Stress in dogs – symptoms of stress in dogs and what to do when your dog is stressed?
Dogs are our faithful companions – they perform rescue functions and work with veterans and children. However, an important question arises: How do canine companions communicate with us and with each other? It turns out that the key to understanding dog speech lies in body language. This time we will take a closer look at stress. See how it manifests itself and how to deal with it.
What is stress?
Stress in dogs is the body’s response to situations that are difficult, frightening or disturbing for them. Just like in humans, stress can be caused by various factors and manifest itself in different ways. In what situations can a dog get stressed? What are some situations that cause stress in dogs? How to recognize and alleviate it?
- Changes in the environment: Moving house, new house, new household members or pets, sudden change in routine.
- Lack of adequate physical and mental exercise: Lack of adequate exercise and sensory stimulation can lead to excessive stress.
- Lack of appropriate social contact: Dogs need interaction with people and other animals. Complete isolation from other animals and people may cause stress in the dog.
- Longing: Dogs usually want to be close to their owners, and their separation can lead to separation anxiety. The situation is similar in the case of longing for another dog.
- Unpleasant experiences: Traumatic experiences can lead to chronic stress. Usually shelter dogs they struggle with a difficult past and need a lot of time to forget about it.
- Lack of proper training: Lack of proper training can make your dog feel insecure in various situations. Not knowing how to cope, he becomes stressed and even anxious.
- No sleep: When a dog is strongly attached to a person and cannot rest, lack of sleep can cause aggression and stress.
Stressful situations in dogs
There are several situations in which dogs usually feel uncomfortable. These include visits to the vet, grooming treatments, travel or a crowded place. Before each new activity, it is worth introducing adaptation training. What is it about? Imagine that you don’t like meeting new people, but you have to go to a certain party. You would feel much better if someone you knew went with you, right? Then you can stick to him, talk to him and get support. The situation is similar with dogs. Never leave them alone in a difficult situation. Firstly it is important to observe the dog’s behavior during stress, Ask yourself what causes stress in your dog, when it occurs, and what exactly it is afraid of. Then you come in. Be his support, focus him on you, increase the distance, and if nothing helps, just try to calm him down.
Important! They are also a key element in canine communication Your emotions. The dog can read them perfectly, even the smallest changes. So don’t panic, control your breathing, nerves and emotions. Be a support for your dog. Say to him in a calm voice “everything is fine, take it easy”, stroke him and even hug him if you see that he needs it at the moment.
If possible, take your dog away from the stressful situation or place. Ideally, you could prepare your dog and desensitize him to a given thing. For example, if grooming is giving him a heart attack, start cooperative training. Gradually familiarize your dog with the devices, strengthen positive associations with their touch and sound. Only when the dog is ready, start using them, increasing the treatment time.
Dog communication signals
The basic calming signals sent by a dog include:
- turning the head
- showing the whites of the eyes
- strong inversion of the body
- licking your lips
- raising a paw
- dusting himself off
- pretending to sniff
- slowed movements
- sticking to the ground
- intense blinking of eyes
- importance of the area
- showing the so-called teeth smiling
- loud smacking sound
You can learn more about dog signals in our book “Dog Decoder”. We discuss over 20 dog signals and check what they mean.
The first important symptom of dog stress is turning the head. It’s a quick move that can easily escape our attention. By turning its head, the dog tells us that it feels uncomfortable in a given situation. Rolling eyes and intense blinking are also signalsthat something is bothering him, especially in the face of a potential threat. When dogs try to avoid conflict, they usually avoid eye contact, which makes their gaze softer and does not provoke a fight.
The next signal is turning sideways or with your back to us. This behavior occurs in situations that are too violent or when the owner is upset. Although people sometimes misinterpret this as disrespect, it is actually an attempt to avoid conflict.
Yawning, is also an important signal that helps dogs relieve tension and stress. It often occurs when they are overstimulated or try to avoid confrontation. Yawning is very common in puppies, especially when they are nervous.
A dog’s eyes also say a lot about his mood. Aggressive dogs often show a focused and cold look before attacking. Friendly dogs, on the other hand, have a calm, warm look and slightly squinted pupils. A nervous dog may show the whites of its eyes and turn its head away. Tail movement is another signal that can be difficult to read. It doesn’t always mean joy – sometimes it is a sign of stress or high arousal.
The dog’s ears are also crucial. Located along a lowered head, they may indicate fear.
Dogs’ reaction to stress
Long-term stress can cause a number of health problems in your dog. During stress, cortisol is released. Its high level disturbs the body’s protein, fat, carbohydrate and water-electrolyte metabolism. The dog may develop compulsive-obsessive disorder (e.g. chasing its tail, excessive paw licking), become aggressive or have other behavioral problems. That is why it is so important to quickly respond to any symptoms of stress and to intervene in stressful situations for dogs. If you have any doubts, be sure to seek help from a specialist. Severe stress in dogs is always a bad thing and should not be underestimated.
Communication is the key
A dog can use many signals to convey its emotions. Not every paw movement, yawn or licking will be a calming signal, because a lot depends on the context and situation. That’s why it’s important that everyone the owner learned to read his dog’s signals and knew how to respond.
It is also worth remembering that the environment and situation influence the interpretation of dog signals. Therefore, you always need to analyze the entire situation to better understand what your four-legged friend wants to convey.
Understanding canine communication is the key to building stronger relationships with our canine companions. The dog “speaks” to us through body language, and our task is to learn to listen to it.
Look closely at the photo below. Think about whether the dog feels comfortable in this situation? Try to guess what calming signals it sends. A stressed dog that is not listened to may start showing its teeth, growling or even biting. Unfortunately, this will be the fault of the owner who ignored all his dog’s messages. Remember, a dog is not a toy. It is a living creature that communicates with us as best it can.
- licking your lips
- showing the whites of the eyes
- trying to escape
- turning the head
- placed ears