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Staffy Anxiety Problems and How to Solve Them

Given their extremely loyal personalities, it's no surprise that Staffordshire Bull Terriers have anxiety issues. Honestly, I don’t think there is a more owner-loving breed than a staffy.

While it’s nice your dog loves you this much, it can cause various issues for both you and your pup. In this article, we’ll explore the problems caused by this infliction and offer some solutions to help curb this behavior.

Staffy Anxiety Problems

What Causes Staffy Anxiety Problems

Although there’s no proven single cause of separation anxiety, there are specific factors that are common among dogs with this issue. For example, shelter dogs have this behavior much more than dogs that have grown up in the same families their whole life.

It’s a common belief a loss of a family or a single person is a factor in cultivating this issue in a dog. Given the attachment issue that causes separation anxiety, this isn’t a big surprise.

A change of schedule is also a recurring element in many separation anxiety cases. Let’s say you get a new job, and it requires you to stay away from home for more extended periods of time, this could cause your dog to experience anxiety.

Any significant change to a dog’s life can cause the development of separation anxiety. A recent death of a family member, moving to a new house, getting a new owner can all be contributing factors when it comes down to a dogs anxiety

In the end, it’s about a change in the consistency of their life. As you know, dogs are relatively routine based animals. They like to know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen in their lives every single day.

Separation Anxiety Signs in Dogs

Separation anxiety is first seen when a dog becomes noticeably upset when their owner leaves. I know, this sounds normal and, usually, nothing serious will happen. However, this anxiety can result in some hazardous situations for dogs that become seriously affected.

There are a few more ways you can spot an anxiety problem with your dog.

For example, it’s common to see a dog with separation anxiety with bloody paws because of an ill-fated escape attempt: an attempt to find you. And given a staffy’s personality; there’s a real possibility you might come home to a scenario like this.

A staffy with separation anxiety might try to keep you from leaving. Either they’ll put themselves between you and the door or become oddly depressed right before you intend on going.

In other words, they’ll do anything to avoid being alone. They’ll try anything to make you stay through playing on your guilt.

When they’re alone, they’ll start barking or display other signs of stress: excessive drooling, panting, urinating/defecating, chewing, digging, pacing, etc. Each one of these is a way of getting rid of the excess energy brought forth from their anxiety.

Thankfully, there are ways to prevent this nightmare circumstance from happening every time you leave your home. 

How to Treat Anxiety in Staffies

In this section, you’ll find a couple of ways to help a staffy with separation anxiety overcome it. From counter-conditioning to crate training, it will all be discussed concerning dealing with this potential problem.

Counter-conditioning

Counter-conditioning sounds somewhat complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. The primary goal of counter-conditioning is to start making your dog associate you leaving with being a good thing.

For example, every time you leave your home give them a time-consuming treat such as a KONG toy stuffed with peanut butter. In doing so you do two things, distract and create an association.

In other words, the KONG will take your staffy’s mind off the fact they’re alone and make them start associating this period with getting a treat. You’re tricking them into thinking that them being alone is something they want. Kong toys are immensely popular for their ruggedness, here's one on Amazon.

Instead of fear and stress kicking in, these times will be filled with excitement and happiness. You’re using your staffy’s love of treats to bring out a feeling of security in the times you’re outside your home. 

You must remember to remove the treat as soon as you get home to ensure the association forms. If you don’t, your dog won’t grasp that they only get the treat when they’re alone.

Use a Crate

In some cases, a crate can do wonders for a dog with separation anxiety. Dogs can view a crate as a secondary home that offers a sense of security. After all, providing a secure environment is a crucial factor in treating this issue.

But some dogs get even more anxious inside a crate. Their anxiety will lead them to try and escape the crate when they’re alone. And the escape attempt could lead to dangerous/tragic consequences.

In light of this, make sure you monitor your staffy’s behavior during their crate training and observe how they act when they’re left in the crate at home. It’s essential you spend some time watching their reactions to being left in the crate when you’re home.

