Ever experienced going on a trip with your sweet dog only to have them shiver with nerves throughout the drive? Or perhaps having an angry neighbor at your doorstep because their child got bitten by your dog?
These are just some of the signs that a dog is stressed. Just like with humans, stress on our pet dogs shouldn’t be left unchecked. Often we hear the phrase “out of nowhere” whenever a dog bites someone. In reality, dogs rarely bite without warning.
Dogs primarily use body language to communicate, so it’s important for dog parents that they know how to understand their canine companions. Learning our dog’s communication style is a huge help in reducing their anxiety and preventing dangerous situations.
In this article, we’ll talk about the several warning signs that can help you tell if your dog is stressed and how to help them.
Cause Of Stress In Dogs
The best way to understand your dog is to think of them as humans with feelings and emotions. Just like humans, dogs get stressed for specific reasons. It can be caused by past traumatic events or the environment they are currently in. Below are some of the causes of stress in dogs:
Stress Caused By Noise
Dogs have incredibly heightened senses, particularly when it comes to their hearing. This makes them extra sensitive to loud sounds, especially when unexpected or unfamiliar. These loud noises can be caused by thunderstorms, fireworks, gunfire, parties, or construction.
Stress Caused By Strangers Or Large Crowd
Dogs can become aggressive to strangers who are visiting their homes. Just like human children, dogs can also have the same “stranger danger reaction.” This can also be their protective mechanism, meaning they’re trying to ensure your safety, as well as their own.
Not every dog is the same as what you see in the movies — tongues out at the car window while enjoying the breeze — some struggle to stay calm while traveling. Even short trips to the park can be stressful for some dogs.
Trips To The Veterinarian
The environment of a veterinarian clinic can also be overwhelming for some dogs. This can be due to the number of pets that are present and the smells being left behind, or even some bad memories associated with shots or surgeries. Some dogs might even feel stressed on the way to the clinic once they recognize the familiar driving route.
Change In Routine
Dogs can also get stressed when they are in an environment that is beyond their usual routine. This kind of stress can be caused by huge transitions like the arrival of a new pet or even slight changes like moving around furniture. Dog’s adjustment period commonly lasts from a few hours to a few weeks, to even a few months.
Mild Signs Of Stress In Dogs
Now that you know the common causes of stress in dogs, it’s also important that you can identify if your dog is stressed or not. All dogs are different and might communicate their stress differently. But here are some of the typical signs of stress being shared by most dogs:
- Tucked ears and tail
- Raised hackles
- Shaking or trembling
- Whining, barking, or growling
- Drooling and licking
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep trouble
- Tummy trouble
Your dog might not exhibit all of these signs, not all at once. That’s why it’s important to be extra observant of your dog’s behavior and the environment. This way, it can help you understand what your dog is trying to communicate and decide on what is the most appropriate thing to do.
Critical Signs Of Stress In Dogs
Most of the above stress symptoms don’t require immediate action. However, they can also be preliminary cautions for worse scenarios. Critical signs often show up in the long run if the stress has not been relieved immediately or if the situation is too severe for a dog to handle.
Take note of the following critical signs of stress in dogs that are needed to be addressed immediately:
- Aggression: If your dog begins to snarl or decides to bite people or other dogs, this is a critical sign of stress that requires immediate attention. Addressing their aggression ASAP doesn’t only save others but also your dog from further harm.
- Refusal to eat: An occasional loss of appetite is not a reason to panic since it can be resolved easily. It becomes alarming when your dog begins to refuse food and nourishment altogether for a long period.
- Excessive shedding: It’s common for many dogs to shed, but a sudden and excessive loss of fur should not be neglected since this can be a result of too much stress. Stressed dogs release epinephrine — also known as adrenaline — which causes the loss of hair.
- Chewing skin or fur: Some stressed dogs resort to biting, chewing, or licking their skin in response to fear or stress. While this can be a mild stress signal, it becomes critical when excessive chewing causes harm such as bleeding.
