6 Signs Your Dog Is Stressed

Even though our dogs don’t speak to us in human tongue, they find ways to communicate—especially when they’re stressed.

When he really needs to go out for his walk, you may find him whining at the door. He may pace around you on the couch when he wants you to play with him. When he sees a new dog walking out in front of the house, he may stand there staring at her, ignoring you and the treats you offer to distract him (and he never turns down treats).

It’s likely you’ve seen these more obvious signs of stress, but there are many other signals you may miss simply because they aren’t always signs of stress. Sometimes dogs perform these normal behaviors as a way of releasing stress, avoiding a stressor or providing a type of diversion to the stressor. Here are a few examples.


Your dog walks into your friend’s home. He sees another dog, stops, stares and yawns, still staring. He may yawn a few more times, with tense body language. This would be an indicator of stress, not that he’s ready for a nap.


You’re on a walk and are suddenly surrounded by a large group of children on a field trip. Your dog immediately glues his nose to the ground and starts sniffing intensely, averting his eyes and avoiding the situation around him. This is not the leisurely sniffing activity of your usual walks and could indicate that he is stressed.


The temperature is cool out and the day is overcast, yet your dog is panting as he looks around at all the people and activity going on around him at a local festival. There’s a good chance your dog is stressed and not hot.


It may come as a surprise that your dog will nervously groom himself when stressed, but it’s a way of releasing that tension he’s feeling. If you’re in a new or different situation and he suddenly starts chewing, licking or scratching himself excessively and intensely, this may be a sign of stress.

Licking Lips

Often associated with a hungry dog, this is also a stress behavior depending on the situation. Consider your dog’s environment and whether he actually acts hungry. As noted earlier, some stressed dogs don’t want to eat. Keep your eyes open for any other stress-type behaviors to help confirm that he’s stressed.


You know how your dog shakes himself for drying purposes after a bath? You may see him doing this in a stressful situation as well. Again, observe him as a whole and his environment to confirm that he’s stressed.

Knowing when your dog is stressed is important in order to minimize potentially negative behaviors and outbursts. Once you realize he is stressed, remove him from the situation and consider finding a trainer to help work through the anxieties if they are recurrent.

Meet the Author: Jessica Peralta

Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.

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