Separation anxiety occurs when your dog has an exaggerated fear response to being left alone. But even when you're around, your dog may still have situations that cause her stress and fear. A stressed out dog may react outwardly-- lunging, biting or destroying items in your home-- or inwardly-- vomiting, excessively licking, refusing to eat. Before things get to that point, learning to identify the subtle signs of stress that your dog exhibits allows you to nip her anxiety in the bud before behavior patterns get out of hand and potentially harmful.
Calming signals are small changes in your dog's behavior. They are the dog's way of saying "Hey, Cut that out"
Common calming signals:
- averting their eyes
- turning away
If your dog displays a calming signal, it's important to determine what's causing them to be uncomfortable. Is a child climbing on them or another dog getting too close to their food bowl? Whatever it is, take the calming signal as a warning to deescalate the situation.
calming signals, there are other hints that your dog may be stressed out, whether in a particular situation, or suffering from an overall state of stress.
Are your dog's eyes dilated? Tight? Look at their eyes. Dogs often show a "whale" or "half-moon" eye when they are stressed.
Is your dog panting and excessively drooling on a day that isn't that hot? This is a sign of stress. Teeth chattering, repetitive licking of their lips or nose, cheek puffing, showing their teeth or wrinkling their muzzle are further signs of stress.
Dogs that are stressed with often have their ears pinned back, or always upright and alert. In either case, the ears are not in a normal, relaxed position.
Watch your dog's body for signs of stress. When you see the body tense or the dog freezing in position, these are classic cues that they are in distress. Low body posture, trembling, shaking, or shedding excessively are also clues to your dog's emotional state.
Dogs who are stressed will indicate it in their behavior. Watch for restlessness and the inability to relax. Is your dog pacing, can't seem to get comfortable, laying down and getting right back up again? Hyper vigilant or jumpy? A normal dog will sleep about 17 hours a day. If your dog is sleeping less than that, she may be too stressed to fall asleep. On the other hand, a dog who sleeps too much may also be reacting to stressors. Dogs who seem irritable or are destructive are often displaying signs of stress. Excessive self-grooming, which can lead to skin problems, can be an indicator of your dog's stress, as is loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.
Knowing the signs to look out for is an important component of addressing your dog's stress. When you know the symptoms, you can begin to identify situations, environments and triggers that make your dog uncomfortable, and work on creating healthier behavior patterns. You and your pet should be able to live happy, healthy lives together. Pay attention to these stress signals and respond to help your dog cope with these stressful situations. Read more on canine stress here: "Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress" via Green Acres Kennel.
Tools & Tips to Help you Reduce your Dog's Stress
- Play with your dog! Physical activity will help to calm your dog tremendously. Play long enough for your dog to truly get that energy out.
- Create a safe zone and spend time with your dog in this zone. You can help your dog to calm down by being calm yourself.
- A Thundershirt is comforting for dogs, particularly during bad weather or fireworks.
- A Clawguard door shield can help you train your dog to stop scratching the door.