Dog body language is a complex subject. Most of the time, your dog’s body language is subtle. This is why most people often misinterpret what their dogs are saying. But ask any dog behavior expert or dog trainer, they will tell you that body language is the essence of dog training. Understanding what are pets are trying to communicate with us is crucial for understanding their normal behavior.
Today, we will focus on some of the most inaccurately used behaviors and body language. And that is stress. We often use this word to describe feelings of strain and pressure. There are different causes of stress.
Our dogs can become stressed as well. Now, because we know how stress makes us feel, why should we think our dogs are any different? This is why you need to know how to tell if your dog is stressed. And try to alleviate some of that anxiety.
Signs of stress in dogs
Now, imagine the following scenario. You are walking your dog in the park and another dog approaches you. Many owners make the mistake that your puppy should meet the other dog. And even worse, that your puppy wants to meet that dog.
But what if your dog is stressed? What if your puppy gets anxious because another dog is coming its way? This is what can cause reactivity in your dog, even if that other dog is completely calm, friendly, and polite.
It is crucial that you observe your dog’s body language to determine whether your puppy should meet that other dog. Here are some signs of dog anxiety to watch for:
- Previously open mouth suddenly closes
- Dandruff or dander appear
- Ears go back
- Tail rises above the horizon
- Your dog starts yawning
- Tongue flicks as if licking his lips
- Turns entirely away from approaching dog
- Starts scratching
If your dog shows any of these signs of a stressed dog, you should err on the side of caution. Think of it this way. Do you want to meet every person who approaches you? No? Well, what makes you think your puppy should meet every dog that comes its way?
Observe these signs and see how your puppy reacts as the distance is getting smaller. If your puppy becomes stressed, turn the other way, change direction, and walk away from that dog.
Indicators of stress in dogs
Now, dogs can get stressed for a variety of reasons. Another puppy approaching is just one of them. But there are many more scenarios where your dog might feel stress. How to tell if your dog is stressed? Well, pay attention to body language and your pup’s behavior. Here are some indicators of high dogs stress level.
Pacing or shaking
Dogs shake after a bath. They can also roll in the grass. But that body shake is amazing. Now, when you have no idea why your dog is shaking, that is when you should worry. This is a sign of a stressful situation for your pup.
For example, dogs are usually stressed when they visit the veterinarian. They can start shaking the moment they know you are going there. Some dogs are stressed because of fireworks. They shake at the first sound or vibration of fireworks.
Whining or baking
Vocalization is a normal way of self-expression in dogs. Our dogs use barking as a communication tool. They can send us so many messages.
When they are under stress, barking intensifies. Dogs that are afraid or tense will whine or bark to get your attention.
Yawning and drooling
Dogs usually yawn when they are tired and bored. But they also yawn when they are under stress. They use yawning as a coping mechanism to calm down. How to tell the difference? A stressful yawn is prolonged and intense. Sleepy yawn is not.
Changes in body posture
This is one of the most obvious signs of a stressed dog. Here is an easy way to tell it. A healthy dog should not shift its weight to hear legs or cowers. When a healthy puppy does it, it is a sign of exhibiting stress. When they are stressed, dogs also tuck their tail or become rigid.
You can also notice changes in the eyes and ears. Your stressful dog will have dilated pupils and blink rapidly. Their ears will be pinned back against the head.
Changes in bodily function
Can you control your bowel movement when you are stressed? Of course not. Your puppy might also feel a sudden urge to go to the bathroom.
Hiding or escape behavior
A tense dog might move behind its owner to hide. Some might engage in activities such as digging or circling. They are just trying to find a place to hide from the stressful situation.
How to calm a stressed dog down?
Why are we talking so much about how to tell if your dog is stressed? Well, for one, if your dog is under stress, you cannot do any training.
As a dog owner, you should know that when your dog doesn’t exhibit proper behavior and manners, you cannot do training and you cannot work with your puppy.
The best way to calm your puppy is to identify what is stressing them. Then, try to eliminate the trigger. It is a technique called desensitization.
Now, this technique doesn’t work with everything. Why? Because sometimes it is just cruel to try and eliminate certain triggers.
Desensitization by exposing the dog to the same stimulus, but trying to associate it with a positive reward. For example, your dog is stressed when trying to go down the stairs. Work gradually and reward and praise as your puppy makes every move.
But if your dog gets nervous because of fireworks? Well, desensitization would include loud noises similar to desensitization played at home and trying to calm the dog because of the sound. But these loud noises cannot equal the actual fireworks. Why? Because fireworks cause vibrations in the atmosphere that your dog notices.
Sometimes, it is just best to block off an area where your puppy feels stressed.