These signs can also indicate that the stress might not only be situational. When stress affects your dog way too much, go to a veterinarian clinic immediately for a checkup and supportive care. There might be underlying health issues that are causing these sudden changes in behavior. It is best to be overly cautious than risk the welfare of your dog.
How To De-Stress Your Dog
While it’s important to seek professional help for your dog when the critical signs of stress occur, it’s still important that as a pet owner, you know how to calm your dog. De-stressing dogs doesn’t have to be complicated. Check out these simple tips on how to help your stressed dog:
Use A Calm Voice
As the pet owner, your voice is a source of comfort for your dog. Once you notice that your dog is looking a bit stressed, try providing verbal encouragement by speaking in a firm, steady, calm tone. A reassuring voice from their favorite human might help them to calm down.
Provide Physical Comfort
Sometimes, your dog just needs to be held by its human. You can do rubs, pats, massages, or snuggles as a way to calm your dog. Physical touch can provide the same reassuring feel when you use a calm voice. It can also make your dog feel safe and loved.
Find And Eliminate The Triggers
This is one of the best ways of ensuring that your dog is stress-free. You can work with a professional trainer or a veterinarian to efficiently detect what triggers your pet. As a dog owner, it’s also important to reflect on your behaviors as these might also be contributing to the stress. In addition, other people must also be educated about your dog’s triggers. Be firm and don’t be afraid to say no when someone wants to do something that might trigger your dog.
Many dogs tend to establish their little corner in the house. They do this because it gives them security and a place where they can be alone in peace. Wherever this place might be, make sure that your dog retreats to it if they start to feel stressed. This is just one way of empowering independence in your pet. Sometimes, it’s best to just let them take a rest on their own.
Give Your Dog CBD Oil
CBD oil can also be a decent way to reduce stress and anxiety in your dog. This can be part of your dog’s health routine to ensure more stable well-being. CBD oil comes in different varieties, so it is easy to find something that will be suitable for your buddy. There are CBD oil drops that you can put in their food, or CBD doggie chews that your buddy can eat if they fuss over the natural flavor of full-spectrum CBD.
The reason why CBD oil can effectively reduce stress in dogs is that it activates the endocannabinoid system (ECS) — the major regulatory network in all mammals that is responsible for maintaining homeostasis throughout the body. The ECS controls a plethora of biological processes, including fear, anxiety, and stress response.
In addition, a 2015 review stated that CBD interacts with receptors known to regulate fear and stress-induced behaviors such as serotonin 5-HT1A receptor. When this receptor gets activated, it reduces fear and, if taken with stress medications, mediates the anxiolytic and panicolytic effects.
You can check out this article to learn more about the best CBD products for your dogs who experience anxiety or stress.
One thing to keep note of is that dogs cannot express their feelings the same way we do. So, pay attention to their body language and provide them with comfort, security, and other means that can help them to cope better with stress.
While some stressors are commonly shared by most dogs, it’s still important that you know what exactly triggers your pet and what can help them calm down. No one knows your pet better than you do. So trust your intuition, and if you feel that their behavior is being affected by a certain stimulus, better act upon it immediately.
CBD oil is recently one of the hottest topics when it comes to easing not only joint pain in dogs but even stress. As a modulator of the major regulatory network in all mammals, CBD works to establish and maintain homeostasis in your dog, including reactions to stress triggers. Along with other natural remedies and behavioral practices, CBD may become a viable tool for improving your dog’s quality of life.
- Castleberry, E. (2021, March 2). Signs of Stress in Dogs: How to Recognize Them. Paw CBD. Retrieved from: https://www.pawcbd.com/blog/post/signs-of-stress-in-dogs-how-to-recognize-them
- Ward, C. M. (2021, January 29). How to Identify the Critical Signs of Stress in a Dog. CbdMD. Retrieved from: https://www.cbdmd.com/blog/post/how-to-identify-the-critical-signs-of-stress-in-a-dog 
- Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1