Would you be able to tell if your dog was stressed out and or anxious? Most dog owners don’t believe that our dogs are able to tell us when something is wrong, but they can, and will tell us if something might be bothering them. Our dogs communicate with us through their body language as well as their behavior but decoding that behavior is often confusing. If you know what to look for you’ll be able to determine, in the early stages, if your dog is feeling stressed. This gives you the opportunity to remove your dog from a situation before it escalates into something dangerous.
As you try to determine the body language of your dog, be sure to take the situation into account. For example, if your dog is licking his lips this could be taken one of two ways:
Your dog might be stressed out or anxious
He might be anticipating a treat
It’s best to take into account your dogs’ overall behavior, and not just one action that he might be taking. If his behavior is out of sorts then he might just have a touch of anxiety. It’s best to start by visiting your veterinarian to ask for help. He or she will investigate for any medical issues that might be contributing to your dogs’ behavior.
Before you can determine if your dog is stressed, you’ll need to recognize what he looks like when he’s calm and relaxed. When dogs are calm, it will show in both their behavior as well as their posture.
When your dog is relaxed you’ll be able to tell by the expression on his face. His eyes are soft and round or they might even be squinted just a bit. You should able to determine the color of his eyes and his ears should be somewhat erect and in a forward facing position.
If he is interacting with someone then his ears might be back as if he’s being polite and his mouth should be relaxed. He may even appear to be smiling.
The body language of your dog will also tell you what type of mood he’s in at the moment. When he’s happy and playing he might bounce as he’s runs around the yard or the dog park. If he happens to encounter another dog, and he likes that dog, he might even display signs of friendship such as a paw slap or a quick turn that will suggest he wants to be chased.
A stressed out dog will exhibit different types of behaviors/body language than his more relaxed canine peers. If you notice that the whites of his eyes are more pronounced or that he has a very intense stare, then he may be feeling stressed or anxious. If he’s scanning the environment or he avoids eye contact, these two, are other signs of stress and anxiety.
What position are his ears in? If he is alert and uneasy then his ears will become more erect. He might also move his ears back and closer to his head.
Your dog might close his mouth in a time of stress or he may even pull his lips in tight. This is a sign that he might be getting ready to growl, bark or even bite.
Anxious dogs also become more vocal—they may bark, whimper whine or even growl at you. Depending on the dog, and the situation, these vocal noises may indicate that your dog is afraid of something.
His activity level will most likely change as well as he switches from calm and relaxed to hyper and on edge. If he freezes in his tracks and refuses to move, then something has caught his attention and it appears to be bothering him.
Just as their owners experience stress, dogs experience physiological stress as well. Signs of stress in dogs include changes in breathing, excessive panting and changes in breathing.
Other signs to pay attention to that indicate stress include excessive drooling or shedding, sweaty paws and trembling. Check the hair on the back of his neck. If it’s standing erect, this is another good indication that all is not well in the world of your dog.
If your dog continues to experience signs of stress, make an appointment with your veterinarian. He or she might refer you to a trainer or another veterinarian that specializes in dog behavior. This veterinarian will be able to address both the fear and behavior that is causing your dog to feel stressed and anxious.
These are just a few of the signs and symptoms of stress in your dog. Be sure to visit www.vetstreet.com for more information about stress and anxiety in dogs. Be sure to visit their website to learn more tips on keeping your dog happy and healthy for life.
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