

Apart from being symptoms of anxiety, some of these signs may also be indicators of other disorders and diseases, which is why it is advisable to consult a veterinarian to accurately diagnose your dog if it exhibits any of the above behaviors.

Prepare Your Dog for House Visits

There’s really no way to know how your dog will react to a new environment. Some dogs become over-excited, aggressive, or fearful when confronted with new sounds, sights, or smells. While a lot of dogs adapt pretty quickly to all that, some dogs might need a little help settling into the new environment. 

If your dog is one of those that need help to settle into a new environment, then you will need to prepare the dog for such visits. 

The first step will be to train your dog to obey basic commands like “stay”, “come”, “sit”, “heel”, “off”, and “no”. Dogs are not naturally obedient, which means you will have to teach them if you want them to respond to your commands. Positive reinforcement is a great way to get dogs to obey your commands. 

With the right training, your dog will not only respect you, but you will also be able to get them to listen when they’re anxious and restless, especially in a new environment. Make sure you’re calm and consistent when training your dogs. You should also have a bag of treats as a form of positive reinforcement, this will help greatly. 

A well-socialized dog is a canine citizen!

A dog who is not very socialized will likely be afraid of new circumstances and situations, especially when they have to visit new places or meet new people. You can help ease your dog’s anxiety by engaging them in activities like visits to the park or enrolling them in a doggy daycare. 

A well-socialized dog is well-adjusted and well-behaved. Socialization also grows their confidence and makes them more relaxed and open to new interactions. 

Regularly exposing your dog to different situations will make them more relaxed in a new environment. Take them to parks, take them to the vet, and make sure they’re exposed to different situations and environments and they’ll have no problem coping in a new place. 

Make the New Environment More Welcoming

When visiting new places, it is important to pack a bag of goodies for your dog to help them feel at ease, happy, and comforted. Like humans, dogs can also be comforted by familiar things, especially when in a strange environment. This is why it is good to pack their dog bed, towel, or blanket. Take a lot of chews to settle them, and pack their favorite toys and treats for positive association. All these will help the dog feel settled and happy in their new environment. 

It is of no use to try and force your dog to enjoy the outdoors if you ever want them to be comfortable in the new environment. If you force them to socialize too quickly it might backfire and they’ll end up developing negative associations with that thing you’re trying to force on them so it becomes counterproductive. 

Introduce your dog to the outdoors in manageable, small steps. Give them treats for every milestone and enforce a lot of positive attention. Be consistent with it and try not to rush things, and you will eventually build your dog’s confidence as time goes on. 

Another way to make the new environment more welcoming is to provide them with a safe space where they can relax and rest. This safe space could be a crate or a quiet corner where they can retreat to. Sometimes a dog just wants a break! Some dogs are naturally nervous and shy around new people. A safe space will reduce some of that anxiety and help them cope better with an otherwise stressful situation. 

A safe space can also help them self-soothe which naturally increases their confidence and helps them handle stressful situations better. 

Help Your Dog Feel More Secure and Comfortable

Dogs have been known to pick up on the emotions of their humans. A dog will most likely feel it when its owner is stressed and might end up internalizing the emotion causing it to become anxious. 

New Swedish research has revealed that a dog’s stress level can be influenced significantly by that of its owner. 

The same research also revealed that dogs who spend more time with their owners are significantly more affected by the stress level of their owners. This is why it is advisable to remain calm and relaxed when hanging out with your furry friend. 

Employ positive reinforcement training whereby rewards like treats, praise, or toys are administered to a canine for good behavior. If you reward your canine with something it likes for good behavior, it is likely to behave in such a way in the future. 

When you reward your dogs for good behavior, you’re indirectly telling them that their good choices attract rewards. 

You can do this by making sure you have an assortment of treats at hand so they don’t get bored with having the same treats. A food reward should also be accompanied by a verbal reward. Words like “good dog” and “yes” will not be bad.  

Music and pheromone diffusers can help your dog relax and feel at home, especially in a new environment. Pheromone products help stimulate positive pheromones which can help ease anxiety and stress. Like humans, dogs also find music to be very soothing. 

You can also help your dog overcome fear and anxiety by administering behavior medications to them. These medications are used to reduce panic reactions, anxiety, and fear and can expedite emotionally protective treatment. 

Conclusion 

Dogs are just as emotionally complex as people, which means they will not react the same way to every situation. And dogs will also get apprehensive when faced with certain conditions just like humans. There is really no single cause of anxiety in dogs as it is induced by several environmental variables. Genetics, socialization, trauma, breed, and age lack of socialization are some of the factors that might induce anxiety in your dog when in a new environment and make them restless. Regardless of the cause of your dog’s anxiety, what matters is that you find a way to help them manage the situation to give them a better quality of life. 


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