Timid or anxiety behavior, are they the same?

        How to help your dog

How do you know if your pup is just timid or has anxiety?

Timid behavior

Where did you get your pup from? Was it a rescue? Was it a kennel? Was it a puppy mill? Or was it a breeder? No matter where you got him from, If he wasn’t socialized well before he was 4 months old, there’s a good chance he’ll be shy and timid. He may tuck his tail between his legs, avoid eye contact, hide in a corner or behind the sofa or even pee on the carpet. These are all signs that your dog is scared, nervous and submissive. If he was ignored or abused as a pup, it could lead him to have a fear of humans. He may not be shy in all situations — he may enjoy attention from you, but hide from other family members or the playful dog next door.

Anxiety behavior

Dogs that experience anxiety may display their stress in very different ways. Some symptoms like panting or shaking, are subtle and can be easily missed or dismissed because they are normal in other circumstances. Other more noticeable symptoms include aggression and excessive barking. Pet owners may mistake such symptoms as their pet simply acting out due to boredom or other behavioral causes. But if these symptoms occur in common situations, like during a thunderstorm or when pet owners leave the house, it can indicate that the dog is responding to anxiousness and stressful feelings. If your dog acts like this around certain people this can also be anxiety. When my son had a studio in our basement, his band members would come in through the garage door and walk through my dog’s “space”. She would bark and the ridge on her back would go up. She was very anxious about all of these teenage boys invading her space.

Subtle symptoms of anxiety

Some of the less obvious symptoms of anxiety manifest as a slight change in behavior. These symptoms can go unnoticed by pet owners as they are not disruptive. We may just think that these symptoms are our pets personalities. It may be something deeper. These symptoms include:

  • Hiding or solitude:

Some dogs want to be alone when they are experiencing anxiety. They may hide out of fear, or move away from people and other pets. Sydney will go into her cage. While her cage is her safe zone, there are days when she won’t come out. We do not lock her cage, so she can go in and out of it freely, but I’m still concerned she spends so much time in her cage.

  • Seeking comfort:

Other anxious dogs will have the opposite reaction, and seek more attention or affection. They may jump in their pet parent’s lap or require more attention. When Sydney is anxious because my Cinnamon is visiting (Sydney is my daughter’s dog), Sydney will bolt up into my lap. It’s like a power move. She almost knocked me over one time! She lies on my chest in fear and will barely move her head back and forth to look around.

  • Shaking and panting:

Dogs that shake or pant, or act generally nervous may be experiencing anxiety. While panting after exercise or in the heat is normal, panting during a loud fireworks display is likely not.

  • Excessive licking or chewing:

Anxious dogs may compulsively lick or chew at their fur. Booper, another dog of my daughter’s, will lick a spot on his body clean of fur. It is by his hip. She put s a neck collar around him and that helps. It is called an E-komg (for Dogs and Cats). It really works! It’s like having a pillow collar around our necks when we travel.


Overt Symptoms of Anxiety

The more noticeable symptoms of anxiety are hard to miss. Depending on the cause of the anxiety, these behaviors may only appear when dogs are triggered by their phobia.
Excessive barking and howling:
One of the most obvious signs of anxiety is excessive noise. If a pet starts to bark because of a loud noise or interruption and cannot be easily calmed, even after the disruption stops, they may be feeling anxiety.

  • Aggression:

Anxious dogs may become suddenly aggressive, even to their pet parent. Anxious dogs may suddenly snap, growl, or show signs of aggression. They seem jumpy and agitated.

  • Try to escape:

Dogs that feel trapped or enclosed may start digging or running. Enclosing dogs in crates may worsen their anxiety in these situations.

  • Excessive energy:

Anxious dogs sometimes display a surge of energy and appear hyperactive. We had my nephew’s dog stay with us for 3 months. His name was Strider. Strider never sat down. He would pace and jump onto the couch and then off of the couch. My daughter has another rescue dog named Sonny. Sonny can walk down the stairs but not up the stairs. So, if he is down the stairs and we are up stairs, he will pace and pace and pace. Sydney will actually walk in circles.

  • Excretion:

House-trained dogs may suddenly defecate indoors when they are under duress. You see this happening with pups when they get over excited too. When we would leave my lab at home, he would jump knock the gate over, run into my son’s room and pee on his dresser. Same spot, every time. He was 110 pounds. That was a lot of urine.


A common symptom of anxiety is destruction of furniture or other objects that they normally do not chew or shred. It’s common to come home and the dog has gotten into the garbage. This is not what we are talking about. We are talking about ripping pillow apart, gnawing on furniture or even chewing on the gate.

  • Panic attacks:

Dogs that experience any number of these symptoms may start to have panic attacks. Panic attacks can last from minutes to hours, and can involve any number of the above symptoms.

Symptoms of anxiety, like destruction of objects and high energy, can result in self-injury. The mental and physical stress that dogs endure while suffering from anxiety is also taxing, and should not go untreated.

