How to tell if a dog is stressed.
Updated: Mar 25
Is your dog not its usual happy self? Is it not lavishing the usual amount of attention on you or perhaps going overboard with showing you its love. Don’t just ignore this unusual behavior but consider that your dog might actually be stressed. Stress isn’t just a human complaint: dogs suffer from it too. To help you assess the situation we’ve created a list of the most common signs of stress (in alphabetical order) in dogs followed by the causes and ways to alleviate it. Here are the best ways to tell whether your dog is stressed.
1. Abnormal shedding If you are use to your dog’s shedding seasons, you might notice it is losing hair at an unusual time of year. This is a certain sign of stress, especially if you spot your dog literally pulling out it’s own fur.
2. Aggression If your normally docile dog behaves in an aggressive manner for no apparent reason, then stress could well be the cause.
3. Bark, Bark, Bark! If you are home and your dog just won’t stop barking and you can’t fathom out the cause, or if your neighbors tell you your dog barks when your not home stress could be the culprit.
4. Cowering You may notice this more in a new dog that has not been socialized properly. It might cower if people suddenly approach it as it feels stressed by this action.
5. Crying, Whining, Whimpering This can be a symptom of separation anxiety. Check that your dog isn’t injured or ill. Also, this can be learned behavior to attract your attention.
6. Destructive Behaviour Stress is a very common cause of destructive behavior, especially when you’re out.
7. Diarrhea or Constipation Issues such as diarrhea and constipation can be caused by anxiety. If your dog has either of these regularly and your vet can’t find any particular cause, stress is possibly behind the problem.
8. Ears Pinned Back Some dogs keep their ears erect if they’re unsure of a situation, but most lay back flat on their head. If your dog’s ears are not in their usual position this can point to stress.
9. Excessive Drooling Drooling in dogs is a reflexive action and can be brought on by anxiety. So if your dog isn’t salivating for food or because it’s hot, look out for something that might be causing it to feel stressed.
10. Eyelids Revealing Whites of Eyes – Whale Eye When a dog shows the whites of its eyes this is often referred to as whale eye. If your dog has whale eyes it is quite probably feeling anxious and stressed. A dog in this state can become aggressive and more likely to bite. It’s best to keep your distance until it relaxes and you can figure out the cause.
11. Growling Growling for no obvious reason is often attributable to stress. Be wary as growling can lead to biting. Let your dog calm down before approaching it.
12. Howling If your dog is left alone for any length of time, it may howl because it feels separation anxiety. If you don’t leave your dog with toys enough things to entertain it while you are out it will feel stress caused by sadness and loneliness.
13. Itching and scratching Just like stress can cause some people to bite their nails, it can cause dogs to scratch excessively. So before you reach for the flea treatment, consider if your dog has developed this habit for another reason.
14. Licking Lips and Nose This can be a bit like an obsessive-compulsive disorder and is often due to stress factors.
15. Lips Curled Back If you notice this, stress could be the cause. Beware as it can precede a bite.
16. Loss of appetite Just as we can lose our appetites when stressed, so can dogs. So if your usually hungry dog isn’t wolfing down its food consider that it could be stressed.
17. Pacing To relieve feelings of anxiety, dogs often pace up and down and don’t relax.
18. Panting If your dog is panting and it’s not excited, hot or partaking in exercise then stress may be at the root of this behavior.
19. Scratching at Doors If your dog scratches at a door that you have just exited through this is a sure sign that it is stressed at the thought of being separated from you.
20. Seeking Comfort A dog might want to get on your lap or as close to you as possible if something stressful is nearby.
21. Tail Between Legs Dogs put their tails between their legs if they think they are in trouble, if they have been punished, or if they feel stressed. So if the first two are not the cause you may have a stressed dog on your hands.
22. Tensed Muscles If you notice your dog tense up it is possible that something has caused it to feel stressed.
23. Trembling, Shaking and Shivering If it isn’t a cold day then this could well be signs of a stressed dog.