Signs of Stress in Dogs

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By Tess Thompson

Humans tend to believe that the type of life they are providing for their dog is as good, if not better than what the dog would choose for himself. The fact, however, is far from this perception.

  • You are in fact forcing an animal that is accustomed to live in pacts, to live with humans in a confined environment.
  • You are actually forcing him to do what he is not habituated to do, and he has to learn human ways and abide by human rules.
  • You are suppressing his natural instincts by training him to obey orders.

Just as humans feel stress in situations that are uncomfortable for them, domesticated dogs are exposed to stressful situations all the time. The irony is that much as you might want to relieve stress in your pet, dogs cannot communicate using human language. They can only use body language to convey their displeasure and stress. The conscientious owner tries to decode his language by interpreting it in the right manner.

Some of the signs of stress that your dog may exhibit are given below. However it must be noted that these signs need to be exhibited repeatedly for them to be considered as stress signals.

  • Shaking, yawning and scratching
  • Refusing food and treats or refusal to open mouth
  • Hiding and disobeying orders
  • Licking lips, drooling and sneezing
  • Improper bowel movements and vomiting
  • Avoiding eye contact, keeping tail between legs or acting shy
  • Exhibiting over activeness or under activity
  • Biting, growling or snarling

Abnormal behaviors may not mean stress every time. There will be situations where your dog wants to express excitement and happiness through his body language. If your dog wants to share his excitement with you, certain manifestations may appear to be stress signals. If you are observant, you will be able to sift through such behaviors and determine which are caused by stress.

Separation anxiety in dogs can also cause abnormal behavior in dogs. The feeling is similar to what we feel when we are removed from a family member, friend, or dear associate.

Relieving stress in pets requires a proper insight into the normal and abnormal behaviors. It is also necessary to be able to differentiate excitement from stress-related behavior.

Over time, domesticated dogs have evolved in a way that they combat stress on their own. Dogs have calming techniques to relieve their own stress. Sometimes yawning, slow movement, avoiding eye contact, sitting, lying down and lip licking can be signs of the stress relief rather than those of stress itself.


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