Dog owners know that although their four-legged friend can’t talk, dogs have a number of ways to show us and other animals that they are stressed. Every dog is unique, so while there are some common signs of stress in dogs, anything out of the ordinary for your individual pup may signal stress. It is important to identify your dog’s stress cues, as well as understand commonly exhibited stress behaviors in dogs to avoid discomfort and potentially dangerous reactions.
Signs your dog is stressed
Being able to recognize cues from your dog that they are stressed can save them from discomfort and avoid potentially dangerous stress responses. Some common signs of stress in dogs include:
1. Posture and facial expressions
Your dog’s body language can convey key information about their comfort and stress levels. A relaxed dog should carry their weight evenly on all four paws. If a healthy dog with no orthopedic problems shifts their weight away from a stimulus or cowers, the ASPCA warns that your dog may be exhibiting stress. You may notice your dog lift a front paw, or lower or turn their head and body away. Other classic visual cues that your dog is stressed include a tucked tail, raised hackles, and pinned-back ears.
Just like humans, dogs experiencing stress may have dilated pupils and show the whites of their eyes, known as whale eye. Curling their lips to reveal their gums, as if in preparation for growling or biting, is also a sign of stress. These cues can be warning signs of aggression, so it is important to take note of situations in which your dog shows their teeth.
If stressed, your dog may bark, whimper, whine or growl, or make some other type of verbal distress signal. Growling is an obvious way to tell if your dog is uncomfortable. Many dogs cannot control their whining and barking when they feel stressed, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. While vocalization is normal self-expression in dogs, it may be intensified when they are under stress as they try to get your attention, fend off a threat, or self soothe.