Signs Your Dog Is Stressed

Your dog communicates with you using body language. He cannot tell us that he is happy, not feeling well, or overwhelmed. It is up to you to know or find out what your dogs behavior and body language is telling you. We know the signs of a happy dog: wagging tail, ears perked up, and possible jumping on you and licking your face, but do you know when your dog is stressed?

Understanding the signs of stress is important; this way you can remove your dog from a stressful situation before it escalates into a potentially aggressive and dangerous scenario.  There are many ways to prevent anxiety in dogs, one that you may not think about is training. Its best to start training as soon as possible, and preferably before your dog starts showing signs of anxiety or stress. Training builds confidence, and a confident dogs is typically a dog that does not stress easily. 

Here is a list of some signs of stress:
  • Yawning
  • Scratching
  • Ears pinned back
  • Panting
  • Excessive shedding
  • Licking of the mouth and nose
  • Chewing/destructive behaviors
  • Excessive sniffing
  • Accidents
  • Shaking off (like after a bath)
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomitting
  • Barking/growling
  • "Whale" eye
  • Paw lift and shifting weight away from what is making him nervous
  • Mounting/humping
  • Pacing
  • Loss of interest in food, toys, ect.

As you start to recognize what your dog is saying with his body language, keep in mind that certain stress signals need to be taken in context. For example, when your dog scratches its neck when you're sitting on the couch watching t.v, he probably just had an itch and is not showing signs of stress. However, if you are at the vets office with a lobby full of dogs and you notice your dog scratching, that is most likely a sign of anxiety or stress.

After you understand when your dog is stressed, you need to learn how to help your dog handle these situations. 

Here are a few tips:
  • Rules and Structure: implement positive training and don't focus on the unwanted behaviors. Dogs do best and are much less stressed when they know what the expectations are. You cannot constantly change the rules on them and expect them to know what you want from them.
  • Spend time with your dog: do things your dog enjoys such as playing fetch or going on a walk
  • Exercise regularly: exercise is a great stress reducer for humans as well as dogs! Take your dog on a run with you, or go to a park and throw a frisbee!

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