Signs of Anxiety in Dogs.
Spotting signs of anxiety in dogs is an important skill to learn, particularly in respect of dog bite prevention. Dogs are the most amazing and loyal companions and can provide emotional and psychological benefits for humans. However, they do also bite and, statistically, young children are most likely to be bitten by the family dog.
Recognising stress in your dog, can mean bite risks are reduced. Additionally, successful training and behaviour modification, relies on working with the dog in an un-stressed state.
To help owners to know when their dogs need a break, Holidays4Dogs has compiled a list of some common behaviour signs to look out for. Some of these signs can be subtle. Dogs may show one, or more, of these behaviours at the same time.
Signs of anxiety in dogs.
Ear position – Many dogs will pull their ears right back if they are feeling anxious and it’s a sure sign that he requires more space.
Tail carriage – Typically, a dog will carry his tail between his legs if he is feeling frightened, or stressed. However, a dog who is feeling uncomfortable, or unsure, may also hold his tail up in the air. A wagging tail can also possibly indicate the dog is not feeling confident and may be accompanied by raised hackles, or lip licking. Don’t always assume that a wagging tail means the dog is happy, especially if it is accompanied by one, or more, of the other signs discussed.
Lip licking – This is another common sign a dog may be feeling anxious. Dogs will rarely engage in lip licking unless they have just eaten, or had a drink. If you notice your dog is doing this at other times – evaluate the situation to decipher who, or what might, be triggering this.
Averting gaze – In this case, the dog may be attempting to extract himself from the situation by looking away. He may also stare into the distance as if he is not listening. He may remain still, or engage in other behaviours such as lip licking, or laying his ears flat.
Showing the whites of the eye – This is one of the less subtle signs that may indicate a dog is feeling stressed or frightened. Some experts call this, ‘whale eye’ or ‘half moon eye’. It describes the effect when the dog averts his head slightly, but leaves his eyes fixed on something, or someone. Sometimes, this can be a signal that a dog is about to become more aggressive by growling, or curling his lips to show his teeth.
Lip curling, showing teeth – Lip curling, is a warning pre-warning from the dog that things could escalate to snapping, or biting. It is crucially important the dog is removed from the situation causing him to feel stressed, or threatened.
Why is my dog stressed?
There can be a number of reasons why dogs become anxious. Domestic dogs are adaptable creatures, but nevertheless, we ask them to live in captivity in environments that are not completely natural to them. Many dogs are left alone for long periods, while others forced into unfamiliar situations on a regular basis.
Certain breeds can be more vulnerable to stress. Working dogs like border collies, for example, can become extremely stressed if they are expected to spend long hours alone.
In other cases, dogs can become so dependent on their owners, they don’t really know how to behave like dogs. With their natural instincts suppressed, they can become erratic, or reactive.
We expect our dogs to be hugged, kissed, or left at home for hours. At other times we want them to go with us everywhere including noisy, busy places. They ride in cars, endure noisy televisions, domestic arguments, loud radios, unruly children and then they may only meet other dogs who are just as troubled as they are!
As in human society, it is difficult to eradicate all stress from the lives of our canine companions. However, it is always beneficial to try to reduce the stress where ever possible.
Make sure you provide your dog with space and time to just do his own thing, (within reason of course). Never allow a dog to be alone with small children. Children and dogs can become the best of friends but, equally, there is potential for conflict. This is particularly so because children are unable to interpret canine body language and behaviour.
Dog’s can only, ‘talk’ to us in their own language. Therefore, it is really important for us to take the trouble to understand their body language. This way, we can meet the immediate, and long term needs of our companions, while avoiding any potential conflict.