signs of stress in dogs

10 Most Common Signs Of Stress in Dogs

Stress, an ubiquitous term encompassing feelings of strain and pressure, manifests in multifarious ways. The origins of stress are as diverse as the human experience itself. Perhaps it emerges from the demands of a demanding job, the unease accompanying novel social interactions, or the disquiet stemming from disruptions to one’s daily routine.

In our quest to ameliorate stress, we humans have developed a repertoire of coping mechanisms. Seeking solace in the comforting presence of trusted friends, finding respite in the rhythm of mundane household chores, or releasing pent-up tension through physical exertion are but a few examples.

Yet, amid our quest to mitigate stress in our own lives, we must not overlook the reality that our beloved canine companions, too, are susceptible to the throes of stress.

In this case, however, there are no vocalizations, phone slams, or temper tantrums to serve as overt indicators. Dogs, being devoid of human expressions, communicate their stress in subtler ways, occasionally even masquerading stress-related behaviors as entirely normal conduct.

Most common signs of stress in dogs

The challenge, then, becomes deciphering the nuanced indicators of stress in dogs. Here, we explore some of the telltale signs that may hint at your canine friend’s inner turmoil:

    1. Pacing or Shaking: While a vigorous shake post-bath or after a romp in the grass is a familiar sight, these actions take on a different connotation when viewed through the lens of stress. Visits to the veterinarian’s office, for instance, often elicit nervous shakes. Dogs may also engage in repetitive pacing, tracing a familiar path around the examination room while awaiting the arrival of the veterinarian.
    2. Whining or Barking: Vocalization, a natural mode of self-expression in dogs, can intensify when stress looms large. Anxious or fearful dogs may resort to whining or barking as a means to capture your attention or seek solace.

 

  1. Yawning, Drooling, and Licking: While yawning is a common response to tiredness or boredom, it can also serve as an outlet for stress. Stress-induced yawns tend to be more pronounced and prolonged. Excessive drooling and licking may also manifest as dogs grapple with anxiety.
  2. Changes in Eyes and Ears: Stress can alter a dog’s ocular and auditory demeanor. Pupils may dilate, and rapid blinking might occur. Dogs may widen their eyes, exposing more of the sclera (white part), creating a startled appearance. Normally relaxed or alert ears may flatten against the head.
  3. Changes in Body Posture: Dogs typically distribute their weight evenly across all four legs. However, stress may prompt a shift in weight distribution to the rear legs or lead to cowering. Fearful dogs might also tuck their tails or become rigid in response to perceived threats.
  4. Shedding: Dogs, akin to humans, may experience heightened shedding during moments of stress. This phenomenon is often noticeable in settings such as dog shows or veterinary clinics and may even become apparent in outdoor environments when a dog grapples with anxiety.
  5. Panting: While panting is a common response to heat or excitement, it can also signify stress when it occurs without prior exertion. If your dog is panting excessively under such circumstances, it may be indicative of stress.
  6. Changes in Bodily Functions: Like humans, anxious dogs may suddenly experience an urgent need to relieve themselves. Urinating shortly after encountering a new canine acquaintance, for example, may signify a blend of territorial marking and stress. Refusal of food and bowel function disruption are additional indicators.
  7. Avoidance or Displacement Behavior: Confronted with unwelcome situations, dogs may opt for an “escape” strategy. This entails diverting their attention away from the source of stress by engaging in alternative activities such as ground sniffing or self-grooming. Disregarding someone or something may not be deemed polite, but it is a preferable alternative to aggression. If your dog chooses to avoid interactions with other dogs or individuals, it is advisable to respect their autonomy.
  8. Hiding or Escape Behavior: In a continuum of avoidance tactics, certain anxious dogs may physically seek refuge behind their owners or employ subtle nudges to prompt them to move. As an escape mechanism, they might immerse themselves in diversionary behaviors like digging or circling or withdraw behind the cover of a tree or parked vehicle.

By attuning ourselves to these nuanced cues, we can play a pivotal role in mitigating stress in our cherished canine companions, providing them with the solace they seek but cannot articulate.

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How to support a stressed dog

To effectively assist your dog in navigating stressful situations, it’s paramount to develop a keen understanding of your canine companion’s baseline behavior.

This familiarity with your dog’s typical demeanor will empower you to distinguish between signs of stress and ordinary conduct. With this perceptual skillset in place, you can promptly and effectively address discomforting circumstances.

In moments of relaxation, your dog’s body language will offer valuable cues. Observe for semi-erect or forward-facing ears, a relaxed mouth, and eyes with a round and gentle expression.

Additionally, a relaxed dog typically maintains an even distribution of weight across all four paws. These attributes collectively serve as touch points for distinguishing between normal behavior and stress indicators.

How to treat stress in dogs ?

If you discern signs of stress in your dog, it’s vital to take immediate action to alleviate their distress. Here’s a structured approach to follow:

Remove from Stressors

As a first measure, relocate your dog away from the source of stress. Find a quiet, familiar space where they can regroup and regain their composure. It’s important, however, to resist the inclination to overly comfort your pet at this stage.

Structured Distraction

While offering comfort is natural, it can be more beneficial to introduce structured distractions. Before pampering your dog with petting or treats, encourage them to earn these rewards by performing a simple activity, such as sitting. This approach not only redirects their focus but also reinstates a semblance of routine, which can be inherently comforting.

Routine Commands

Employ routine commands like “sit,” “down,” or “heel” to engage your dog. These familiar tasks serve as effective diversions, providing mental stimulation and reinforcing a sense of normalcy. It’s remarkable how these basic commands can offer solace to an anxious dog.

Consulting with Professionals

If your dog consistently exhibits signs of stress, it’s advisable to seek professional guidance. Initiate this process by consulting with your veterinarian. They will first ensure that there are no underlying medical factors contributing to your dog’s behavior.

Subsequently, they may recommend consulting with a certified trainer or a veterinary behaviorist to further evaluate and address stress-related concerns. In certain cases, anxiety-reducing medications may be prescribed, if deemed appropriate by the healthcare provider.

Harnessing the Power of Exercise and Safe Spaces

Much like humans, dogs benefit significantly from physical exercise as a means to alleviate stress. Engaging in activities such as leisurely walks or invigorating games of fetch not only promotes bonding but also facilitates the release of built-up tension.

Moreover, it’s prudent to establish a designated safe space within your home where your dog can retreat during anxious moments. This area should exude tranquility and provide a refuge from potential stressors. Every being, canine or otherwise, appreciates having a serene sanctuary to retreat to when the need arises.

Embracing the Complexity of Stress

Lastly, it’s essential to acknowledge that stress, though often perceived negatively, serves a protective function. Fear, a stress-related emotion, compels both humans and dogs to steer clear of potentially perilous situations. Stress, in this context, functions as a guardian.

In the intricate tapestry of life, stress is an inescapable thread woven into the experiences of both humans and dogs. Learning how to navigate and manage it effectively is a skill worth mastering for the well-being of our canine companions and ourselves.

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