You can try feeding them inside the crate or leaving it opening during the day to see how they act towards it. If your staffy starts howling or barking, a crate probably isn’t the best option for you.

If this happens, try containing your staffy to one room with a gate or a gate-like structure. But never leave them inside a room behind a shut door. The feeling of being contained will add to your staffy's stress level and their anxiety will become much worse.

For more information, we have a full article dedicated to crate training.

Exercise

As a dog owner, one mantra you should always remember is a tired pup is a good pup. Try taking your staffy on a long walk right before you plan on leaving as it could rid of all their excess energy that gets turned into stress and anxiety.

If you don’t have the time for a long walk, you could try an extensive playing session right before you leave. Any substantial form of exercise could help relieve this debilitating behavior. Maybe try a game of fetch in the backyard for a good 5 to 10 minutes before you leave.

If you're struggling for exercise ideas, take a look at our article on exercise ideas for staffies.

After all, a tired pup might be too exhausted to exert the necessary energy for an escape attempt. They may even sleep the whole time you’re gone. It’s all about keeping their mind active and focused on anything other than you not being there.

32 thoughts on “Staffy Anxiety Problems and How to Solve Them”

  1. Hello, my son’s Staffy is a real problem – she has fear and anxiety related problems, though this is not caused by separation as both my son and I are always here. I have had dogs all my life and currently have a very chilled toy poodle, but this has not helped her. They came to live with me 3 years ago (she is now 6yrs old) and has steadily become worse.
    She will not go for walks, one sight of the lead and she shakes, hides etc – we have tried all kinds of things to encourage her, including different times, collar instead of harness, hot dog sausage, all of us going, one of us going etc.
    She will rarely go outside and begins to ‘freak out’ if she needs to toilet as she knows she has to go outside to poo. She hides in the smallest space she can find, she tries to get behind the TV so I have had to block side access with wooden panels – so now she tries to get between the glass shelves. Once she has been toilet (outside), she has a treat, then she smells her bum and begins to hide, shake etc. This often continue for hours.
    She is also terrified of every little noise and does the one loud, higher pitch bark (which nearly gives me heart attack everytime). Noises include car driving past house, next door neighbours talking, car doors opening & closing, people walking, cars in another street and many others that we cannot hear. Obviously thunder, fireworks etc are terrible. I have to have TV on (loud) all the time to try to drown out other noise – football works best.
    Her claws are so long now, because she will not even play in the backyard with any of her many toys. She will not let me clip her claws – I give her treat, encouraging voice,etc and clip one claw – give treat, encouragement etc after. Then went to hold her paw and she bit my hand, fortunately not badly, but she is becoming more and more disobedient and aggressive (that was the second time she ‘bit’ me).
    I have had large dogs in the past (German shepherd, retriever), but have never had a problem as intense as this and we are at a loss as to what to do.
    At the moment we are considering euthanasia, thoug I know this will break my son’s heart and is definitely a last resort.
    Can you offer any advice, I really don’t know what to do.
    Thank you, Corrine

    Reply
    • Jesus Christ no. Its a correctable problem but takes energy and a dedicated owner with time. Adopt, shelter, anything but murder

      I hope I’m not too late but you shouldn’t even own dogs. I can’t believe I read that.

      Reply
  2. The problem I have with my Staffy x Madrid is fear of noise both inside or outside.. Thunder..car doors closing..Dustin bin lids..in fact he is constantly listening for anything..when at home he goes upstairs into the spare bedroom trembling/drooling and generally looking frightened.. He is 5 years old and always been a little nerv but in the past 12 months has deteriorated.. I dread the fireworks in November as he will become a nervous wreck and I really don’t know what to do. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi val, my staffy is the same, what I normally do, when I leave the house I make sure all the windows are closed, I leave the tv on with the volume a little higher than usual, and upstairs I leave a radio on, I noticed my staffy likes to go in my room when I’m not home so the radio is on in that room. If your home, just comfort them when they hear a door or something, but when it thunders I find turning the music on pretty loud, and playing with their ball with them helps take their mind off it. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  3. My staff is going though have in a teddy bear with her she carries about she only does every so often and then she fine after a few days

    Reply
    • Hi Pat, thanks for commenting.