Managing an anxious dog


Even for people the first answer to dealing with stress, anxiety or depression is to add exercise to your daily routine. In recent years lack of movement for people have contributed to not only weight gain but to the way we handle our stress.

The same is true for our dogs. Movement is the key ingredient to a happy healthy dog and the lack of it contributes to far greater behavior challenges than most dog owners are aware.

Exercise for a fearful or anxious dog is on the very top of the list when it comes to changing this behavior to confidence and the ability to deal with daily routines in a much more relaxed manner. Finding ways to get an anxious dog exercise can be challenging when the fear stems from other people, dogs or unexpected external noises.

Treadmill Dog Training

The treadmill for a fearful or anxious dog is a solution well worth looking into for a variety of reasons. First creating a safe environment for a dog suffering from fear starts everyone off on the right paw. Secondly it is a way to incorporate exercise as a stress reliever while creating a mind that can open to learning by taking the overanxious edge off through movement . Once a fearful dog gets the chance to burn off the nervous energy that stores itself only to come out as bad behavior the road to leaving the fear behind can begin.

Other benefits to training a fearful dog on a treadmill are really about gaining your own confidence as well. Many people suffer from feeling the judgment of others while trying to get a dog with issues “over it” out on a public trail or park. Dogs who are fearful, shy or overly anxious can look to others as though they have been “abused” or you aren’t being nice to the dog. In most cases this is far from the truth and stops the process of getting a dog out and moving as much as possible.

Exercise and movement take the edge off of anxiety for both people and dogs. Treadmill training for dogs not only gives a dog who needs to move through fear the chance to get enough exercise but it has in fact, gotten most dogs to a place where confidence and balance returns and a dog who wasn’t socially able to function well becomes happy and integrated into regular life activities.


23 thoughts on “Timid or anxiety behavior, are they the same?”

  1. I love dogs so much and have always wondered when walking up to one what they are thinking. The timid behavior you explain with the tail between the legs is so sad but very rewarding if you can change that in time. People need to be careful when it comes to the aggression of dogs you explain. I have seen it in person when they just snap because they have become so anxious and don’t know how to react. The treadmill for dogs is a great idea especially if it helps with the anxiousness like you said. I’ve seen some funny videos of dogs on treadmills and they seem to actually enjoy it!

  2. Thank you for this post Tammy! Wow didn’t know there were so many different things that dogs do when they have a certain behavior. It’s interesting how an anxious dog can display their anxiety in unique ways.

    It’s also funny how some of these behaviors are similar to human beings lol. For instance, when a person is very anxious, sometimes they could retreat to their safe place like their room instead of dealing with certain visitors in their house.

    I have definitely encountered a lot of the behaviors you have listed after having watched a few of my friends’ dogs. I just didn’t know that some of these behaviors could be identified as the dog having anxiety.

    Thanks again for the post Tammy!


    1. Hi Mark, I’m glad this article helped. It really is helpful to know why a dog is acting like they are, so we can help them, and better yet, not provoke them to be aggressive. Consider sharing this article with your friends. Thank you for your comment!

  3. Hi Tammy. I really do love dogs because they are fun, playful and the hairy ones lol. But I’m scared when the anxious behaviors starts to kick in because I don’t really like the actions. Like you mentioned, your dog pee on your son’s dresser, that’s not cool. Well, I think the treadmill is the solution. I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for sharing 

  4. My friend recently bought a bought, 3months old and she telling over the weekend that she chewed up slippers, TV stands and some other stuff. I was telling how I thought it was strange but never knew about dogs and anxiety till I read this post. She also thought the pup was just being naughty. I would send a link to her right away and get her to buy the dog treadmill as she doesn’t have so much time to take her out for exercise everyday. No knowledge is truly a waste, now I can help my friend to help her dog, find out if it’s just timid or its  anxiety.

    1. You are a good friend!  Share my site with her and I would like to communicate with the pet owner.  Tell her my lab chewed through the dry wall in my mud room area.  We weren’t too pleased!  That’s when we increased the exercise and bought a thunder jacket!  Thank you for your comment!

  5. Hello Tammy. I really enjoyed reading your article. This is something my little man is struggling with and reading your article here helped me understand more about where he is coming from. I will work with him with these exercises and techniques  that you have pointed out so he can go to the dog park again. Thank you so much for sharing this post. 

  6. Super informative post about Timid or Anxiety Behavior and are they the same.  This article was so timely for me.  We just “rescued” a dog from the pound.  He is a beautiful staffordshire terrier and we love him but boy, does he have issues.  When left alone he likes to bark incessantly and scratch at (through) solid wood doors.  After reading your article I realize that he is not just being a bad dog but that he has very real anxiety issues so my husband and I are going to increase his exercise routine, per your suggestion.  Do you think additional training from a professional would help reduce his anxiety? Thank you for identifying my dogs problem and giving me some tips to help solve it.

