Your dog cannot come out and tell you when he is feeling stressed or anxious, so it is up to you to learn the signs. One of the best ways to learn how your dog is feeling is to evaluate his body language. When a dog is stressed or anxious he will exhibit certain behaviors that can clue you in to how he is feeling. Below you will find an overview of dog body language as well as some tips for helping to make your dog feel better.
Common Signs of Stress in Dogs
If you spend a lot of time with your dog, you probably have a pretty good feel for how he normally acts. When your dog suddenly starts to change the way he behaves, it is often a sign that something is wrong. All dogs react to stress differently, but there are a few common signs that indicate stress or anxiety in dogs, including the following:
Yawning – It may seem strange, but when a dog becomes stressed he may yawn repeatedly – a stress yawn is generally more intense than the type of yawn your dog exhibits when he is tired.
Nose and Lip Licking – A very common sign of stress or anxiety in dogs is licking of the nose and lips, especially if it is done repeatedly.
Panting – This is a normal behavior for dogs, but if the temperature is not warm and your dog did not just get back from a walk, panting could be a sign of stress or anxiety. In addition to panting, you may also notice some tension around your dog’s mouth and eyes.
Pinned Ears – Your dog can express a wide range of emotions just using the position of his ears. When your dog’s ears are pinned back, it is often a sign of anxiety or stress.
Avoidance – When your dog becomes uncomfortable or stressed, he may avoid interacting with you. He may also avoid eye contact or turn his whole body away from you.
Low Tail – Your dog’s tail is another key method for expression. If your dog normally carries his tail high, a lowered tail might be a sign of stress.
In addition to these behaviors, your dog might also become restless or start pacing when he is anxious. Other signs of anxiety may include whining, slow movement, dilated pupils, tension in the body, and refusal of food.
What Causes Stress in Dogs?
There are a number of things that can cause your dog to become stressed or anxious. Some dogs, for example, simply do not like other dogs and they may become anxious if another dog comes too close to them. Other dogs are nervous around children or strangers, and some may become nervous around other household pets.
Stress can also be induced by a change in routine, prolonged periods of isolation or solitude, changes in diet, or the absence of a family member. In some cases, injury or illness can also cause your dog to become stressed.
Tips for Dealing with Stress
The first step in dealing with your dog’s stress or anxiety is to identify its cause. If your dog’s stress is caused by a negative stimulus (such as the presence of another dog or a stranger), all you have to do is remove that stimulus to make your dog feel more comfortable.
If you cannot remove the stimulus, try petting your dog in a calming manner or offer him his favorite toy, so that he can work off some of the anxiety. If your dog’s stress is the result of an illness or injury, take him to the vet for a checkup.
Sticking to a set routine can work wonders for reducing stress and anxiety in dogs, so try to keep things as stable as possible for your dog.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian