Guide to Yorkie anxiety symptoms and solutions

Yorkshire Terriers, in general, are a confident, fun-loving and sociable little dog with a big personality. Their temperament can vary from dog to dog. Unfortunately, many Yorkies do suffer from some form of anxiety. This is a real shame as it prevents their true personality from shining thru.

If your Yorkie does have some form of anxiety it can also be quite stressful for you, However, don’t despair. Anxiety is a psychological and behavioral problem and can be improved, prevented and even fixed.

Yorkie anxiety symptoms and solutions

Yorkie anxiety symptoms

It is important not to ignore or dismiss behaviors that indicate an anxiety issue. A mild anxiety can quickly become worse and become a serious problem.

Signs of anxiety may be behavioral or body language signs to watch for. Some signs and symptoms of anxiety in dogs include;

  • Nuisance barking especially when you are not home
  • Panting and pacing (even when it’s not hot)
  • Shivering
  • Running away or cowering in the corner of a house
  • Digging either inside or outside
  • Escaping and running away
  • Destroying furniture
  • Self-harm, including excessive licking or chewing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Urinating more frequently
  • A general inability to settle.
  • Lip licking
  • Whites of the eyes are visible
  • Shaking – see Why do Yorkies shake for more.
  • Looking away and avoidance behavior.

Types of anxiety that may affect your Yorkie

Anxiety in dogs can be caused and triggered in many ways. This may include separation anxiety, health or age-related anxiety, or linked to a past bad experience. A Yorkie may even have generalized anxiety with no obvious cause or reason for it. A Yorkshire Terrier with anxiety may suffer from one or all of these types of anxiety.

Knowing the root cause of your dog’s anxiety can be helpful in finding a solution. It is not always possible to know the cause of the anxiety. This doesn’t mean a solution can’t be found.

We will look at the different types of anxiety, possible causes, and potential solutions.

Fear-based anxiety

Fear-based anxiety is a feeling of apprehension caused by a situation, person, or object. This may be a real threat or even a perceived threat. In a situation where a dog feels a threat, they will respond in one of three ways – fight, flight, or freeze.

The most common responses to a Yorkie with fear-based anxiety are either flight or freeze. If possible they will try to move away from the perceived or real source of the threat. If that is not possible they will have a freeze response. This can be simply holding their position and waiting to see what happens next. Alternatively, it can be a severe reaction with their body going rigid, shaking and even urinating or defecating.

If the threat is immediate and there is no escape they will probably respond with a fight response turning to aggression.

An example of these responses is a Yorkie or is afraid of the vacuum cleaner. If they are able they will leave the room. In the situation they can’t leave the room they will distance themselves as much as possible and probably hide and freeze. If you move the head of the vacuum close to them they will probably attack.

Anything can be a trigger for a certain dog such as loud noises such as fireworks, a person or animal they don’t trust, or a particular situation or place.

Another type of fear-based anxiety is resource guarding. This is hen a dog is anxious about a valued item being taken away. This may include a toy, chew bone or treat, or food. Although the response is aggression, the motivation is fear-based.

The good news is that a fear-based reaction is usually a learned behavior and with guidance and counter-conditioning the issue can be resolved.

Fear-based anxiety solutions

There are two main approaches to dealing with fear-based anxiety. Firstly, is to avoid putting your Yorkie in the situation or object that is the cause of the anxiety. In the example of the vacuum cleaner, this would be putting your Yorkie outside or in another room while you do the housework. This obviously doesn’t fix the phobia but doesn’t cause unnecessary stress for your Yorkie.

The second solution is to desensitize your Yorkie to the vacuum cleaner. This is where you take small steps and reward with treats or praise for your Yorkie relaxing. Don’t reward them when they are obviously anxious as this will reinforce the negative state of mind.

Start by just having the vacuum cleaner sitting on the floor turned off. Reward your Yorkie for showing curiosity or interest in the cleaner. As they become more desensitized to the vacuum you can pretend to vacuum with the motor still switched off. Reward your Yorkie for not reacting.

This desensitization process can take time and should be pushed as you may make the problem worst. It is recommended that you work with an experienced dog trainer or behaviorist.

Separation Anxiety

Yorkies are a social animal by nature and love human company. Most Yorkies don’t really like being left alone, but it is something that they learn to accept. For a complete guide to leaving a dog home alone see here.

Some dogs being left alone can have reactions and behaviors such as destructive behavior, nuisance barking, or toileting in the house. It can even cause extreme panic in the dog that they could hurt themselves. I have heard stories of dogs that have jumped through glass windows to escape.

Separation anxiety is a much-overused term used to describe anxiety in a dog left alone. Actual separation anxiety is a severe situation and is not as common as many people may think. This is when a dog has extreme anxiety when they are away from a certain person or people. If your Yorkie has actual high-level separation anxiety you will need the help of an experienced and qualified dog behaviorist.

In most cases, dogs left home alone actually have separation stress.  This is a much milder situation and can be quite simple to deal with in comparison to genuine high-level separation anxiety.

For other dogs, it is more a case of Isolation anxiety or stress. This is more about the dog not wanting to be left alone rather than an attachment to a certain person or group of people.  Often the company of any other person or even animal can resolve this.

