It is important for your dog’s health and the safety of any humans that s/he will come in contact with that a dog does not get stressed and/or anxious.
Therefore, it is crucial that dog owners know the signs that their dog is stressed or anxious.
You and your dog speak a different language – but that doesn’t mean they can’t tell you how they are feeling.
As a caring dog owner, you need to be aware of the subtle, and not so subtle, signs and actions that your dog is stressed. Your dog may not be able to use words to communicate how they are feeling, but their actions will.
Your dog, and especially puppies, should be made to feel safe and secure in everyday environments. Especially if they are a new addition to your family or you have just moved house.
Therefore, it is vital that you are able to recognize the signs that your dog is stressed, anxious or that they are frightened.
In Memory of Jessie – A victim of Circumstance
One of my neighbors had to put down his Jack Russell a few years back because of a stress reaction. He’d taken Jessie, his dog, down to a local park where there was a sporting event taking place.
Jessie had a sweet gentle nature and loved nothing more than to play with children. The kids could do almost anything with her, smother her, dress her up, tease her, you name it they did it and Jessie lapped it up.
However, on this particular day in the park, Jessie became stressed and her owner had already decided to take her home and away from the crowd.
However, not before a little girl reached out and touched Jessie, who had been looking the other way and was startled by the touch. Jessie instinctively bit the little girl’s hand.
Knowing she had done wrong Jessie became even more stressed, anxious and frightened as parents, who had also become frightened, anxious and stressed also reacted to the situation.
A little girl screaming, her parents yelling and screaming, a dog growling and barking. It was chaos.
Unfortunately for Jessie, and all those who had the pleasure of knowing her, the police decided that she was a risk to society and she was put down.
Recognize The Signs of When Your Dog is Stressed, Anxious or Frightened
These are some of the most common signs that a dog is stressed, anxious or fearful. By being able to recognize these signs you should be able to prevent any unnecessary stress for your dog.
Furthermore, early recognition of any one of these signs that your dog is stressed, anxious or fearful will help to avert any aggressive behavior your dog might show towards humans.
Ahh, the trusty tail! Your dog’s tail can tell you a lot about your his/her mood, happy, sad or stressed. Ways your dog might show their stress with their tail are:
- Holding their tail between legs, either still or wagging
- Holding their tail low with only the end wagging
- Tail down or straight for curly-tailed dog
Your dog’s ear position speaks volumes. A happy and relaxed dog will have their ears in “neutral” position – where they naturally sit. Extremely pinned back or flat ears indicate stress or fear.
Yawning – more than tired?
Yawning can just be a sign of genuine tiredness after a day of romping around. Watch for excessive yawning – this can be a sign of stress, particularly when accompanied by a tucked tail or pinned ears
Excessive grooming is a sign of stress in both cats and dogs. In fact, in some cases, obsessive licking due to chronic stress can cause hair loss and trauma.
Look At The Whole Picture
There is a wee bit of an art to reading your dog’s body language, but watch and observe your dog and it will get easier!
Keep in mind, when assessing your dog’s mood, you need to look at the whole picture, rather than one behavior.
Pinned ears can indicate fear when coupled with a stiff, crouching body and tucked tail.
Pinned ears with a relaxed, wagging tail and loose body movement is often a friendly, welcoming expression.
My Dog Is Stressed – What Should I do?
One of the best ways to raise a confident dog is through plenty of socialization: the more opportunities your dog has to be around new people and environments the better!
Prevention is always better than any cure. So the earlier you start training your dog the better. Enroll your puppy in puppy preschool classes, arrange regular playdates and invite friends over to meet your new dog.
Socializing your dog, and introducing them to “Life” early will often put them at ease when these situations arise later in life. The more exposed they are to “Life” the less fearful, anxious and/or stressed they will be.
Your dog should get as much exposure to “Life situations” as possible.
Things like traveling in cars, shopping centers, sporting and large public events with large volumes of people. Your dog should be comfortable in any ordinary “Life situation” and therefore not be anxious, stressed or fearful.
Get Creative And Get Moving
People are often surprised to learn that exercise is the number one therapy for a happy, healthy dog. Exercise releases endorphins burn energy and generally leads to a chilled out, better-behaved dog!
However, that being said, if your dog is stressed already then it may not be easy, let alone wise, to try and take them out for some exercise.
In that case, if your dog is stressed already, you may want to try some external remedies. There are lots of products on the market, here are a few suggestions:
Soothing Dog Sounds
And although I was initially skeptical of this one, it worked on my Newfie around Guy Fawkes time. So there you go!
Dogs really do respond to calming sounds. Spoiled Pets Shop [Affiliate Link] has a line of CDs with calming music picked specifically for dogs. There are a ton of options and great reviews. Check them out here: Soothing Dog Sounds [Affiliate Link]
DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone Diffuser
DAP diffusers [Affiliate Link] are proven to help relax dogs, in fact, many vet clinics and boarding kennels utilize them.
If your dog is showing constant signs of stress in normal everyday situations I recommend you speak to your vet or canine behaviorist about desensitization training.
Check them out here: DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone Electric Diffuser [Affiliate Link]
Aromadog Calming Dog Toys
Aromadaog, [Affiliate Link] have a fantastic range of the world’s first aromatherapy pet toys.
This new and exciting range of therapeutic dog toys combine the soothing effects of essential oils and the natural instinct to play and sniff.
Aromadaog’s unique calming blend of 100% therapeutic grade lavender essential oils helps your dog with:
- separation anxiety
- thunderstorms and fireworks
- night pacing
- travel anxiety
- vet visits
- and boredom
As your dog plays with these toys a calming blend of lavender essential oils is released into the air, helping dogs feel relaxed and happy.
Definitely worth investigating further: Aromadog Calming Dog Toys [Affiliate Link]
Prevention Is Better Than Any Cure
Remember, prevention is better than any cure. Exposing your dog to “Life situations” while they are still a puppy goes a long way to avoiding stress and anxiety. Dogs are also less likely to get frightened easily the more they experience “frightening’ things when they are young.
Regardless of the age of your dog, try to anticipate environmental factors that may frighten your dog.
For example, if you decide to take your dog to a public event with lots of people, loud music or heavy machinery, etc and they have not experienced that before, be there for them. Hold them close, reassure them. And watch them closely.
And above all else, watch for things that you may not be able to control.
Things like little children suddenly reaching out to your dog or other dogs that seemingly appear out of nowhere. Any sudden movement in close proximity to a dog which is already stressed or anxious could be disastrous.
- Watch for signs of anxiety or stress for both your dog’s safety and other peoples.
- Do not punish your dog for being anxious or stressed as this can increase fear and even lead to aggression.
- Always remove a stressed or frightened dog from the situation or stimulus.
Full disclosure – Affiliate Links: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need really them.Tags: Anxiety, Behavior modification, Stress