11 Signs Your Dog is Stressed

Stress is a normal part of everyday life—for both humans and animals. Just like people sometimes have a hard time coping with stress, dogs can also struggle in stressful situations.

Aggressive dog breeds sometimes lash out in stressful situations, while some breeds stress so much that they make themselves physically ill. By familiarizing yourself with stress indicators, you can prevent attacks and injuries, and also keep your pet happy and healthy.


Each dog exhibits stress in its own way, but here are 11 common stress indicators to watch for.


1. Accidents
Dogs who feel stressed will begin to have accidents around the house. If you’ve house-trained your dog and it suddenly has accidents inside, it might fear being left alone.


2. Destructive Behaviours
Many dogs alleviate their stress and anxiety by destroying things around them. Stressed dogs will chew or bite on furniture, people, or their own bodies to feel more in control.


3. Avoidance
Your dog might look or turn away when approached, or it might ignore you when they you call it by name. By avoiding interaction with people and/or other animals, your dog is telling you that it is uncomfortable.


Keep in mind that avoidance is preferable to aggression. If your dog avoids interaction with any person or animal, respect its space.


4. Illness
Dogs that tend to be nervous or shy often internalize their stress. This can lead to physical illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or skin problems.


5. Excessive Shedding
Shedding is natural, but stressed or nervous dogs will shed more than normal. If you pet your dog and notice more fur than usual comes off, it probably feels stressed and uncomfortable.


6. Pinned-Back Ears
This is one of the most obvious dog stress indicators. Whether your dog’s ears stand up or hang low, it will pin its ears against its head when it feels stressed.


7. Stress Yawning

Most dogs yawn fairly often, but stressed dogs will yawn repeatedly in short amounts of time. Stress yawns are also more intense than tired yawns.


8. Panting
Dogs pant to cool themselves off. But if your dog pants when it’s inside and hasn’t exercised, it might feel uncomfortable. Be careful around dogs who suddenly stop panting and close their mouths—they might be getting ready to bite.


9. Barking
Excessive or seemingly needless barking is a clear sign of anxiety. Howling—both inside and outside—also indicates stress.


10. Excessive Sniffing
Your dog isn’t ignoring you when it trails off and starts sniffing—it feels stressed. Dogs will often sniff excessively in conjunction with other behaviours. Be on the lookout for other signs of stress before you worry about your dog’s sniffing habits.


11. Lip and Nose Licking
Most dogs love to lick things, but stressful licks look different than happy licks. Stressed or nervous dogs often lick their lips and nose repetitively. This behaviour most often accompanies other stress indicators, including yawning and avoidance.


Other Signs
As we mentioned above, all dogs cope with stress in their own way. Other common stress indicators include:


  • Tense, slow movement
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tension around the eyes and mouth
  • Low body posture
  • Shifted weight to the back legs
  • Low tail carriage


What Can You Do to Calm Your Dog?
Recognizing anxiety is the first step to helping your dog cope with stress. Here are some other ways you can alleviate your dog’s stress.


Remove the Stressor
Any time you notice your dog exhibiting stressful behaviours, remove them from the situation. If your dog starts panting around new people, take it to a room with no people in it. Let your dog decompress and calm down in a safe, quiet place.


Don’t Comfort Your Dog
Many dog owners hug or cuddle their dogs when they notice signs of stress. But this often does more harm than good because it confirms a dog’s fears. Consequently, dogs will feel less confident and safe in future similar situations.


Stick to a Routine
Routine is essential to a happy, stress-free dog. Provide your dog with structure and stability by feeding it, walking it, and playing with it at the same time each day.


Spend Time with Your Dog
An essential part of routine is companionship. The best way to prevent and alleviate a dog’s stress is to simply spend more time with it. Dogs crave attention, so taking it for a walk or letting it sit near you while your work will help ease its fear and anxieties.


Exercise on a Regular Basis

Both humans and dogs benefit from physical exercise. Taking your dog for walks and playing fetch with it will help keep both of you healthy.


Prevent Stress
The best way to help your dog cope with stress is to stop it before it starts. Train your dog when it is young to keep your dog and anyone who interacts with your dog safe.

A few training ideas include:

  • Providing your dog with its own bed or crate. This gives your dog its own safe, private space to which it can go when it feels scared.
  • Setting rules to help your dog learn appropriate behaviours around people and other animals.
  • Differentiating between your space and your dog’s space.
  • Taking your dog to parks to socialize it with other people and animals.


A stress-free dog is a happy dog. Talk to your vet and read our other blog posts to learn more about keeping your dog healthy.

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