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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
14. 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.
15. Licking Lips and Nose
This can be a bit like an obsessive-compulsive disorder and is often due to stress factors.
16. Lips Curled Back
If you notice this, stress could be the cause. Beware as it can precede a bite.
17. 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.
To relieve feelings of anxiety, dogs often pace up and down and don’t relax.
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.
20. 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.
21. Seeking Comfort
A dog might want to get on your lap or as close to you as possible if something stressful is nearby.
22. 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.
23. Tensed Muscles
If you notice your dog tense up it is possible that something has caused it to feel stressed.
24. Trembling, Shaking and Shivering
If it isn’t a cold day then this could well be signs of a stressed dog.
As well as tiredness, a yawn can indicate stress. If your dog yawns when someone strange approaches it, or if someone gives it a hug, this is a sign that those actions make it feel stressed.
Of course, there can be other causes of these stress symptoms such as boredom or lack of exercise. If you are happy that your dog is stimulated well and walked every day, think about why it might be stressed.
Why is My Dog Stressed?
There might be a clear reason such as you are having a noisy party. May dogs can find an event like this stressful. Here are some other things that could be to blame:
- You – If you are upset, arguing or shouting this can make your dog feel insecure, especially if you don’t react positively to any attention it pays you at the time.
- General Noise – Some dogs are stressed by noise levels. They can be sensitive to vacuuming, lawn mowing or strimming, power tools.
- A change to their routine – Dogs are creatures of habit and if you sake up their routine such as change walk time or meal time this can really cause upset.
- Being left alone – some dogs hate it when you go out, especially if being left alone is a new thing.
- Lack of mental stimulation – dogs need challenges to keep their minds occupied. You can set these by having a training session, creating a fun assault course in your garden or providing a new toy.
- Other people – Some dogs exhibit nervous behavior with new people, children or other pets.
How Can I Relieve My Dog’s Stress?
If you suspect any of the above are causes of your dog’s stress, try to eradicate them.
- Diet – make sure your dog has a well-balanced diet to keep it satisfied and healthy.
- Exercise – this is a great stress buster. Make sure your dog gets the right amount of exercise every day.
- Attention– Give your dog plenty of gentle strokes every day. This helps to make it feel relaxed and loved.
- Play – giving your dog quality playtime every day works wonders for its state of mind and greatly reduces its stress levels.
- Routine – if you have altered your dog’s routine try to revert to the old one to see if this removes the signs of stress
- Noise – try to locate your dog in a quieter area. Provide an open crate with a blanket where it can retreat to feel safe. Leave the TV or radio on to try to distract from the noise sources your dog hates.
- Mimic your dog’s behavior – if your dog is licking its lips or blinking, sit down with it and repeat its actions. Your dog may calm down more quickly if it thinks you are feeling the same way.
- Provide a crate or other personal space – many dogs like the security of a crate or bed which is their personal space to feel calm in. Add a blanket over the top to make it cozy and add privacy. Here’s a link to read Amazon reviews for one of the best crates on the market. You can buy a cover to fit this too.
- Training – Good training is crucial from a young age. Making sure your dog is well socialized with as many adults, children and other dogs as possible. Also, expose it to noises of everyday life in a controlled way and make the whole experience as happy as possible.
- Consistency – only ever leave your dog with people it knows and trusts. This will ensure it doesn’t develop stress through insecurity.
- Home alone – If your dog show signs of stress when you leave it alone consider pacing it in a pressure wrap such a Thundershirt. If you want to know exactly what one of these is, here’s a link to read Amazon reviews of a perfect example.
- Company – Getting another dog is a good way of reducing stress caused by loneliness.
- Pheromones – plugging in a pheromone diffuser can help relax your dog.
If your dog continues with stressed behavior no matter what you do, make an appointment to discuss this with your vet.