No pet owner wants to see their furry friend in a state of distress, but sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what they’re thinking. Case in point – a lot of relatively common doggy behaviors are both signs of some harmless attention-seeking, and acute anxiety. So, when is your dog actually anxious, and when are they just looking for a little extra attention from their doting owner? Let’s offer some insight.
Ways in Which Dogs Seek Our Attention
Did you know dogs are natural attention seekers? Well, now you do, as lot of that’s based on how dogs have evolved over thousands of years to become “man’s best friend”. Canines have evolved in a manner that makes them highly dependent on their human owners, unlike cats who have been domesticated for less than half the length of time that we have considered dogs as pets. What this means is that dogs are regularly seeking our approval, and thus, are trying to get our attention as much as possible. Why? Because to one extent or another, their emotional wellbeing depends on it.
Now, there are times when our dogs may engage in attention-seeking behaviors, from adorable to destructive (i.e., feeling that they’ve been slighted in some way). Maybe you had to work extra late, or perhaps you’ve company over, and they feel like they’ve to work extra hard to get you to notice them.
Attention-seeking behaviors can include:
- Bringing you their toy repetitively
- Following you around
- Running around (getting the zoomies) whenever you make eye contact with them
- Pretending to be hurt or sick so that you pay closer attention to them
- Destructive behaviors like scratching or biting objects around the house
In the case of a dog who’s seeking attention, rather than displaying signs of legitimate anxiety, in most cases, once you actually give them the undivided attention that they crave, the attention-seeking behavior stops.
Ways in Which Dogs Show Us That They’re Anxious
If your dog is exhibiting signs of actual anxiety, you may notice that their behaviors don’t completely drop off after you give them affection, attention or play. And, their anxiety will stem from some sort of trigger, whether it be you leaving the house, as in the case with separation anxiety, or a neighborhood dog that’s bullying them. Canine anxiety can look different in every dog, but the most common signs are:
- Chewing at fur/excessive grooming
- Disinterest in food
- Disinterest in play
- Apathy to affection
- Excessive vocalizing (whimpering, barking, etc.)
Keep in mind that some dogs who are anxious may temporarily stop appearing in distress after you give them attention but return right back to the behaviors once you stop.
What if It’s Both?
In plenty of cases, a dog can both be seeking attention and experiencing anxiety. The most common case of this is separation anxiety, in which the anxiety is caused by, ultimately, a lack of attention from their owner. So, if these behaviors are persistent, rather than occasional or related to a specific event, it may be time to consider that a deeper anxiety-related issue is occurring, in which case you can speak to your veterinarian.
How to Alleviate Your Dog’s Nerves
Ultimately, both anxiety and attention-seeking behaviors indicate some level of uneasiness in your dog, from mild to acute. Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do as pet owners to help them feel more relaxed, at ease and confident, such as these tips below.
Tip #1: Make Sure They Get Lots of Physical and Mental Stimulation
Dogs can get anxious and crave more attention if their physical and mental needs aren’t being met. Dogs have a lot of energy, and so, require lots of playtime and mental stimulation to work that energy out of their system. Besides making sure they get lots of outside playtime, make a point to provide them with toys – especially interactive toys, like treat puzzles, motion-sensing toys, and more. That way, they can keep their minds busy.
Tip #2: Spend Lots of Time with Them When You’re Home
We can’t always be home and giving our dogs all of our attention. But, what we can do is make those times when are free really count. When you’ve free time at home, make sure to interact with your dog, whether that be playing fetch with them or simply snuggling them when you’re watching TV. Those little moments really add up and can make them feel much more secure.
Tip #3: Pay Extra Attention to Their Needs When Big Changes Occur at Home
Dogs can feel uneasy when big changes occur in their environment, causing anxiety and leading to attention-seeking behaviors for reassurance. If you’ve recently moved to a new house, adopted a new pet or made some other big change, make sure to give your dog extra love, affection and playtime.
Tip #4: Make Sure They Have a Safe and Quiet Retreat at Home
Canines who are anxious will often seek out a hiding place, as a biological instinct that makes them feel safe. What you can do as a loving dog owner is make sure that there’s at least one very accessible space in your home in which they can hide, whether that be a closet they can access with lots of cozy blankets, or a covered bed where they can retreat when things get a little hectic.
Tip #5: Give Them Some CBD
Of course, a little CBD can go a long way, helping soothe their nervous system so that they’re less attention-seeking and anxious. Chill Paws carries CBD dog treats and CBD oils made just for your furry friend, containing pet-friendly, natural ingredients, lab-tested cannabidiol extract and flavors that no dog can resist. One daily serving of CBD helps regulate their nervous system while being completely nontoxic, nonintoxicating and gentle enough for once-a-day use.
We Can’t Read Our Dogs’ Minds, But We Can Help Them Manage Stress and Anxiety
Whether your dog just misses you while you’re at work, or is experiencing a genuine anxiety disorder, there are so many little things we can do that make a difference and show our canines just how much we care. Most dogs are prone to bouts of anxiety from time to time, whether it’s because of a thunderstorm or a new pet in the house who makes them feel uneasy. As pet owners, it’s up to us to accommodate them by making their emotional wellbeing a priority, and also giving them all of the love and attention that they most certainly deserve.