Do you know what signs of stress look like in your dog? It is important to know what signs to look for so that you can safely remove your dog from the source of stress immediately when the stressor occurs. Stress is abstract and subjective. What is terribly stressful for one dog can be neutral or even enjoyable for another. Some stress is good and produces productivity in both humans and dogs. Too much stress immediately inhibits the learning process because of chemical influences on the brain. Stressors, which lead to fear and anxiety, activate the dogs’ flight or fight impulses. These behaviors are essentially out of the dog’s control. To make matters worse, stress is cumulative and can produce a variety of illnesses, some of which may not become apparent until years later.
Here are some stress signals:
• Ears back
• Pupils dilated
• Rapid panting with corner of mouth back
• Body lowered
• Sweating through pads – it is visible with wetness on ground where they have walked
• Tail Down
The signs shown below are often associated with an attempt to resolve a social conflict. Known as displacement activities or calming signals, these behaviors seem out of place for the context of the situation. For instance, if you are in the middle of training your dog, and your dog is yawning a lot, scratching, and lip licking; it could be an indicator of stress and you may want to change your training approach slightly. One or two alone are not necessarily signs of a conflicted dog. Clusters of calming signals will alert you that all is not well with your dog. Adjustments to the environment will be made according to the individual.
Here are some calming signals:
• Turning away
If you are seeing any of these signals, consider removing your dog from the stressor, or changing your approach.
An example of a dog with ears back, head turned away.