Interpreting A Dog Behavior Change: Canine Stress Indicators

Recognizing and understanding a change in dog behavior can help avoid a stressful situation. While the following behaviors are typical of a stressed dog, they must be looked at in context to know whether they're stress-related or caused by some other stimulus.

Dog Behaviors That Indicate Stress

  • Rapid, shallow or deep, forceful panting - Stress panting is presented with the lips pulled back in a wide "grin" causing deep wrinkles around the eyes and forehead.
  • Increased urination or defecation - Stressed dogs will often urinate or defecate in an inappropriate area even though they're fully housebroken.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea - The dog's digestive tract is frequently the first bodily function to react to stress.
  • Yawning - Yawning is one of the most common signs of stress. A stress yawn will be more pronounced than a sleepy yawn.
  • Avoidance - A stressed dog will often turn away or shy away from us when they are stressed.
  • Shaking/shivering - Stress will frequently cause the dog to shiver or shake even though they may not be cold or wet.
  • Confusion - A dog will often present signs of confusion or abnormal behavior when stressed. Be cautious when interpreting this symptom as it can also be a sign of a seizure or diabetic hypoglycemia.
  • Whining or growling - Vocalization is very typical in a stressed out dog and is a sign of heightened anxiety.
  • Stretching - Stretching is the dog's way of relaxing muscles tightened by a stressful situation.

While not an exhaustive list, these are just a few of the signs that can help you recognize when your dog is stressed.