Just like us humans, dogs can feel stressed from time to time! Whether it be from a change in their routine, a health problem, or an environmental factor, there are multiple different factors that can affect your pup’s stress level. Luckily, it can be relatively easy to determine whether or not your dog is feeling stressed.
Your dog will have a few different bodily reactions to stress. He may pace around a repeated path, or try to “shake off” his stress. Dogs that are stressed may also yawn, lick, or sniff the ground in an unusual manner. Think of it as your pup doing a normal behavior in an abnormal situation. Stressed dogs may also blink rapidly, have dilated pupils, and even sometimes exhibit something called a “whale eye”, where they open their eyes wide to the point of showing more of the white sclera.
It’s important to be familiar with your dog’s normal behavior in order to differentiate from his usual actions and responses to anxiety. If you feel that your dog’s behavior is communicating that he is stressed, there are a few steps you can take to help! First, remove him from the stressor and find a peaceful place to regroup. Just make sure not to comfort too much, as this can risk confirming that his fears are justified, leading to him being less confident in future situations. Try removing your dog from the situation and have him earn treats or comfort through commands, such as sitting, shaking, or lying down. This will help to distract your dog and provide a sense of normalcy! It is important to continue to expose your dog to situations that may stress him, but remember to take it slow. Through hard work and reassurance, your dog will be able to conquer his fears!
If you feel as though your dog is constantly stressed, be sure to see your veterinarian. Your dog may be suffering from an underlying cause, and may need to be seen by a certified trainer or a veterinary behaviorist.