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Signs of Stress in Dogs: What To Look For


You want to make sure your dog is healthy and happy. Health and happiness are both crucial components to a long life full of adventures, cuddles, and memories. Your dog’s emotional and physical wellbeing are inextricably integrated. Stress can have a negative impact on the way your dogs feel, limiting their ability to enjoy their lives.

Here’s what you need to know about recognizing signs of stress in dogs and some simple ways to mitigate their feelings. Keep your dog happy and help them thrive.

What Is the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?

Stress and anxiety are similar, but they aren’t quite the same. Stress is a normal emotional reaction to an unpleasant situation. Anxiety is a medical condition where the brain and body respond disproportionately to negative stimuli or produce negative feelings without an apparent cause. 

Anxiety requires appropriate medical intervention. Stress can benefit from veterinary or behavioral intervention, but can typically be managed by pet owners who clearly understand their dog’s stress triggers. If the stress is mild and manageable, it’s just a normal part of your dog’s experience of life; it doesn’t differ significantly from feelings of stress that humans experience. 

The easiest way to tell the difference between stress and anxiety is to read the situation. Stress will respond to amelioration in a timely manner. If you change the circumstances, remove certain triggers, or appease your dog, they’ll begin acting normally within minutes. 

If you can’t figure out why your dog is behaving the way they are and if small common sense solutions don’t seem to be making a difference, it’s likely your dog is experiencing anxiety and you need to visit the vet.

What Are the Signs of Stress in Dogs?

The signs of stress in dogs are remarkably similar to the signs of stress in humans, which is why so many pet owners do an excellent job of recognizing stress in their canine companions rather quickly. In fact, dogs can also recognize stress in their owners. It’s an emotion that transcends the boundaries of species.

If you’re reading from your dog’s body language and general demeanor that they’re stressed, it’s likely that they are.

These are a few of the most common signs of stress in dogs:

  • Changes in appetite and bathroom habits, like disinterest in food and avoidance of “potty” time
  • Changes in your dog’s facial expressions, like wide eyes and alert ears 
  • Panting unrelated to exercise, happy types of excitement, or play
  • Ignoring attempts for interaction or preferring to hide, like a disinterest in affection or a preoccupation with a quiet, isolated space
  • Your dog may try to lead you home or walk behind you if a location induces stress
  • Cowering or adopting a meek posture
  • Pacing around listlessly, sometimes mildly shaking
  • Vocally communicating with whines or low barks
  • An increase of yawning, drooling, licking, or digging behavior

Most stressed dogs will show signs in multiple ways. For example, a dog with wide eyes and alert ears may not be stressed. They could be curious or excited. If that behavior comes in conjunction with avoidance and a change in appetite, it’s likely stress.

To best interpret the way your dog is expressing their feelings, you’ll need to observe the big picture. If you’re able to correlate these behaviors with a potential stress trigger, it’s much easier to help your dog. 

What Stresses Dogs Out?

Your dog will experience stress from a lot of the same things that cause you to experience stress, money and demanding work deadlines excluded. Put yourself in your dog’s shoes (or paws) and imagine how common stressors may make them feel. 

Loud Noises

Fireworks, thunderstorms, noisy neighbors, block parties, and loud music can stress your dog out. They don’t understand the origin of the noises and don’t know how to anticipate when they will end. They can also create a boisterous interruption to your dog’s routine. 

Unfamiliar People, Animals, or Places

If you’re having family over for the holidays, taking your dog to a new place, or introducing a new pet to your household, your dog may experience stress as a result. They need to get to know the new people, animals, or environments in order to become comfortable with them, and this process may take time.


Some dogs become overwhelmed with excitement at the mere idea of going on a car ride. Other dogs will attempt to hide under the couch cushions the moment they hear the car keys. Your dog doesn’t know where the car is heading, and they may fear that a trip to the vet is coming.

Feeling Bored, Unstimulated, or Ignored

Your dog wants to play with you. Your dog wants to play in general. If your dog isn’t getting any social interaction with people or animals, and if they don’t have toys to keep their brains engaged, they may begin to feel isolated or stir crazy. Dogs need stimulation.

Not Having Their Needs Met

Routine is extremely important to dogs. They need the proper amount of food and water every day, and they would prefer to be served on a reliable schedule. 

If your dog doesn’t eat all their food at once, they may choose to pace themselves until their next feeding. If they run out and get hungry to return to an empty dish, you’ve upset their routine. Make sure everything goes according to plan.

Dogs also need to go outside to relieve themselves multiple times a day. They’re particularly interested in going outside after eating, drinking, or sleeping. Your dog should be going out a minimum of three to four times a day, although some dogs may even prefer five times a day. Try to make a few extra trips outside and see if your dog eliminates. If that’s the case, your dog needs to go out more. 

If you don’t have a secure backyard with a tall fence, it may be worth constructing one. If you’re a busy person, you can simply open and close the door for your dog rather than attempting to schedule five walks a day. 

How To Help a Stressed Out Dog

If your dog is stressed out, your reaction to your dog’s stress should always be proportionate and appropriate for the situation. Common forms of stress can be mitigated with a direct response.

See to Their Needs

First things first, make sure that food, water, and potty needs are taken care of. Any effort you undertake will be less effective if your dog is hungry, thirsty, or needs to go outside. 

Keep Them Happy and Engaged

Give your dog something engaging to play with, like a puzzle toy. Let your dog run free in your fenced back yard. Passively play fetch with your dog. Brush their coat, groom them, and take a nap on the couch with them. Stimulate your dog’s mind and help them transition into a better mood.

Avoid Loud or Chaotic Situations When Possible

You can’t control when it rains or thunderstorms. You can’t control when your neighbors set off fireworks on Independence Day. 

You can control what goes on in your house. Make sure the volume of your TV or music isn’t so loud that it’s overwhelming your dog. If you can avoid hosting unfamiliar people at your home, do so. If you can’t, set your dog up in a private room with food, water, toys, and a comfortable place to lounge. 

Support a Relaxed Mood

VETCBD Hemp CBD oil can help to support a calm mood for your pet. If they’re feeling a little stressed out, a few drops of hemp oil can help to take the edge off. CBD isn’t a sedative or a drug. It won’t make your dog sleepy, drowsy, or high. Instead, it will support your dog’s mind and body’s natural ability to find balance and peace. 

CBD can be used any time you recognize the signs of stress in dogs. Combine CBD oil with other practices to support a peaceful environment and remove negative stimuli from your dog’s immediate surroundings. Your dog will feel at ease in no time.



Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Dog Anxiety | American Kennel Club

You May Be Stressing Out Your Dog | NPR

A Dog’s Basic Needs | PAWS Chicago

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