If you have a dog that has an issue when being left alone you need to figure out which of these categories your dog fits in to, a Separation or Isolation related issue. You then need to objectively analyze where they fit on the scale of low-level stress up to extreme level anxiety. Even though each dog is different it will give you a starting point to finding a solution and beginning to help your dog cope and adjust. Separation problems are in general more difficult to fix than isolation problems.

To learn more about anxiety in dogs left home alone see here.

Health and age-related anxiety

Sometimes a dog’s anxiety can be the result of a health issue or disease. This type of anxiety usually comes on quickly even with dogs that have never shown any signs of anxiety previously. If your dog suddenly shows an extreme change in behavior you should consult your vet.

As a dog starts to get into their senior years they can be affected by anxiety. Their awareness, perception, and memory can begin to decline similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. This is known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). If you suspect this is the case with your dog you should consult your vet for solutions.

History-based anxiety

This can be quite common in rescue dogs that may have had traumatic experiences earlier in their lives. In many cases, you may never know the dog’s history and what has happened to them. Although it can be helpful to know it is not essential to be able to help the dog.

Generalized Anxiety

This is if your Yorkie is showing anxiety on a regular basis for no apparent reason. It is like the dog is walking around expecting something to happen. Often the cause of this anxiety can be a change in routine or in their environment.

Generalized anxiety includes such things as going to the vet, in the car or moving house. It also includes changes in routine like a change in your work hours.

How to calm an anxious Yorkshire Terrier

If your Yorkie has extreme and constant anxiety or phobias it is best to consult your vet to eliminate any health or illness related causes. Once your vet is able to eliminate any veterinary causes consult a qualified and experienced dog behaviorist to create a plan of attack.

In less extreme and even mild cases of anxiety, there are many things you can do yourself to help destress and calm your Yorkshire Terrier.

Exercise and mental stimulation

Exercise is not only good for your dog’s physical health and preventing boredom. It is also important for mental health. Your dog’s mood will improve after a walk or physical play. Mental enrichment is also good for stress release. If you are leaving your dog home alone, take them out for some exercise before leaving. For a guide to Yorkie exercise see here.

Calming Bed

The round shape of this bed encourages your Yorkshire Terrier to curl up. This is a calming position that makes your dog feel safe.

Chewing

Chewing is a natural instinctive behavior for dogs and has many benefits. These include keeping them occupied and dental health benefits. The chewing action also releases endorphins to your dog’s brain giving them that feel-good stress relief and calm feeling.

To learn more about the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys for dogs see here.

Rescue Remedy

This is a well known homeopathic remedy that has been around for 80 years. It is quite commonly used by humans to feel relaxed, calm and stress-free. As a dog groomer, I have used Rescue remedy with great success when working with highly anxious dogs. Easy to use as you just put a drop or two on the tongue.

ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser for Dogs

This is a diffuser you plug into a power outlet that releases dog appeasing pheromones that give then a calm feeling. To us, these scents are odorless and are only perceived by dogs and provide a strong signal of security and comfort. The diffuser will cover an area of up to 700 sq. ft. It comes with a diffuser head and a vile that lasts up to 30 days. Replacement viles are also available on Amazon.

Thunder shirt

A thunder shirt is a garment that your dog wears that applies gentle and constant pressure to their body. This has a calming and stress relieving effect on dogs. They work well with dogs that are stressed or anxious about being alone as well as dogs that have fears with thunder, fireworks, and traveling.

To learn more you can see Thunder shirts on Amazon here.

Calming Music

There is a lot of free music for dogs that are designed to calm them. Just do a search on Google or Utube for calming music for dogs.

Gentle belly rubs and massage

Compassionately rubbing your Yorkie’s belly, has a similar effect, that a back massage has on their human owners. This rubbing sensation has the ability to calm your dog down so much, that they will fall asleep. This should be done in a calm manner and not turned into a game. This will excite your Yorkshire Terrier. A calming relaxing massage will have the same effect. See how to massage a dog for more about the massaging technique.

Manage your own energy

If you react to your dog’s anxiety with anxious energy yourself will heighten their anxiety. When you make a big deal of something it will become a big deal to your dog. If your dog has anxiety when being left home alone this is important to. When you leave don’t make a big fuss.

Anxiety Medication

Your vet can prescribe anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. By combining these medications with counter-conditioning training to reduce your dog’s reaction to situations or triggers, a dog can develop the confidence to ignore the stressors. Personally I am not a big fan of using drugs unless they are absolutely necessary.

There are some natural remedies that you may wish to try first. One example of this is tryptophan. This is a natural amino acid that can play a role in optimal brain function and behavior. Another option is CBD oil which is a component of hemp. Studies have shown this to have good results in humans. No studies have been really done with dogs.

View natural anxiety remedies for dogs on Amazon.

Summary – Anxiety problems in Yorkies

Anxiety in dogs can be caused and triggered in many ways. A Yorkie with anxiety may suffer from one or all of these types of anxiety. Knowing the root cause of your dog’s anxiety can be helpful in finding a solution. It is not always possible to know the cause of the anxiety. This doesn’t mean a solution can’t be found.

If your Yorkshire Terrier has extreme anxiety you should consult your vet to eliminate any medical causes. Once your vet is able to eliminate any veterinary causes consult a qualified and experienced dog behaviorist to create a plan of attack.

In less extreme and even mild cases of anxiety, there are many things you can do yourself to help destress and calm your Yorkshire Terrier.

More Yorkshire Terrier related posts

How to exercise a Yorkie

The best type of toys for Yorkies

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