Assessing Your Dog’s Stress

It’s important to recognize signs of stress in your new dog as you get to know them. Some signs of stress are subtle, while others are very obvious. If your dog has a history of anxious behavior in the shelter or in a former home, they may also show those behaviors in your home. Alternatively, stress signs can start to emerge with time. Stress can be caused by fear, changes in environment and routine, medical issues and/or encountering new pets and people. Some dogs will adjust to stressful situations more easily than others.

Factors That Can Cause Stress
Moving to a new home
Kenneling or pet-sitting
A new animal or person staying or visiting in the house
A new baby
Noises, especially new and/or loud ones (e.g., construction, alarms, fireworks, thunderstorms)
Medical issues and/or pain
Strangers and crowds
Fast, excited movement of humans (e.g., running, playing, sports)
City environments
Dog Events
Not enough exercise
Other pets
Extreme temperatures
Being left alone
Behavioral Signs of Stress
Over-excitability: The dog doesn’t calm down and may be jumping, barking, whining, pacing, panting, constantly moving and/or taking treats from you roughly compared to normal.
Destructiveness: The dog tears up objects and/or furniture, windows sills, walls, etc.
Unusually quiet: The dog doesn’t play with toys or not interested in interacting with you or other family members; less active than normal.
Repetitive or odd behaviors: The dog chases shadows or lights, chases their tail, constant licking/grooming, pacing or running in a repetitive pattern, etc.
Hiding: The dog hides under or behind furniture, in another room and/or does not want to come out of their crate.
Not eating: The dog doesn’t eat meals and/or doesn’t taking treats from you.
Shut down: The dog is very quiet and rarely moves. The dog stays in one place most of the time and doesn’t show interest in life and the environment.
Body Language Indicators of Stress
Turning head away or moving away from a person, animal or object while body is getting smaller – cowering.
Stiff or tense body, tail is usually still and can be hanging down or standing up high
Avoiding eye contact OR looking toward you with head turned slightly to opposite side showing the whites of their eyes.
Trembling, tucked tail, panting, crouching
Excess drooling, excess shedding, sweaty paws
Humping, repetitive jumping
Yawning, lip licking, shaking off (as if wet), scratching
Loss of appetite and/or thirst
Aggression (e.g., growl, snap, bite)
Helpful Tips
If not addressed, stress can lead to more fear, anxiety, over arousal and even aggression. More information about identifying the body language of stressed dogs.
If your dog is barking constantly, is destructive and/or is pooping/peeing in the house only when left alone, this could be separation anxiety.

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