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How to recognise stress in your pet: 3 common signs your dog is stressed

Is your dog acting out of character? Do they seem nervous or depressed? If your dog doesn’t seem to be their usual self, they will likely be trying to communicate with you through their body language, and as humans, it is important for the pet parents out there to understand what they’re trying to communicate…

There are many reasons your furry friend may be feeling anxious, whether it be illness, changes in routine or household dynamics, or even the loss of a pet companion, just like humans, dogs can be affected by it all. Recognising the way your dog communicates through body language, is a special way for you to not only understand your pet, but to help them, by reducing their anxiety and providing comfort as they need it.

These are a few of the main signs to look for to let you know your dog is stressed:

1. Growling

 No doubt, if your dog is growling, they definitely aren’t happy about something, so this is perhaps one of the more obvious signs. Growling is a way for your pet to let you know that they aren’t comfortable with a situation, this may that they feel someone is in their space, they feel threatened, or that something is uncomfortable. Often, growling is not your pet trying to be aggressive, but instead a warning that they don’t like what’s going on…

Many pet owners don’t like their pet to growl, and often take it as a sign they are going to bite. However, recognising a growl not as a threat, but instead as your pet trying to communicate to you that they don’t like that, will help you to understand your pet better and accommodate if needed.


2. Body Language

 When it comes to body language, this is a somewhat mutual communication for humans, dogs, cats…. The list is endless… body language is a way for many living things to communicate that they feel stressed or anxious about something. Often, dogs exhibit body language behaviours to not only communicate that they are unhappy or stressed about something, but also to diffuse a situation to avoid potential threat. Recognising these behaviour patterns in your dog are a keyway to know how your pet is feeling.

Body language signs in your pet may show as tucked ears, lip-lacking, yawning, panting, the whale eye (puppy eyes/when you can see the white of their eyes) and raised hackles. Some dogs may try to avoid eye contact and look away. Interestingly, these signs are often associated with a guilty pup, when actually, your pet is reacting to your body language and tone and recognising that they are in trouble and they are therefore demonstrating the anxiousness towards that rather than guilt.


3. Whining and Barking

 When your dog whines or barks, this is often an automatic response to them being stressed about something. Of course, dogs whine and bark for many reasons that are not necessarily stress or anxiety, so it can become difficult to differentiate them for what they are. This is often where you need to pay attention to the environment your pet is in, is there something that would make them nervous? Is something uncomfortable for them? Or is it just another pet in the distance they’re trying to reach out too…

It can be difficult to recognise whether a behaviour is a sign of stress or just your dog doing what dogs do… this is where it is important for you to get to know your pet so you can recognise how they communicate in uncomfortable situations. Typically, your dog will demonstrate the same anxious behaviours, so once you note what they are, they will be harder to miss…

If you have any concerns, professional dog trainers are a great way to learn communication with your dog. However, if your dogs’ behaviour changes drastically and suddenly, you should contact your vet, as there may be a bigger issue that is causing them to act out.

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