      Dogs can have some strange behaviours when it comes to their toys. Sometimes, it can be a comfort thing but it could also be that your dog has simply grown to have a particular attachment to that teddy bear.

      It should probably not be a cause for concern as long as this behaviour doesn’t become a problem. For example, she becomes very protective of the teddy bear.

      I hope that helps,

      Laine @ Smiling Staffy

      Reply
  4. Please help I’m lost,
    I live both of my staffies and as soon as they leave they break into my house wether by eating and smashing through doors or smashing windows and once their in if they can see me they will break out the front through a window . I’ve had to replace windows doors blinds anything you name it and I’ve tried so many things but I’m in rentals and I’m forever rebuilding things . They even went as to eat a metal shed to access the house and no I didn’t put them in it I put in front of my back door. Please help I’m lost .

    Reply
    • Hello Taliah. Thanks for commenting, I apologise for the delayed reply.

      It seems like you have quite an extreme case on your hands. I’ve not experienced dogs being quite that destructive. I may be wrong and misunderstood the way it was written but it seems like your dogs are being locked out of the house while you are inside?

      If this is something they haven’t been used to for most of their lives, it could be difficult to improve the behaviour. Staffies are social and very loyal so having yourself in view while they are locked out for a long period would be frustrating for them. Keeping yourself out of their view or allowing them to be in the house with you could provide immediate relief of the issue.

      Otherwise, I would strongly suggest getting hold of a dog behaviourist and working with them in person as it seems like the separation anxiety is quite severe as your dogs are willing to smash through windows.

      I hope that has helped. Please let me know if I have misunderstood as I wasn’t too sure.

      Thanks again,

      Laine @ Smiling Staffy

      Reply
  5. Hi Laine,

    We adopted a beautiful 5 year old American Staffy x girl called Lola on 7th December 2019, and she has settled into our little family wonderfully. She loves her walks and loves being close to her humans, however does get quite bad separation anxiety when we are at work during the days. She is left alone at home from 8:00am – 4:00pm, she is left outside with a kong full of treats, a dentastix, bones, food & water, and a a shell pool (that she won’t go in), however the past 2 days she has manged to get out of the yard.

    The first day she jumped on the bins and over 2 timber fences, yesterday she climbed up the side gate (it has 2 panels sideways so she could climb up it) and jumped over. We have put up extra bamboo shading so that it is higher than the timber fence, and silky chair covers on the side with the gate so she can’t climb up it. I haven’t received a call so far from a neighbour to say that she has gotten out, however it is still early in the day!

    We take her for walks daily (unless its raining) and even took her in the morning instead however she still manged to get out. She has been chewing the end of her tail a bit too as we notice when we get home her tail is a bit red.

    When we do get home from work, she will whimper with excitement, will kiss us and be right at our feet for awhile until she gets comfortable again.

    Unfortunately we are only renting and do not have a doggy door from outside to inside, so our next option was either a magnetic fly screen we can attach to the back door and leave open so she can go in and out of the house as she pleases, or a shock collar…

    Any other tips or helps would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again,
    Clair

    Reply
    • Hi Clair, thanks for your question.

      At the moment, everything is still fairly new to her so it might take a while for her to become fully comfortable with her surroundings. She’ll probably also want to explore her new home so, if she sees an opportunity to climb out of the garden, she is likely to take it (many dogs would do the same).

      Amstaffs tend to be very high energy and athletic so you’ll need to take extra precautions when it comes to objects that could be climbed on and jumped from. Even when it might seem unlikely that they could get out, they’ll find a way so be thorough when assessing potential “escape” routes.

      I wouldn’t suggest the shock collar. I have never used one and they might be effective but I don’t like the idea of them so could not recommend that.