    1. God bless you for  rescuing your new pet.  Absolutely!  Additional training will really help.  We got that for our dog, Cinnamon also.  While it didn’t help with all the issues, it certainly helped with several issues.  We paid a trainer to come into our home because we had issues with Cinnamon nipping my teenage son’s friends in their butt when they walked by.  It really helped for the trainer to see it in action.  Don’t give up and please let me know how it’s going.  What is your pet’s name?

  7. Dogs are wonderful creatures which have the ability to sence humans feelings ,  However Fearful behavior can quickly turn into aggression, so dogs with anxiety disorders make less good pets and can even be dangerous, especially around small children. Fear is a normal response to some situations, but extreme fear or anxiety in dogs is a sign of behavior problems. 

    1. That is so true, unfortunately.  My Cinnamon does not like small children.  When we go on walks, in the summer, it is so hard to tell the little kids playing outside that they can’t pet my dog because she will bite them.  We always have to be vigilant as pet owners.  Thank you for the comment.

  8. These are great insights into timid and anxious behaviour in dog, and good advice on how to help them.

    I would always choose rescue dogs, and it is important to be aware that they may display anxious behaviour, but they so deserve a safe and loving home. But I had no idea that stress and anxiety are responsible for so much of their unusual behaviours.

    If you don’t mind me mentioning it, CTFO make great CBD products for pets, and CBD Oil can really help with stress, I will be happy to tell you where you can find those if you wish. (Please feel free to delete that part from my comment if you are not happy with it!)

    Thank you so much for a very informative post

    Chrissie 🙂

    1. Hi Chrissie, Thank you for your comment!  My daughter uses CBD oil on her dogs.  It really does help!  Especially in situations when they need to calm down NOW and stay calm.  When she had a Christmas party at her house she used it on her dogs and it helped them so much!

  9. Hello,

    Thank you so much for raising awareness about this situation. I don’t know much about dogs, I don’t even have one, but I know of people that would really need to read this article. Some people wouldn’t see all these symptoms on their dogs as they may be subtle or confused with something else. It is already hard for people to notice that other people suffer from anxiety, I think it gets harder in a dog’s case, because the communication get more complicated. However, I guess people can realize about their dog’s situation after reading this. 

    Thank you for writing this.



    1. Hi Mariana, Thank you for your comment.  It’s good for everyone to know, as I get very confused looks from people when I say that I have a rescue dog and she bites or she is shy.  It’s different dealing with a dog that’s been abused or neglected.  I would really like to talk with your friends who are facing this.  Please refer them to my site.  

  10. Thanks for your post Tammy. I have a dog that suffers anxiety in the presence of other dogs – this makes going out on the leash stressful for all of us at times! I often wonder whether the fact that we are anxious that the dog will become anxious, actually makes her anxiety worse! For example, we will cross the road if there is another dog coming and I’m guessing this makes my dog Jaffa think there is a threat. She is quite happy at home and to be out and about, but when there’s other dogs around she stiffens up and can be aggressive to them. It’s a hard one to overcome and we do try various different ways to deal with it, including using rescue remedy and lately, even CBD oil. If you have any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them!

    1. Jaffa sounds like a wonderful dog. He/she is lucky to have you. I’m only guessing but it sounds like maybe Jaffa had a scary experience with another dog before you got him. I’ve done two things for my dog that has anxiety to socialize her. My daughter has a dog that is excellent with other dogs. I my Cinnamon and my daughter’s dog, Ginger, socialize in a non-territorial place…like each on a leash in a park. (We have a big baseball field by us). Being non-territorial, neither dog will feel protective. Being in a wide open space, my Cinnamon doesn’t feel trapped. I have also used the thunder vest on walks. The thunder vest can only be used in short term situations. So, during a walk is perfect. I do the exact same thing as you….I cross the street when I see another dog coming. You are right, I’m probably training Cinnamon when I do that. Yes, when we feel anxious, so does our dog. The other thing that really works is to break eye contact with the oncoming dog. I’ve stood behind a tree before to let the other dog pace. I kneel down by Cinnamon and talk calming words to her, hold solidly to her harness and wait behind a tree. If she can’t see the dog, she is better. Good luck to you and Jaffa!

  11. Hi Tammy, I have a Labrador going on 12 years old, I have him since he was a pup and I fear the moment he will leave us. We walked him all his life but stopped maybe a year ago because we felt he was tired and not well. Should we start walking him again but shorter walk? Very interesting and I think a beautiful site. Keep up providing great information.

    1. Hi Claude, I’m sure you love your lab dearly! It’s so sad to watch them get tired and not be able to do the things they once loved. I wouldn’t push him to walk if he doesn’t seem able to. On a good day, maybe have him accompany you to the end of your drive way. I would just make sure he gets outside to still enjoy the sights and sounds that he once loved and it will still keep his mind active.

  12. Thank you for this post Tammy. I can certainly see some similarities between anxious people and pets, especially nervous energy. I love the idea of the treadmill and I’m certain it could help anxious dogs.

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