If you have recently adopted a dog for the first time or are planning on having people over this Christmas there are some stress signals in dogs you need to keep an eye out for. Normally, dogs will let you know when they are scared with verbal outbreaks. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, dogs display other signals that can result from stress or scaredness. In the worst cases, if those signs are not heeded a dog may feel threatened and bite someone. You don’t want that to happen this holiday season.
Responsible pet ownership is about making sure your pet feels safe even when others come over. Whether you are a first-time owner or a seasoned vet, here are some classic stress signals in dogs you need to be on the lookout for.
- Barking, growling, or whimpering
- Endless pacing
- Changing posture or freezing
- They are trying to hide
- Bodily malfunctions
Barking, growling, or whimpering
While this might not always be the first sign that a dog is uncomfortable, barking, growling, or whimpering are signs that a dog is trying to tell you something. This may mean that they are scared or nervous when another individual enters their territory. If you start to see signs like this in your dog, don’t be alarmed. It’s important that both you and your guests remain calm and don’t try to force an encounter with the dog. For your guest, make sure that they avoid eye contact and making loud noises.
Don’t let your guests “sneak” or walk up on an unsuspecting dog as that can be an easy way to provoke a negative reaction. Instead, let the dog come to your guest on their own terms. This is especially important around children, as Jenna Stregowski writes in The Spruce Pets:
“Let the dog come part way to children, who can hold out the back of their closed hand slightly toward the dog, but not in the dog’s face. Let the dog sniff the child. Stoop down to the dog’s level if needed (mainly with smaller dogs).”
Much like in humans, one of the stress signals in dogs you may encounter is that they endlessly pace. This is a sign that your dog may be stressed or have a heightened level of awareness. Again, make sure not to force an encounter and let your dog sniff your guests. If you are having multiple guests over and know that your dog may have a negative reaction you may want to put them in a secure location that won’t trigger their anxiety.
However, if you start to notice this behavior in much older dogs it may be time to take them to a veterinarian. Pacing in an older dog can be a sign of neurological problems. Keep your pet healthy by getting them regular checkups.
Changing posture or freezing
We’ve all seen a video of a dog stopping in their tracks once they see a squirrel or cat, then they dash off! Freezing in a dog can be a sign of stress and worry in a dog. Oftentimes, when a dog freezes they are intensely focused on something. Usually, they are making a judgment call on whether something is a friend or foe. But this can also be a sign of extreme stress or worry.f you notice shaking or growling remove the dog from that environment. Your dog will be looking to you to calm them down in those extreme situations.
They are trying to hide
This can be a fairly common stress signal in dogs. When dogs feel threatened, they go into “fight or flight” mode. Instead of barking or growling at someone entering their home, they scamper away and hide behind the couch, and that’s okay. They may even hide behind you. Remain calm and let your dog come out when they feel safe. Many experts recommend crate training for this exact situation. Dogs recognize the crate as a safe place for them to escape people. You can also try introducing your dogs to guests by letting guests give them a treat and letting your dog sniff them.
They have bodily malfunctions
Like humans, one of the stress signals in dogs is to lose their ability to hold their urine and bowels. When stressed, a dog may excessively urinate or defecate depending on their level of stress. To prevent this from happening, make sure to take your dog on a walk and potty break before meeting guests.
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