Dogs can experience stress just as humans do. The big difference-maker is that your pup can’t put their stress into words. They can’t tell you they are experiencing it, and they can’t tell you why.
As dog parents, it’s our job to get to know our individual dog’s signs and symptoms of stress. Once we can recognize the physical signs, we can start to piece together the causes and work with our dogs to both relieve their stress and desensitize them to the cause (to hopefully eliminate the stressor altogether).
You love your dog, and you never want to witness them in any stress-related discomfort. Here are some physical signs that may indicate your dog is feeling stressed out:
1) Whining or Barking
Whining and barking are the only outward vocalization signs our dogs can really give us. While these are not always indicative of feeling stressed out, they may provide some insight into what gets our dogs “worked up”, and we can start to figure out if that is coming from a place of stress, or something else.
2) Stiffness or “Freezing Up”
This can be a huge indicator of stress and is a sign that can often be missed by someone not well versed in recognizing dog body language signals. Take notice of things that make your dog seem stiff in posture, or freeze up in their facial expression. A good example of this would be a dog that is not comfortable with people in its face. They may freeze their body language in an attempt to handle that discomfort, but it’s important to note and prevent that discomfort from happening again.
This is a pretty clear sign that something is wrong! It is important to never ignore or punish a growl. While we hope our dogs never act beyond this, we need to recognize growls for that they are– a clear message that something is upsetting to your dog. When your dog growls, we need to evaluate its surroundings and determine what could be causing it. Is it something in their environment making them feel stressed? If you are unable to determine that, perhaps your dog is feeling some sort of internal stress. Could they be in pain? We should proceed with caution when a dog growls. You can contact a professional dog trainer to help you determine how to address this form of stress, or see your dog’s veterinarian to rule out any health issues that may be at play.
4) Unsettled Pacing
Have you ever been so nervous about something that you just can’t sit still? The same feeling can occur in our pets. For example, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, you may notice they pace the house during them. This is a definite sign of stress, so if you notice it, you can take proper steps to relieve your pet or help them through that period of unsettled nerves.
5) Other Body Language Signals
Every dog is different, just as every human handles stress differently. Being conscious of the “signs” our pet gives us is important. While you may not see all of the signs on any list, there are some you may pick up on within your own pet, including any unique body language signals. Your dog may get very “wide-eyed” with enlarged pupils, may lick their lips a lot, yawn often, deflect eye contact with you, raise the hair on their back, tuck their tail, put their ears down, crouch to the floor, or any other number of individualized signs.
A pet parent who is dedicated to recognizing the signs of stress in their dog has taken the first step toward relieving that stress or helping their dog to cope!