Dogs experience stress and anxiety, just as humans do. Each dog is an individual and may have various stimuli that cause anxiety. The causes will vary for each individual dog such as being in a confined space, being approached head on, being touched. For other dogs it may be unknown dogs or humans, being in the car, moving house etc. We must ensure we are able to identify stress and anxiety in our dogs to ensure their wellbeing.
Behaviour at home
Does your dog find it easy to relax? Or do you find that they constantly pace around the room, taking a few minutes before settling down, and are often easily roused at the slightest noise? This consistent movement and inability to settle may be a result of stress and anxiety felt by your dog. If they aren’t comfortable or uncertain in the environment, this could amplify such behaviour. Dogs that are stressed will often have a huge startle response.
Barking continuously is also evidence of anxiety and stress. Your dog may feel that even the slightest noise could be a potential threat, and is attempting to alert you and deter the supposed intruder.
If you find that your dog is intentionally hiding from you prior to a particular activity, such as a bath, having their nails clipped or haircut, or even travelling in the car, this is a clear identifier of their discomfort. Forcing them to go through with the activity without reassurance and comfort will only increase their stress and anxiety levels, and could cause problems in the future.
What do their eyes say?
Dilated pupils, visible whites of the eye, and eyes that dart around the room are all signs of anxiety and stress. Once again, the dog may feel anxious in its surroundings, or an object in their sight may be causing added stress, such as nail clippers.
If you find that your dog is narrowing his/her eyes when approached by another dog or human, we should slow our approach, ensure we do not approach head on - the dog may be unsure and we need to avoid the situation escalating.
Look out for lip-licking
One final behavioural identifier for stress and anxiety is incessant lip-licking. Following a treat, or after they’d eaten a meal, it is understandable that your dog would lick his lips in satisfaction. If they continue to do this without having had food recently, however, this is either a sign of nausea, or an indication of stress and anxiety.
Potentially the simplest way to identify anxiety or stress-related behaviour within your dog is to look at their body language.
Doggone Safe have some excellent resources to help identify stress and anxiety in dogs.
Dogs with even posture, open mouth, wagging tail and even smooth hair, feel relaxed and content in their environment. If your dog’s ears are back, their posture is low to the ground when standing, their tail is held low tucked under, and are not making eye contact, then they might be anxious, stressed, and uncertain, requiring additional space, from the stimuli.
The Canine Behaviour College offers a wide range of course covering the entire spectrum of canine behaviour and care. For more information about the courses available, visit Canine Behaviour College