Dogs are expressive beings. From the crazy wagging of their whole body along with the tail at the sight of you, to the guilty expression they sport after chewing your favorite things, their expressions seem to speak volumes. But what about those subtle cues and expressions that tell you that your pooch is feeling stressed? Are they as easy to read too? Let’s take a look.
Knowing When He’s Relaxed
For you to understand how your dog behaves when he is feeling anxious, you’ll first need to know how he looks when he’s relaxed. A relaxed dog has a serene look about him. His eyes may be slightly squinted. He will keep his ears forward and half erect (unless they are floppy) and his breathing will be even and it’ll almost look as if he is smiling.
Recognizing The Signs Of Stress
Here are 13 tell-tail signs that your dog is feeling anxious or stressed:
1. Loss of Appetite
It’s important to have your dog checked up if he seems to have suddenly lost interest in his food. It could either be stress or an underlying medical condition.
2. Sleeping More Than Usual
You know your dog’s sleeping routine well and if you see any change in his schedules or find him sleeping a lot more than usual, he may be stressed, injured or sick.
3. Aggression Towards Others
A stressed dog can show aggression towards other pets or people in the house. The aggression might be accompanied by a fearful posture and facial expression.
4. Ears Pinned-Back
Pinning back of ears is a tell-tale sign that your dog is stressed. This is true for all the different kinds of ears that dogs have. Your dog will draw his ears back when in an uncomfortable situation.
5. Licking His Nose and Lips
Excessive and sudden licking of the nose and lips shows that your dog is feeling stressed because of something in his environment. You’ll need to keep in mind, the context here, as dogs sometimes lick their lips in front of food, or even when they feel nauseous.
When accompanied by other behaviors like pinning back their ears, or avoidance, yawning can be a sign that your dog is uncomfortable and stressed.
Dogs usually pant to cool themselves down when they’re hot or when they’ve been running about. If your dog begins to pant for no reason, it’s a sign that he is feeling stressed.
8. Destructive Behaviors
Dogs may try to reduce their stress by chewing and biting furniture and other things at home. This usually happens when your dog feels separation anxiety.
At times, your dog may try to avoid being near people or other dogs. There’s something in his environment that’s stressing him or he’s finding it uncomfortable to interact normally with others. The best thing to do is to respect his need and leave him alone for a while.
10. Accidents In The House
Accidents in the house in an otherwise housebroken dog may be a sure-shot sign of stress. This may happen when your dog is stressed from being alone at home. What may help in this case is crate-training to give your dog a small area to feel safe in.
11. Excessive Sniffing
If your dog starts sniffing incessantly all of a sudden during his walk or at the dog park, it’s usually a sign that that there’s something in his environment that is stressing him out. He might actually keep sniffing and ignore all your commands. You can try and find a pattern in this behavior of his to narrow down the cause.
12. Gastric Trouble
Gastrointestinal illnesses like diarrhea or constipation can be a sign that your pooch is stressed. Even recurring allergies and skin problems can stem from stress. If these ailments don’t have an obvious cause, like a change in diet for instance, stress is usually the culprit.
13. Barking A Lot
If your dog is barking excessively, whether he is inside or outside of the house, it can be a sign that he is stressed. You can try and determine if there is a pattern in his behavior and figure out what is it in his environment that stresses him out.
Ways To Calm Him Down
1. Establish a routine. It’s important for dogs to see some predictability in their daily routine. When they know what to expect, chances of them being stressed are less.
2. Avoid getting him into stressful situations. If he suffers from separation anxiety for instance, try leaving him in a good daycare facility for the time you’re away.
3. A tired dog is a happy dog. A fun workout can be a great stress-reliever for your dog. Before you set out for the day, try planning a long walk with your pooch.
4. Keep your dog around you as you do different thing around the house. He loves your company and it de-stresses him.
5. Establish rules and be consistent with them. Dogs need to know what is expected of them and love to please you. If your dog breaks a rule, be gentle but firm in ensuring he understands what you expect of him. But ensure that you are consistent in your expectations of him. Changing the rules often will only confuse your dog and stress him out.