Signs Your Dog Is Stressed & How To Help Him

Signs Your Dog Is Stressed & How To Help Him

Author WDF Staff


The term "stress" is frequently used to describe feelings of exhaustion or strain. Stress can have a wide range of underlying causes. Your job, meeting new people, or disrupting your daily routine may cause you to feel nervous or anxious.

There are various ways to reduce stress. Perhaps finding solace when you're feeling overwhelmed works for you. The company of a trusted friend may provide comfort. It's possible that doing chores like cleaning the house helps you decompress from stressful situations. Physical activity could also be a way for you to let off some steam.

Stress can have a negative effect on our dogs as well. We want to help our dogs avoid stress because we understand how it can affect them. As a result, it is difficult for us to tell if our dogs are stressed because they do not express their feelings, smash their phone or throw a tantrum. Dogs' anxiety symptoms can be challenging to detect. On the other hand, stress-related behaviors can sometimes be mistaken for everyday behaviors. Here’s how you can tell your dog is stressed.

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What are the signs of stress in dogs?

To prevent dogs from being stressed, we first need to know how to spot stress signs in dogs. Here are some of the most common stress signs in dogs;

Pacing or shaking

This stress sign is most apparent after a bath. You've probably noticed your dog trembling. Unless you are in a stressful situation, that whole-body shivering can be pretty funny and perfectly natural. When they go to the vet, dogs, for example, are frequently anxious. After the vet exam, many dogs "shake it off" by lowering themselves to the ground and laying down on their backs. When agitated, dogs, like humans, also pace. Circling is a form of pacing, and some dogs will repeatedly circle the exam room while waiting for their dreaded vet to arrive.

scared puppy

Whimpering or yelping

When stressed, your dog's vocalization may become more pronounced. You may hear a dog barking if they're frightened or stressed; it may also be a form of self-calming.

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Drooling, yawning, licking

There was a lot of licking going on. In addition to yawning when tired or bored, dogs will exhibit the same behavior when stressed. Stressful yawns are longer and more pronounced than sleepy yawns, but they are not the same thing. Drooling and excessively licking can also be tell-tale signs of severe stress.

Eye and ear changes

It's not uncommon for dogs to show signs of stress, such as dilated pupils and rapid blinking. A startled look can be achieved by opening their eyes wide and showing a more significant portion of the eye's white part (sclera). Tense or alert earlobes are held firmly against the skull.

scared weimaraner

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A shift in body position

All four limbs of a dog should bear the same amount of weight. A dog without orthopedic problems may be showing signs of stress if they cower or shift their weight to the hindquarters. Additionally, dogs may tuck their tails between their legs or become rigidly tense when afraid.


When a dog gets nervous, it's common for them to "blow their coat." When they're in the vet's office, dogs tend to lose a lot of hair. When stressed, the dog sheds more. In some cases, new public places, like a new dog park, can trigger the response. However, not many owners notice shedding in that environment.

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Dogs can pant when they're nervous or overly excited. Your dog may be stressed if they're panting despite not having exercised.

senior cairn terrier

Physiological changes

It's not uncommon for nervous dogs to experience a need to relieve themselves. Your dog may be marking its territory, but it is also possible they're reacting to the stress they feel after meeting a new dog. It might not seem like much to us, but this can be a pretty big deal for your dog. Other signs of stress include an unwillingness to eat or a loss of bowel function.


To avoid an unpleasant situation, dogs may turn their attention to another object. In addition to smelling and licking the ground, they may also simply turn away. Perhaps, it isn't too polite to ignore someone, but it's a far better scenario than your dog becoming aggressive. You should not force your dog into social situations they are not too comfortable with. Read your dog's body language and respect their decision and feelings.

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Some tense dogs will literally hide behind their owners as a form of avoidance. They will do everything to avoid unpleasant situations, including pushing their owners to get them to move away from them. For cover, they may dig or circle, or hide behind a tree as diversionary tactics.

Is there anything I can do to help my dog cope with stressful situations?

You need to know your dog's usual demeanor pretty well in order to distinguish symptoms of stress from the dog's typical behavior. Then you'll know if lip-licking results from nervousness or simply a desire for a reward.

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Dogs with slightly forward ears, a soft mouth, and open eyes can be considered calm. They'll walk with their weight evenly distributed across all four paws. Identifying stress signs and distinguishing normal behavior will assist you in resolving an uncomfortable situation quickly and effectively.


Remove the stressor from your dog's environment first if they're showing signs of stress. Find a place where they can take a breather. Don't succumb to the temptation to over-comfort them. You can slightly spoil your dog, but make them work for it by having them perform a task first (e.g., sitting). Distracting the dog and providing a comforting feeling are two benefits of obeying simple commands. Sit, down, and heel are surprisingly soothing to a nervous dog.

Your veterinarian should be consulted if your dog shows signs of stress regularly. While it is possible that your dog's behavior is not due to a medical condition, your veterinarian may recommend that you consult a trainer or behavioral expert for help. If necessary, they may also recommend anti-anxiety medications.

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Exercising can help relieve stress in animals, just as it can in humans. Taking a walk or playing fetch with your dog is an excellent way for both of you to relieve stress. It's also a good idea to have a place in your house where your dog can go when they need to get away from stressful situations. All of us enjoy escaping to a peaceful environment.

Finally, keep in mind that stress isn't always a negative thing. Anxiety is an emotion caused by stress, and it "rings" our inner alarm that makes us flee from potentially hazardous situations. In other words, stress may be a shield. Regardless, stress is a fact of life for both humans and their canine companions, so it's essential to learn how to handle it.

World Dog Finder team

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