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The Many Signs of Stress in Dogs

Can you recognize the signs of stress in dogs?

Dogs, just like people, can also suffer negative effects from intense and/or chronic stress. It's important as dog owners and handlers that we be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress in our dogs.

Outward Physical Signs

Some of the usual physical signs that you will see a stressed dog display include:

  • Mouth area may include panting, drooling, yawning, lip licking, or "chattering."

  • Ears may be pressed back against the head or straight up indicating arousal.

  • Eyes may be dilated, red, rapidly blinking or "whale eye" (when the whites of the eye are easily visible).

  • Avoidance behaviors, including keeping head turned away from you, and overall body posture is cowering or attempting to be isolated by hiding or moving away from stressful object, person/animal or event, or leaning into their person.

  • Vocalization can include excessive whining, howling, barking, and/or growling.

  • Body postures may include sniffing the ground, pacing, circling, shaking, chewing/destruction of objects or even of the dog itself, and sweaty paws (which can be easily be seen by looking for wet paw prints on the ground.)

Medical Signs

Dogs that are stressed may develop diarrhea, constipation, or other digestive problems such as vomiting. Likewise, a noticeable decrease in appetite can be a sign of stress, as well as other medical ailments. Stressed dogs may also sleep more than usual and seem very lethargic. If you notice these signs in your dog, it's time to contact a veterinarian to determine how to medically assist your pup.

Aggressive Behavior

One of the behaviors stressed dogs may engage in is aggression toward other dogs, animals, and/or people. Generally this is aggression fueled by fear and anxiety, and continued exposure to the stressor will exacerbate the behavior over time. If your dog begins displaying aggressive behavior, contact your veterinarian or a trained professional behavior consultant, such as through the Animal Behavior SocietyInternational Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, or the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

These are just some of the potential signs of stress in dogs. It's important to pay close attention to our dogs for any behaviors that seem "out of the norm" which can indicate stress, anxiety, and even serious medical conditions. Dogs unfortunately can't speak and it's through their body language and vocalizations that they can "tell us" what they are feeling and hope we follow through on alleviating their mental and physical issues.

Photo credit: Banjo on patrol via photopin (license)

Photo credit: Rolo in the dark! via photopin (license)


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