How To Read Your Dog’s Stress Signals
One of the biggest mistakes that new dog owners make during training is to overlook their dog's body language and emotional signals.
It is so important for you to be able to understand your dog's body language, ESPECIALLY in stressful situations.
When your dog is under stress, it is imperative that you remove him from the situation before it turns into a negative experience that could create poor habits.
Recognizing Stress Signals
How do I know if my dog is stressed out? And how can I tell if my dog needs to be removed from a situation?
The answer to both of these questions is: YOUR DOG WILL TELL YOU!
In fact, he has probably told you that he's been stressed in situations before, but you had NO IDEA because you didn't know what to look for to determine if your dog is stressed or not.
Your dog will display one or more stress signals when he is stressed. Stress signals vary between each dog and some are more apparent than others.
Stress signals may include:
- Stress yawning
- This is different than a ‘tired yawn’ in that it is done more intensely and often times repeatedly.
- Licking of lips
- This is different than a dog licking his lips because food is around.
- Pinning ears back
- His ears will lay down and point behind him.
- Turning his head away or attempting to move away.
- Excessive panting
- Panting excessively not because he is tired or hot could mean he is stressed.
- Growling is a straight-forward indicator that your dog is uncomfortable.
- Low-positioned tail
- Tail is out low or between legs, often times only the end is wagging.
- Dog suddenly biting at his own paws
- For no reason other than he is uncomfortable in his current environment.
Having this knowledge on stress signals will benefit you by giving you a better understanding of when your dog is not comfortable so you can remove him from situations accordingly.
Removing Your Dog From Stressful Situations
Why do I need to remove my dog from the situation? Shouldn’t I just help him work through it?
Great question! It's important to remove your dog from the environment while under stress because dogs may lash out or exhibit unwanted behaviors such as aggression out of fear, so you want to prevent these situations from escalating before they get to the point of no return.
What Should I Do When My Dog Is Stressed Out?
Stress signals are your dog's way of warning you and whatever is stressing him out that he is not comfortable in the situation, which is why it’s so important to NEVER scold your dog for exhibiting any type of stress signal, even growling.
If you punish your dog for growling, next time he’s stressed out he may skip the warning signal that he is stressed and go straight to exhibiting a behavior out of fear, such as attacking the object—which you most certainly do not want!
Being able to distinguish your dog’s own stress signals will help you to better understand your dog and make both of your lives less stressful.
If you notice your dog displaying one of the stress signals listed above, be sure to remove him from the situation until you are able to work through the stimuli with an experienced trainer/behaviorist!
What kind of stress signals does your dog display when he is stressed?