12 Signs That Your Dog Is Stressed: How to Avoid Them

In Emotional Support Animal by Emotional Pet Support Team

Our pups can be stressed too. We have all experienced stress at some point in our lives. Various physical or environmental factors can cause it, and animals are not spared. Contrary to human beings, dogs cannot verbally tell you how they are feeling, so you have to be on the lookout for nonverbal cues they display. Learning your dog’s unique communication style can prevent any rash behavior your dog may have due to overwhelming stress.

Signs That Your Dog Is Stressed

We all love our pets and want them to be as comfortable and happy as possible. A stressed dog can develop untoward aggressive behavior like biting, growling, and barking, leading to injury and stress for the caregivers. 

Catching stress signs in advance can spare you costs in damages or injury in the future so you should always pay close attention to your canine friend. 

Here are a few tell-tale signs that your dog is stressed and needs immediate help and attention.

1. Pacing

When we are stressed, walking back and forth can help us ease our stress because we can’t settle down. The same is true for our furry friends; they may pace back and forth when they are distressed. This behavior may be noticed when the dog is exposed to the stress trigger. Pay attention to when the dog exhibits this sign so as to identify and stop the stress trigger positively. Please note that older dogs suffering from dementia will also pace often; if you notice your elderly pet doing this, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

2. Whining and Barking

We are used to dogs barking for various reasons; however, if your dog barks and whines, this is a clear sign of stress. Canines cannot help whining and barking when they are stressed, anxiety-inducing environmental factors. Pay attention to the times your pet barked and whined, but you could not find a reason for their behavior.

3. Growling

The sight of a growling dog is often scary for most of us because it often signifies the onset of aggressive behavior from canines. However, sometimes growling is your pet’s way of telling you that they are in discomfort or something hurts. Most dog owners discourage the behavior of their pets, which is ill-advised because, in the future, the pet might jump straight to biting. If your pet growls, find out why and find a way around the behavior instead of punishing your pup for it. Of course, it helps if you start training when they are puppies.

4. Freezing

Freezing or going stiff momentarily is a defense mechanism practiced by animals all over the world; humans are no exception. It is easy to conclude that when your dog freezes, it is a result of fear, but the truth is your dog’s body is shutting down. Science and research have shown that your pup is shutting down due to stress. Freezing is a sign that your pup is so overwhelmed that they cannot handle the situation, which can result in aggressive behavior.

5. No Eye Contact

Avoiding eye contact is observed by a dog’s change in focus due to stress. Your dog may even completely avoid certain environments by running away from you when you are there. This sign may be coupled with sniffing around or licking their genitals. Pay attention to any hiding or escaping behavior your dog displays.

6. Panting and licking lips

In general, dogs pant when excited, hot, or stressed. If your dog is panting and has not exercised, he is probably stressed. In addition, this stress sign is usually coupled with other signs like pacing and changes in body posture. You may also observe other eye changes, including dilated pupils and rapid blinking.

7. Whaling of the Eyes

Whaling of the eyes refers to when you can see the whites of your dog’s eyes. Canines do this when they are stressed or showing submission to a fellow canine. If your dog’s eyes are whale and are not playing, they are probably stressed.

8. A Tucked Tail

Any ordinary dog should bear their weight equally on all fours. Their back should be straight and their tail upright. Relaxed or alert ears should be upright or pinned to the head. If your dog tucks their tail in between their tails, there is probably something scaring them, making them uncomfortable, or causing them pain.

9. Raised Hackles

This effect is referred to as piloerection, and it is caused by your dog being stressed or on high alert. In addition, raised hackles can mean that a threatening factor in their environment activates your dog’s fight or flight system.

This stress sign can be accompanied by growling and a difference in posture to one that suggests your dog is ready to charge at something. In such a situation, the best thing to do is to take your dog away from the environment without getting yourself harmed.

10. Changes in body function

Just like us, our canine friends feel the need to go to the bathroom when stressed. You may even notice your pup pee in a place he is trained not to. Don’t overreact in such a situation; chances are that your buddy is reacting to a stress factor. If you notice uncontrolled urinating, try and find the reason for the sudden change in behavior and remove it.

You may also notice other changes like excessive shedding that may occur in patches. If you notice bald spots on your dog, canine owners should schedule a trip to the vet as soon as possible. Dog owners may notice that their pups shed a lot at the vet’s office, especially if your pet does not particularly enjoy vet visits. This is the perfect example of stress shedding.

11. Loss of Appetite

If your dog is refusing to eat, chances are, they are not feeling well. Humans react the same way to stress, so it is easy to relate to your pup. The best solution in such situations is to take your dog to the pet as soon as possible. The vet should tell if the problem is health-related or not. You may also notice that your dog is losing weight despite eating regular portions. This is a clear sign that something is going on inside your pup, causing them to lose body mass.

12. Excessive Grooming

It is normal for dogs to groom themselves and their fellow canine buddies. In stressful situations, you may notice your dog grooming more than usual. Pet owners that also have cats may notice the same stress signs. Dogs will groom themselves in an effort to calm themselves down in stressful situations. In severe cases, dogs have been observed to self-mutilate, which may be accompanied by aggressive behavior.

How to Avoid Stressing Out Your Dog

Here are a few ways you can keep your pet healthy by avoiding stress factors.

1. Remove your dog from the environment

If your canine friend starts acting stressed calmly, extract them from the environment and go to a calm and quiet area where they can recover. You should notice your dog regain normal body posture and function. They should also start focusing on things they are normally interested in again.

2. A good Diet

Did you know that what you feed your pup greatly impacts their quality of life? Some foods can cause health problems in the long run. We can avoid common health issues like anal gland problems by adopting a dog anal gland diet. Of course, you should always consult a vet before making any major dietary adjustments for your pup. Physical health issues most commonly stress our canine friends over external environmental ones.

3. Create a Routine

Dogs will often show signs of stress when they are introduced to new foods and environments, so you should always try to maintain a routine. Starting a routine is crucial.

4. Train your canine for stress

Dog owners can train dogs to handle stress if it is completely unavoidable. Of course, this kind of training may be harmful to your dog’s health, especially if the dog is advanced in age.

5. Take your dog to the vet

Sometimes we just can’t figure out what is wrong with our pups. When nothing seems to work, schedule a visit with your vet to ensure that the problem is not a medical one. In addition, you should also schedule regular visits to the vet for general checkups. Vets can identify potential problems before they cause your pup stress.

6. Exercise

Exercise is good for your health as well as that of your pup’s health. Working out has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, so the next time the sun is out, grab your leash and go for a long walk. If you are a workout enthusiast, taking your dog for your jogs is an amazing idea. Exercise is also a great way to change the environment and let your pup explore the great outdoors.


Spending as much time as possible taking care of your pet is the best way to gain firsthand experience in interpreting your dog’s nonverbal cues. It is never a bad idea to take your dog with you on trips, hikes, or long walks so you can spend quality time together. Creating a routine for your dog is also important to make training easier for your pet. Your dog will mostly be happy to go lucky, granted you keep an eye out for the 12 signs your dog stressed listed above and take required measures to prevent stress. You know what they say, happy dog, happy you.