      The best solution, as you mentioned, could be to try and find a way where she can access the inside.

      We had a staffy that did suffer with separation anxiety when we first got him. I can’t pinpoint a single thing that solved it and he may have simply got used to the routine of being left but leaving an old piece of clothing with someone’s scent on it seemed to help.

      With a new dog, there is always going to be a period of trial and error and adjustment so patience is necessary.

      Hopefully, that helps. Be sure to keep us updated with how Lola gets on!

      Laine @ smiling Staffy

      Reply
    • Bunnings have $300 dog door inserts that u can lock to your screen or glass sliding door to so safe home happy staffy

      Reply
  6. Hi Clair

    Our 5 year old staffie Lola gets aggressive towards our son when he goes to leave the house, absolutely fine with him in the house. Please could you help as I’m not sure I would class it as separation anxiety as Lola has more of a bond with our Daughter, follows her everywhere but has no issues when we have to leave the house.

    Reply
  7. I have a 12 year old stafie and he is with our family all the time but he is starting to get demanding and crys when he want to go out in the end I just take him for a walk trouble is he crys when we go to bed only to get someone to go down to see him how do I stop this

    Reply
    • Jesus Christ no. Its a correctable problem but takes energy and a dedicated owner with time. Adopt, shelter, anything but murder

      I hope I’m not too late but you shouldn’t even own dogs. I can’t believe I read that.

      Reply
  8. I’m looking for some advice for my 7 year old staffie she has really bad separation issues with me and unlike my male 10 year old staffie has alway been scared of fireworks normally on bonfire night and lead up to it i make sure she’s in bed with me as she hides and needs to be cuddled she shakes but normally I can came her down after few hours but last night someone let 1 firework off as they have been doing at 8pm last 3 wks but since firs 1 she shakes so bad and cuddling her it feels like her heart is going to burst out her chest it goes that fast and she can’t stop panting this goes on for hours and next day she won’t leave my bed normally she is always at my side and as much as I try to get her to play she won’t just looks so sad im worried come bonfire this year she’s going to give herself a heart attack she’s that bad

    Reply
  9. Our staff died in our car saturday. We took our usual saturday car ride and stopped at the small amish grocery. We have made this trip many times before. She is 6 years old and had severe seperation anxiety. We returned to the car after only being gone 10 minutes to find her lifeless in the rear of the SUV. She had died while we were in the store. Very healthy and only 6 years old.

    Reply
    • When will people learn… you can NEVER leave a dog alone in a car. Defies belief that people still do this.

      Reply
    • When will people learn… NEVER leave a dog alone in a car. It defies belief that people still do this.

      Reply
  10. Hi, We have a 9 week staffy. He is gorgeous. We are currently house training, getting in routine etc. I take him for a little walk in the morning around the block, at his speed. Vet has recommended only to exercise him in backyard, but he has so much energy. I also spend time with him during my lunch and late afternoons and he can sit and fetch, now working on stay. The issue we have is in the late afternoon he gets the zoomies. Which in itself is fine until he turns into the devil’s spawn with the zoomies…his teeth come out and bites, not a chew, not a nip. It is like having a different dog that is near on uncontrollable until he exhausts himself. I have read to a) Yelp b) and b) ignore him, stay still and turn your back. Neither works. Do you think that rolling on back and holding him still will work? He also starts to hump my arm..at 9 weeks. Is this normal?

    We love our staffy, but we need him to be happy and safe. I am prepared to work with him but I how can I stop him from biting. Any suggestions will be gratefully received.

    Reply
    • My staffy x lurcher dog is 18 months old and also get the zoomies. What a great name. She gets so overexcited, barking and barking, She would bite me if she could get to me. I have now realised that she is very tired and does not know how to soothe herself. I put the TV on and sit and watch it and in 5 minutes she is flat out on her bed. I know she associates the TV with me being still and staying there so she knows that she is going to be OK to sleep.

