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10 Signs Your Dog May Show Stress

As I see the rise in mental health awareness in people, I can't help but see it in dogs as well. In dog social circles anxiety and behavior discussions are at the top of the list. To me it is obvious that there is connection. The first step in making changes is knowing where you are today. Because they can't tell us how they feel, we must pay close attention to their body language. I hope this list allows you to look at your dogs behavior and stress in a little different way.

1) Pacing and Shaking

You’ve seen your dog shake after a bath or go roll in the grass. That whole body shake can be amusing and actually a great sign…unless it’s a result of a stressful situation. For example, when dogs are stressful situation like the vet, they will commonly “shake it off” when they descend from the exam table. Then there is that obvious constant "quiver" that happens when a dog is just sitting and beside them self at any situation. Also, some dogs pace when agitated by walking or running in a repeated path.

2) Barking or Whining

Vocalization is a normal canine self-expression, but may be intensified under stress. Dogs that are afraid or tense may whine or bark to get your attention, or to self soothe. Although some breeds are more prone to barking than others, prolonged & unexplained barking can be a sign of stress. Particularly separation anxiety. Other excess vocalization to watch for are whining, whimpering, growling, and excessive panting. If your dog displays any of these, they are probably experiencing stress.

3) Licking, Yawning and Drooling

Dogs yawn when they are tired or bored, but they also yawn when stressed? A stressful yawn is more prolonged and intense than a sleepy yawn. Dogs may also drool and lick excessively when nervous. Other kinds of stress indicators include recurring licking of one place, most often noticeable by telltale pinkish brown stains on your dog’s fur from the enzymes in their saliva. This may be due to plain old boredom, but boredom itself can be a kind of stress.

4) Panting

This one is a little bit harder to figure out because dogs can pant when hot, excited or stressed. But it is also how they regulate their body temperature. So, if your dog is panting even though she hasn’t jogged for miles in the heat of summer, they could possibly be experiencing stress.

5) Showing Gums and Teeth

Playful dogs will show teeth, or even give that "cheesy" smile with the lip curl, but your dog could also be warning aggression. It’s vital to notice that curl before it becomes a snarl, the snarl before a snap, and a snap before a bite. Watch your dog in play, and you may notice a change between the playful showing of teeth and a more dramatic lip curl, the warning of stress before possible aggressive behavior.

6) Bodily Functions and Appetite

Like people, nervous dogs can feel a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. When your dog urinates shortly after meeting a new canine friend, he may be marking territory and reacting to the strain simultaneously. Refusal of food and loss of bowel function are also stress indicators. If your dog’s food intake is inordinately fast, particularly if your dog may have gone hungry in the past, they may have stress around food scarcity. A decrease in appetite might be due to stress, and gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and constipation can be caused by anxiety. However, always consult a vet when your dog has prolonged stomach issues.

7) Eyes and Ears

Stressed dogs, like stressed people, may have dilated pupils and blink rapidly. They may open their eyes really wide and show more sclera (white) than usual, giving them a startled appearance. Showing the whites of their eyes. You may see a crescent shape of white as they look side-to-side. We call this side eye, but your dog isn’t throwing shade. More likely, they are trying to tell you they are feeling freaked out about something. The shapes of dog ears differ, but stress will make any dog’s ears react one of two ways. Some dogs ears perk up under stress, appearing rigid. However, most dogs will display stress by pulling their ears back and laying flat against the head, looking “pinned back.” Either position can indicates stress.

8) Shedding

Show dogs that become nervous in the show ring often “blow their coat”. Dogs also shed a lot when in the veterinary clinic. Although less noticeable in outside settings, such as visiting a new dog park, shedding increases when a dog is anxious.

9)Body Posture

Dogs normally bear even weight on all four legs. If a healthy dog with no orthopedic problems shifts his weight to his rear legs or cowers, he may be exhibiting stress. When scared, dogs may also tuck their tails or become quite rigid. The old “tail between the legs” trick. This is the sign of stress most dog owners know, but not all dogs will use this particular form of body language. If your dog’s tail abandons its normative position and takes positions that indicate stress, you can be pretty sure your dog is stressed about something.

10) Avoidance and Hiding

When faced with an unwelcome situation, dogs may “escape” by focusing on something else. They may sniff the ground, lick their genitals, or simply turn away. Ignoring someone may not be polite, but it’s surely better than being aggressive. If your dog avoids interaction with other dogs or people, don’t force the issue. Respect their choice. Some dogs literally move behind their owners to hide. They may even nudge their owners to prompt them to move along. As a means of escape, they may engage in diversion activities such as digging or circling, or may slink behind a tree or parked car.

I would love to know if you have noticed any of these in your pup? I know I have....

Peace, Love & Paws,


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