Owning a dog is similar to being a parent. You would not just get one if you do not love dogs. With time, you become much attuned to its movements, its moods, its habits and everything else. So if something suddenly seems off, you would be the first to know. Among other things, changes in its behavior could mean that your dog is stressed.
It should not be news to you that dogs, like human beings, get anxious sometimes or become stressed. The causes of stress for them vary, ranging from lack of a standard routine to their owners not being close to them. Therefore, how do you know for sure that your furry sweetheart needs a timeout and a chance to unwind? Here are some signs to guide you:
General body tell-tale signs
When your dog is stressed, it shows in every part of its body, some more than others. Because you may not be exactly watching out for them, you may be startled when a few body signs which were normal hitherto become more frequent. But if you notice them, it is a good thing and it is necessary that you do not panic. Dogs can sense emotions, negative or positive.
For example, if your dog starts yawning more than usual, it could be a sign of tiredness which stems from stress. Again, unusual shedding of hair, licking its lips and nose, unwarranted shivering, excessive scratching and tense muscles are sure-fire ways of knowing if you have a stressed dog. Some of these signs are natural dog habits, like shedding of hair and scratching so do not become alarmed if you see them happening. It is only when they begin to happen more than the ordinary that you have a case on your hands.
Loss of appetite
Dogs usually have healthy appetites and your dog is not an exception. So when it suddenly starts rejecting food totally or being picky, the cause could be a number of things and stress is one of them. Do not take it lightly; you should visit a vet to ascertain the true cause of the loss of appetite. However, you should bear it in mind that when a dog is under some stress or is anxious, it could manifest as no appetite.
Bad food or an allergy could cause diarrhea but it is also another clear indication that your dog is stressed. We all know how we get when we are anxious or have a lot on our mind. The muscles of our stomach tend to become knotted and nothing sits well in there. The same is applicable to dogs. Due to the fact that they cannot talk, one of the ways their body communicates any sickness or ailment is an unsettled stomach.
If you own a golden retriever or a poodle, then you know that aggression is not part of their makeup naturally. Some dogs are naturally more aggressive than others but usually not toward their owners or known faces. But if your dog suddenly becomes aggressive toward everyone including you, repeatedly barking and threatening to bite, something may be bothering it and stress ranks as one of the likeliest reasons. Dogs are creatures of habit and it may help if you check for any major change in your routines that could be affecting it.
The eyes tell a tale
Naturally, the white part of a dog’s eyes do not show so if the lids are rolled back to show crescent-shaped whites, your dog is probably stressed. This could be one of the first tell-tale signs of stress in a dog. In humans, redness of eyes never bodes well. It usually indicates that the person is unwell. The same is true for dogs. If the revealed white parts are somewhat tinged with red, then it could be worse than you thought and you should do something fast.
Laid-back ears do not make a relaxed dog…
…just as erect ones do not mean an alert dog. Given, some erect ears could show alarm and uneasiness but for most dogs, their ears would become flattened against their bodies, almost as if a force is holding them in place. This is a clear indication of anxiety or stress. Therefore, it is important you know your dog’s body, especially the normal posture of its ears in this case so that if the first sign of stress is the ears, you would not miss it.
Ramrod straight whiskers
You know the way the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end when you are in danger or how your skin breaks out in bumps? Well, if you find that the whiskers of your dog are standing straighter than normal, you should know something is up. The source of the anxiety may not be something that would pass immediately but it would be good to give it some time and watch your dog. If it continues, then you know that something beyond your eyes is making your dog anxious or causing it stress.
This may be one of the least ways to tell if your dog is under stress. If you do not know how your dog is on a normal day, curled-back lips on it would elude you so if that is the only sign of stress it shows, time may pass before other signs manifest, except it turns to constant snarling. Usually, a dog shows some teeth and gums but when it becomes constant and a whole lot more teeth start showing, it is best to find out the reason before the curled lips progresses to biting. The longer the stress lasts, the jumpier the dog becomes and the higher the chances of bites following.
It becomes destructive
This sign may show itself more in breeds of dogs which tend naturally to aggression, like a Rottweiler. Just as humans feel if a pressure is building up inside when stressed and need an avenue to let off steam, a dog may become destructive as its way to relieve the pressure or frustration. Do not be mad at it; it is not deliberate. It would not do that if it could help it. The best thing to do then is find out the stressor or take it to the vet.