      Reply
    • You have to do playing with them and put your hand all up in their face and all around and teach them that biting is not okay.

      know it sounds counterintuitive at first but people don’t realize you need to grab them pull them put your hands around their mouth put your hands another belly and get them to being touched all over

      I have a thing called kisses where if she gets a little Teeth on me or something like that I say kisses and she learns

      Reply
    • Hi. I have a staffy x french bulldog who is 5 months old.
      He sound exactly the same as yours and I have tried everything with no
      Positive results. I am getting slightly worried about the biting side as I don’t
      Know whether it’s a puppy thing or will lead to something more.
      I have had numerous dogs over the years but never come across such a stubborn defiant dog before.
      I can tell tell him no 100 times as he just look and carries on.
      I live on my own and wanted one because everyone said they were loyal loving dogs but to be honest at the moment he is making my life a misery.
      Please let me know if you find a cure.

      Reply
    • our hanky did this.. we put a hand on the top of his nose or held his bottom jaw ( much like a fish) with our thumb on his tounge. Just for a couple seconds, he would like us and we would tell him good kisses. When we had to grab his nose or bottom jaw used a forceful no. @# almost 2 he will open up like he will bite and then stares at us like “can I” but we say no ( still forcefully) and he instantly gives kisses.
      Remember to really focus lots of praise ( almost excessive) on the good behavior and be very firm on the bad.

      Reply
  11. Hi everyone
    I have a 20 month old Amstaff girl who has the most beautiful nature. Unfortunately though, she gets separation anxiety. Even if I am inside the house and she is outside and can see me, she stands at the door licking it and drooling heavily and panting (she is not a dog who drools usually). It breaks my heart and is affecting my whole life as I feel so guilty leaving her – she has a big back yard, lots of water, toys, shade, access to the laundry with her bed via doggy door and I leave the radio on! Does anyone know how to stop the drooling and heavy breathing? I’m worried about how much it is affecting her 🙁

    Reply
  12. Please can you advise me, my staffy is 4yrs old, very spoilt, everytime we go to beach almost anywhere in car, even for his daily walk he gets so excited he cries and howls all way till we get there getting worse, bit hard when you driving, any ideas what I can do, would be v we y grateful thanku,

    Reply
  13. Hey my name is bec i have 2 staffys one male one female, my girl luna is on heat she is one year old and my boy blitz is 2 years old , luna has just stopped bleeding and the past 3 days blitz wont leave her side and he is always whimpering and crying for her he trys to mount her and luna grals and snaps at him really bad everytime he trys he wont give up and he is smaller then her so he finds it hard to connect with her for matting . Whys is he always crying like that and why is she snapping at him

    Reply
  14. Hi
    We have rehomed a 4 1/2yrs old Staffy cross old English bull dog had him about 3 months now and I believe he is starting to show signs of anxiety – I dont think its related to leaving his previous home but more that hes very happy with us and doesnt want to be taken away again

    When we 1st got him he settled in very quickly and loved his new home we are both retired and have a large garden for him to play in – giving the dog 24 7 attention

    1st sign of trouble was he started not wanting to go for a walk – I now believe this is because it is because he is leaving one of us behind, because when we both go for the walk with him he seems fine – hes also happy to go out with me if my partner is out for the day

    2nd sign is when we need to go out and have to leave him at home ( shopping etc) although its not anything bad when we are leaving he just looks at us as if to say can I come too – but soon settles once we have left and is pleased to see us when we return.

    Now as the lock down has lifted family are visiting us, but the dog is not happy to allow others into the house. showing signs of aggression if anyone new try’s to get near him.

