Our dogs fill our lives with so much love and joy but at times we might sense that something is wrong with them. Perhaps it’s fear, pain, uncomfortably we sense. Our dogs communicate using body language, so it’s vital that pet parents understand what our pups are trying to tell us. If we pay attention to what some might call special ways of communication it can reduce their anxiety and prevent potentially dangerous situations from happening. There are several warning signs to look for to help tell if your dog is stressed. Here are some signs:
Growling – Growling is an obvious way to tell if your dog is uncomfortable. It could mean that someone is in their space, they feel threatened, or that something hurts. It’s not usually meant to be aggressive but it is rather often a warning that your dog feels uncomfortable. Don’t punish your pup for growling. Instead, respect their space or figure out a different way to get what you want from them. For example, if a dog is growling over food, give them space when they eat in peace. If they are growling over a bone and you need to put the bone away, trade them for a smaller treat so you can take the bone away safely.
Barking or Whining - Many dogs cannot control their whining when they feel stressed, as it’s more of an automatic response. However, it is a clue for pet parents that something in the environment is causing anxiety. Same for barking, in that dogs can’t always control it, but they’re trying to tell you that they’re stressed about something. It may, however, depend on the context, as dogs may whine and bark for many other reasons.
Body Language – Body language truly tells us a lot about our pups feelings. A sign to look for is what is called whale eye, it is when dogs reveal the whites of their eyes. Tucked ears, Tucked tail, Raised hackles, Lip-licking, Yawning, and Panting. Your dog might also avoid eye contact or look away. This is most commonly seen in a dog that seems guilty. Our pups are actually reacting to your voice and body language and thinks something must be wrong. So don’t rely solely on body language. Also, some dogs raise their hackles when they are overstimulated or excited, not necessarily when they are stressed or anxious.
Freezing - When your dog freezes or gets stiff, they are often stressed about something they see. This can sometimes be seen as a submission, but modern doog training tell usthat the dog is actually shutting down. This can be dangerous for both you and your pup. It is a warning sign that the dog is so stresses that they can't handle the situation, and next step may be a bite.
Pacing - When dogs are pacing back and forth, it's a sign they can't settle down because something is stressing the,. If this happens during mealtime or for short periods, it might not be a big deal but noticing when your dog engages in this behavior can give you clues as to what is triggering their anxiety. In older dogs, pacing may be a sign of dementia. If you start to notice this in your senior pet, make an appoitment with your veterinarian right away.
As dog owners we should always consider our own behavior because many times we might contribute to our dog’s stress. Some dog owners at times might not be clear with their commands, stare at them and or punish them for no legit reason. The best way to calm your dog down is to identify what is stressing them, then eliminate the trigger. If you find yourself overwhelmed than you might want work with a professional trainer or reach out to your veterinarian to reduce their response to the trigger.
Most importantly be there for him or her. The key to keeping your dog calm is to show them a little thunderstorm or a few firecrackers is no big deal. When your dog begins to whimper, gently comfort them and reassure them everything is going to be alright.
The bottom line? Start paying attention to your dog’s body language and you’ll be able to read their stress signals and reduce their anxiety in no time. With all of these signs, it all still depends on the individual dog and the context of the situation. In some cases, some dogs growl or “talk” while playing. It could mean they are getting overexcited and need a break, but it could also just be the way they play. Getting to know when your dog is stressed is key. You can always reach out to your veterinarian if your dog’s behavior changes suddenly.