Some signs of stress in dogs
"Your dog may become more active, moving faster, pacing, or just acting like she can’t sit still. Or she may become very still and seem distant or shut down, seeming to ignore things going on around her. She may even freeze in place and refuse to move at all.She may back away or turn away from the situation. This may be very obvious, or it may just be that she averts her eyes or turns her head away very slightly. You may see her crouching down closer to the ground or cowering. Even a slight lowering of her body toward the ground can signal uncertainty and stress.
Dogs that are stressed may refuse to eat or drink. Sometimes dogs that travel, or are boarded, will not eat or drink normally due to the stress of being someplace new. In a new situation, you may find your dog won’t eat treats that she normally would eat. This is due to being stressed. That being said, some dogs drink more when they are stressed, and some dogs will eat even when they are stressed, but they will start to chomp harder for the treats.
While some yawning is just a symptom of a sleepy dog, a big exaggerated yawn is a symptom of stress. Your dog may yawn at times other than nap times and will usually yawn frequently if she is stressed.
Panting heavily when she has not been exercising hard is a sign of stress. Her mouth may be dry, or it may be excessively wet with drool. Diarrhea and urine marking may be signs of stress.
If your dog is licking her lips with very quick and small movements, she is probably stressed. This one is easy to miss because the movement is so quick it’s hard to see. Trembling can be a sign of stress, but it can also be a sign that the dog is cold or in pain. Whining and barking excessively is a sign of stress.
Chewing and mouthing behavior may increase when your dog is stressed. She may chew more when left alone if she is stressed. She may put her mouth on skin, clothing, her leash, etc., when she is stressed. Mouthing is normal in puppies, but you will notice if the puppy gets stressed the mouthing will escalate.
Any time your dog is trying to hide behind you or a barrier, she is stressed and wants to leave the situation. Shaking off her whole body as if she just had a bath is a sign of stress. You may see this after a stressful event, or you may see it repeatedly if the stressful situation continues. If you see wet paw prints on a surface when your dog has not just walked through something wet, she is stressed. Dogs sweat through their paw pads, so this is more obvious when they are stressed.
A dog that doesn’t respond to known cues may be stressed. When a dog is stressed, she can’t learn easily or think clearly, so she may not respond to even simple requests. When your dog is stressed, there are chemical changes going on in her body that prevent her from thinking clearly. This often leads to dogs reacting quickly and instinctively, which is not usually how we expect our dogs to act. If too many elements of stress are present at the same time and the dog feels like she cannot cope, she may act to defend herself, maybe even by biting.
Stress can begin to build in your dog’s day to day activities. Stress tends to build on itself and accumulate over time. If your dog’s stress level is already high, it won’t take much to tip the scale and create a bad situation. Your dog may be able to handle a young child coming up to pet her on a normal day. But what if you are remodeling your house and your dog has to deal with strangers coming and going all day long for weeks on end, plus the noise (or vibrations) and commotion of power tools, people yelling to each other, a stressed out owner, etc? If you add a child trying to pet your dog into that mix, your dog may feel so overwhelmed by everything else going on that she snaps at the child, or worse.
So it’s important to try to keep your dog’s stress levels low in her daily life so she is better able to handle the unusual things that come her way. Be aware of when things are getting over the top. When will your dog’s scale finally tip? Don’t let it get to that point. Give your dog a time-out when needed. Protect her from getting overwhelmed. Use some stress-reducing techniques in your dog’s daily life. And remember that your dog will react to your stress levels as well. Taking good care of yourself and keeping your own stress levels under control are good wellness care, but will also help you be that much closer to keeping your dog’s stress levels under control.
Stress is not something to be scared of. It is normal and healthy for the body to react differently to certain things changing in the environment. It is what keeps us safe and allows us to avoid unpleasant and potentially dangerous situations. By keeping everyday stress levels low, you will allow your dog’s body to be able to handle slightly stressful situations easily and return to a state of calm afterwards. By learning about your dog’s stress signs, you will be able to help her to reduce her stress reactions while in the moment."
Excerpt from Through A Dark Silence
- click on title to learn more about my book!