    We have tried several approaches to over come this – giving the guest treats to give him which he will take then soon as hes taken them he snaps at the guest –

    I asked our son to give notice of them arriving so i could take the dog for a walk for when they turned up so when i returned from the walk the guest where already in the house settled- but this didnt seem to make any difference – soon as we got back from the walk and the dog saw strangers in the garden i took him to see them still with him on the lead so i could control him – soon as he got close enough he went from a tail wagging i want to meet you dog to snapping at them – no barking or snarling just snapped if they got to close

    next I asked our daughter to meet me outside the house when she visited to be introduced to the dog – This went very, well she was able to stroke him make a fuss, she even took the lead and walked him into and around the garden why i stood next to her –
    Thinking i’d solved the issue i took the lead back and as soon as I had the lead again he snapped at our daughter
    We have taken him out to the local pub meet complete strangers where he was no problem – He didn’t seem to want to make a point of seeing others but at same time when they approached he didn’t show any signs of aggression.
    He has meet other dogs when out again didnt seem to want to know them but didnt show any aggression when the other dog did the normal doggy greeting routine
    He has always shown aggression towards any post any one ringing the door bell lots of barking and chewing the post – This im dealing with by making him go into another room before the door is opened – he does bark a lot if there is a noise outside a car door shutting neighbours putting rubbish in their bins etc we have tried ignoring this and now telling him off to try and stop the barking

    I am lost what to do with making him understand visitors are allowed into the house – Its upsetting for all to see this the kids want to play with him, and im sure he’d enjoying running about after a ball with them
    – For now im having to shut him away in a separate area not only to protect the guests but to keep the dog from becoming over stressed

    last little note when i mention kids im talking adults in their 30’s still our kids but adults in their own rights

    if anyone has any similar situation and could suggest ways of dealing with this problem i would be happy to hear them

    Reply
    • Hi Jon, thanks for commenting and well done on rehoming a Staffy, great news!

      It can be difficult to assess rescue dog’s behaviour because you can never really tell exactly what they have been through in the past.

      Unfortunately, I’m not an expert in dog behaviour so I don’t think I’ll be able to offer any concrete tips here but hopefully, someone else will be able to chime in with overcoming a similar situation.

      It seems like the dog has become very protective over his new home but needs to be shown that people who are invited in do not pose any threat to him or you.

      You mention some small success when meeting your daughter outside of the home. Perhaps it would be a good idea to allow the dog to be with your children outside the house more often in the hope he becomes comfortable enough with them to remain calm once they’re in the house as well.

      Of course, this approach isn’t going to be possible with other less frequent visitors but would at least help when your kids come round.

      I’ll also add that the dog is still adjusting fully after only 3 months so these things can often be a matter of time, consistency and patience. Once he understands that his new home is safe and permanent, he may gradually calm.

      I’m sorry I wasn’t able to offer more direct help but maybe another reader can. If not, a visit from a behavioural expert/trainer could be in order if nothing changes in the future so they can assess the situation properly.

      Thanks again for visiting the website,
      Laine @ Smiling Staffy

      Reply
  15. I have a beautiful 2yr old, unaltered female Staffy. She came to me a year ago. She had been abandoned and quickly started speration anxiety behaviors almost immediately after she bonded with me. It seemed to be improving, and I never leave her for more than a couple of hours. But we moved into a new house 4 months ago. Everything seemed normal but we have had to do many renovations to the new place and it seems like even the smallest of changes, like the arrangement if furniture, makes her depressed.
    What can I do to make my Staffy baby happy again?

    Reply
  16. Hi. We have an 18 month old boy Stafford. We got him as a puppy and he has. Ever had a problem with our huskador other than she won’t play with him enough. About a month ago he attacked her aggressively when she walked by the bathroom. Has had other attacks ( did notice one was toy one was good related). However when we did the dog park – where he only chases his ball and could seem to care less other dogs are there. He latched on to a dog and I had to lay on him. He was frothing and growling. He since has growled and attacked our other dog (much more severely than before) & got the same agressive growl and seemed as if he was going to bite my husband (who is his favorite person as she can give him all the kisses). We can’t figure it out and he is usually our sweetheart. Not sure why we are lunging and starting dog fighting behavior. Please help. We love the guy but we have to separate the rooms they are in as the huskador is visibly anxious/scared to be near him..

    Reply

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