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Closeup on the face of a yellow lab laying down, who looks worried.

Inside Scoop: Spotting anxiety in Guide Dogs

By Shona Kemp, Guide Dog Mobility Instructor

Like their human counterparts, guide dogs exhibit signs of anxiety sometimes. As their raiser, trainer or partner, we should be able to identify these signs, as well as understand how to mitigate the effects. 

Anxiety is the anticipation of something fearful about to happen, whether it's a situation, a person or an environment.  

Factors that relate to anxiety in dogs include genetics, early interactions with their mother and siblings, and exposure to different situations in the early stages of development or formal training.

The best way to recognize signs of anxiety in dogs is through their body language. These signs include yawning, lip smacking, ears pulled back to the head, looking away, changing body posture, tucking their tail, restlessness, scratching, panting and shaking. 

Separation anxiety is a common form of anxiety experienced by dogs, especially given that the current pandemic has changed the daily routines for many partnerships. Dogs may exhibit signs of anxiety once their partner returns to their regular routines. 

Curious if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety? Try filming your dog when you’re not there – particularly for the first 20-40 minutes after you leave, as this is when dogs are likely to suffer separation anxiety the most. Separation anxiety may be seen in the form of destruction, toileting in the house, vocalization or excessive salivation. Video can also be helpful for medical professionals to treat the dog.

Anxiety is something that can be improved with proper handling and support. Creating a more positive association with the environment, situation or task will help address the behaviour.

If your guide dog is showing signs of anxiety, contact your Guide Dog Mobility Instructor to discuss your concerns and strategies for counter-conditioning treatments.