Let's be real - we're all a little bit, kind of, lowkey anxious. It's okay to admit it. Life is a lot right now. If we're feeling the stress and anxiety of city life as human beings, it's only natural that our dogs are feeling the same. Recent research found that 70% of dogs overall show at least one symptom of anxiety. Take into account the fact that cities have so many of the common triggers that can cause anxiety in dogs (overstimulation, loud noises, crowded streets, small living spaces) and the percentage of dogs in cities with anxiety is probably north of that 70%.
There are a couple of main factors that can trigger anxiety and stress in your dog. There are a host of biological and environmental factors involved:
- Stimuli - Noise sensitivity, small spaces, overtimulation like busy city streets, general fear of strangers. Cities have so much going on in all directions that a lot of fear-based stimuli exist around every corner. We all know that dog who loses her mind when a skateboarder rolls by or the dog who starts barking excessively at sirens. It's all a part of living in a city, but definitely a point of stress.
- Separation anxiety - Dogs are social by nature and don't love being left alone. Add onto that the fact that many city dogs have a person or two people who are their person instead of a bigger nuclear family in the suburbs. That person probably works many hours and has social and professional obligations, which often leads to a dog who's alone for long stretches and ultlimately, some sepaparation anxiety. That's not a reason to feel guilty (I know your mind has already gone there), but just a reality of city life with a dog. It's okay. You're not alone.
- Your dog's history - If you rescued your dog, you might know bits and pieces about their history, but it's often hard to get the full picture. Many rescue dogs have a history of being abandoned, neglected or traumatized. That carries with them into their new home no matter how loving and doting you are. A lot of it comes down to introducing new patterns and new behaviors and setting up your new relationship for success with a fresh start.
- Biology - Some breeds are more prone to anxiety than others. A lot of behavior is linked to genetics and researchers are working to pinpoint certain genomic areas and loci that are associated with problematic behavior. Some breeds also fundamentally need more space and greater aerobic activity than cities can offer them (Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, etc.) The lack of space and exercise can lead to stress, anxiety and the expression of negative behaviors like destruction of furniture.
There are a wide array of symptoms to watch out for if you think your dog is anxious including destructive behavior, pacing, whining, excessive licking, etc. Remember though, this is extremely common and is genuinely treatable once we recognize and acknowledge that it's happening. We're all stressed and in the same we can find ways to manage our own stress, we can do the same for our dogs.