Stress signs in Dogs and What They Are Trying to Tell You


When you are staring at your dog’s beautiful eyes, her expression can speak 1000 words… But don’t you wish that these expressions would actually translate into a language that humans can understand?

Animals have their own methods to communicate their emotions to their human counterparts… They are often different than how our own species would express their feelings.

An important sign that we should learn to read like a psychology book would be Stress Indicators in our Dogs. You may be concerned about your animal, in particular, if she is exhibiting complex behavioural mannerisms that signal a high state of arousal and stress. In that case, the sooner you figure out what is going on with your dog, the quicker it can be controlled.

Stress is the physiological manner in which the dog,s body reacts to a change that requires an emotional, mental or physical adjustment. We have all heard of the flight or fight mechanisms. A little stress can be stimulating to the animal, but when it starts to activate the dog’s emergency response system, it can inhibit clear thinking and cause extreme behaviours.

What could cause such a stressful reaction? Common ones include trauma from a frightening situation, being confined for long periods of time, pain, and changes in the household and schedule.

Unfortunately, I know a young dog that was very attached to his owners.  They started fighting a lot and eventually split up.  From being around a lot of noise and interaction, the household suddenly changed to silence, being confined in an apartment alone and a very depressed Dad.  He came home one night and discovered this little Yorkie dead in his crate.  Since he appeared perfectly healthy up til then, the conclusion might be that the stress caused a “broken heart”.  We will never know for sure but it does highlight the fact that stress can be very extreme in your pet and should be taken seriously.

The following are common Stress Symptoms in your Dog:

Excessive Whining or Barking

Certain situations the dog considers stressful may cause her to whine or bark, especially when new people or dogs come over for a visit. My dog can be quite jealous if Im paying attention to a visiting canine and act out. Watch out, as well, for whining during sleep, as you know that something is troubling the animal.

Bad breath and Unpleasant Body Odors

When the dog pants more, bad breath can be caused by the secretion of excessive gastrointestinal acids. My dog actually releases a type of skunk like smell when shes really stressed out.  This can literally clear a room!

Urination and Defecation

A fearful dog may urinate when its greeted when it enters a new situation that stresses her. They may defecate as an excessive or abnormal response to a frightening social situation.

Excessive Grooming

Some dogs will self gratify in order to compensate for the stress level they feel. Watch out for excessive licking of the genitals or tail, which can cause hair loss or open wounds.

Destructive Behaviours

Nervous energy in a dog can lead to destructive chewing. Your shoes might suffer from this chewing if the dog is nervous about another animal or situation its put into.


Overexcitement and stress could lead to a dog mounting your arm, leg or a cushion or toy. This is not necessarily sexually motivated as I have seen many neutered dogs mount when they are feeling stressed.

Physical Changes 

If your dog is suffering from eye or ear infections, persistent problems with their coat or skin ,diarrhea or a sudden weight loss, check with your veterinarian.  If it is not from an illness, it may be stress induced.

Unusual Behaviours to Mood and Concentration

Does your dog exhibit a sudden change in mood or concentration? Does she refuse to respond to your pampering and ignore your commands? This is a likely sign of canine stress symptoms in this category.


Stress can cause a restlessness response in dogs. Of course, check out heat related stress as it may be a sign of temperature issues, especially in female dogs.


If the dog isnt too hot or has exercised a lot, watch out for panting symptoms. There will be tension in the face and the corners of lips may be pulled back as a signal of a stress reaction.

Laziness and Lethargy

Your dog may refuse to do any type of physical activity, such as walking or play. She might confine herself to her crate or hide in a corner. Extreme stress may cause her to refuse to drink or eat.

Excessive Thirst or Hunger

On the other hand, the animal may exhibit an increased appetite or desire to drink and become obsessed with food and water while under stress.

Shivering or Trembling

If your dog is particularly anxious, she may tremble or shiver in fear.  The dog might be threatened by some object or person they are unfamiliar with.  My dog doesnt like halloween costumes and starts to shake.

Some stress is normal to be displayed in canines. However, when you notice excessive or unusual stress displays, such as the ones listed above, seek help from a professional.

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