When your pup seems flustered and agitated, it's probably not because he woke up on the wrong side of the bed—he's likely stimulated by fear or anxiety. Your little guy may also pant and seem agitated if he's not feeling well.
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There's nothing like a clangor of thunder to send your pup fleeing. A firework or two often does the same. Sudden, loud and unexpected noises stress your pup out, often just because they're very scary. So when a storm rolls around, your little guy sits in his favorite hiding spot, shaking and likely panting, because he's all worked up. Other sounds, such as loud voices, doors slamming or a washing machine kicking on, can induce the same behavior. The problem is compounded if you try to comfort your dog, because you're telling him that he responded in the right way.
Other People and Dogs
In your dog's mind, everyone in your house is awesome and he's the best dog. Everyone else plays second fiddle. That's natural and usually not a big deal. But some dogs become fearful of other people and dogs, and so they become quite agitated and often display aggression when someone or another dog appears. Your pup might look angry and big and tough, but he's almost certainly fearful, often because of either a bad experience or because he wasn't socialized properly. Some dogs don't immediately growl, bark and snap at other dogs and people, but their agitation is noticeable. Their ears will often point back or sometimes forward, their eyes will look huge, they'll pant excessively and they'll seem jittery.
Taking a joyride in the car has some dogs sticking their heads out of the window and wagging their tails. Others don't get what's so great about such a scary situation. Things that aren't stressful in nature, such as a car ride or a walk through the pet store, can cause your pup to panic. There's usually an underlying cause, either a negative past experience or something negative related to the situation. Consider the car ride example. Your pup hears the engine kick on, has to put up with getting tossed around in the backseat and hears a lot of weird sounds, like your tires on the road. He might even get carsick. All these things cause your pup to become stressed out and agitated. Other potential stressful situations include being left alone, going to someone else's house and anything that your pup has never been exposed to.
Agitated behavior and panting is typically indicative of a problem in your pup's environment, but some medical problems can cause abnormal behavior as well. Anything that causes pain, such as glass stuck in your pup's paw pad, will likely make him more apt to show those big teeth and maybe even snap when he never would have considered doing that before. Diseases and disorders can also make your pup flustered. And, of course, panting accompanies agitated behavior, in most cases.
Tips and Warnings
If fear or anxiety are the issues, counter conditioning is your answer to helping your pup become less agitated. Counter conditioning involves confronting his fears and associating them with something positive. Start from a point in which he's comfortable and not responding negatively, reward him for being a good boy, and then increase his exposure to the stimulus. Maybe he gets upset while on car rides. Feed him treats just for getting in the car, and then when you start the engine, and then take short one- or two-minute trips to start out. If your pup ever reacts aggressively, contact a trainer or your vet. If he trembles, appears unstable when walking, is constantly agitated and panting, vomits or experiences diarrhea, contact your vet right away.
About the Author
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.