It can be hard to know if a dog is stressed. He can't tell you how he is feeling, so instead you'll have to watch for clues from his behavior. Every animal reacts differently to stress, but there are some common behaviors to look for. If your dog is not behaving as he usually does, he may be stressed. A stressed dog may exhibit a wide range of behaviors, or show no outward signs of stress, which can make it difficult to tell how your dog is feeling. Here's how to know if a dog is stressed:
- Watch for restlessness. Your dog might be stressed if he is barking more than usual, digging holes in your yard, and tearing up your house. Stressed dogs often seem agitated, upset, or restless. Dogs may also become more aggressive when under stress. If your dog is growling, this is a sign that he feels threatened or uncomfortable.
- Look for neediness. While some dogs react to stress by becoming overly active, others become passive and needy. Your dog may seem less energetic than usual, or less interested in playing. A stressed dog may not want to stray too far from his owners, because he feels comfortable and protected when around you. Dogs often become stressed in unfamiliar situations; as his owner, you are the most familiar human, so your dog is likely to stick close by you when stressed.
- Pay attention to physical symptoms. Often, a dog will exhibit physical signs of stress, including shaking, whining, trembling, dilated pupils, or excessive scratching. A common sign of stress in dogs is yawning. Dogs can exhibit a wide range of symptoms or illnesses that can be attributed to increased stress levels. If in doubt, take your dog to the vet for a full diagnosis.
- Consider recent changes. Just like humans, dogs can become stressed out if something in their environment is bothering them, such as a recent move or a new family member. They can also become stressed for more mundane reasons such as lack of exercise or dislike of a new food. Is any of this going on? If so, then your dog is more likely to be stressed. Even if your dog is not displaying any outward signs of stress, you should be paying attention to these changes in routine so that you can reduce your dog's stress level.
Recognizing the signs of stress in your dog is essential if you want him to live a healthy and happy life with you. Pet stress can make dogs act out in unusual ways, and it's not fair to blame them without understanding the root cause. Dogs that are stressed can become depressed, just like humans. Once you know that your dog is stressed, you can take steps to reduce his stress level.