Stress and Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs have feelings, emotions and fears and can suffer depression too!  Just like our own defence mechanisms, dogs are also subject to fight or flight but more so!

Depending on the environment the dog lives in it can easily become stressed out or be prone to stress-related responses.

Often when a dog is barking at the front door it is because it’s detecting an intruder. It doesn’t perceive a postman, a milkman or a leaflet distributor, it perceives any approach as a threat first and foremost and this is why the dog barks at strangers to warn that intruder or predator away with the addition of alerting the household or pack.

The household is the dog’s lair, it’s the dog’s home and it’s not yours.

All approaches to the lair are a potential threat to the safety and security of the pack and that includes you the dog owner. You are perceived as being one of the pack members and the dog is protecting its pack with a loud warning sound. This is just one example of how easily dogs become stressed but they quickly recover once the intruder or the caller has disappeared, some don’t though.

There are many easily readable signs of stress within your dog and most stress-related responses should disappear quickly but for many dogs this becomes anxiety and easily evokes further defensive or threatening responses or reactions.


There are many different types of barking which can include warnings to potential intruders to alert the internal pack of potential danger, also confinement and frustration due to a lack of social interaction or even exercise.


Separation anxiety is very common in dogs that are left alone for long periods of time and also can result in excessive constant barking.


Does your dog hide under cupboards or tables or behind the sofa as this may be a sign of stress or habit which can be the result of it wanting to keep away from a stressful situation or even loud noises?


Panting is normal especially when the dog is hot but can be a sign of stress especially when it starts suddenly such as when you are leaving a room and the dog starts to react due to separating from you. Be sure however to put this in the right context as panting is also completely normal.


Shaking and trembling is a nervous reaction and is a demonstration of fear and anxiety. A lot of dogs who visit vets can start shaking or at the sound of thunder and lightning, thunderbolts and fireworks. Again shaking is also a natural response to cold so it must be read in the right context.

Drooling and dribbling

Drooling can indicate hunger especially when food is presented but can also indicate stress when no food is around.

Drawn back ears

Under normal situations the dog will draw its ears back especially when it feels fear or threat. Excessive drawing back of the ears over lots of little things can be a clear sign of stress.

Lip licking

Obviously dogs don’t like to be stared at or even looking them directly into the eyes and you’ll often find they will lick their lips just as they turn their eyes or head away from your gaze. You’ll also find after a loud noise or a fright they often lick their lips excessively. Licking their lips over the slightest thing is also an indication of stress.

Stress yawning

Yawning habitually especially when looking away can be a clear sign of stress.


Avoiding eye contact is common to dogs but excessively avoiding eye contact becomes aversion from a perceived something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Always turning away or turning the back to you and others is a sign of stress and aversion due to the dog feeling uncomfortable and unsociable.

House soiling

All dogs from time to time will poop or pee in the house because they are unable to get out but if it’s happening regularly then this is also a sign of stress especially if there is no illness.


Unable to settle down, hyper vigilance and alertness such as raising the head over every noise that’s heard outside.


Pacing up and down and jumping up and down at the windows or at the doors.


Scratching or scraping at doors excessively or tearing off floor covering to get through a closed door.

These are just a few of the signs of dog stress and may become worse if it’s not treated. Behavioural psychology or behavioural modification will help. Safety and security, reassuring daily routines and socialising are important to dogs like this.

Avoiding situations like busy roads or anything that can cause anxiousness such as loud children, other dogs or anything which could be perceived as a threat to the dog should be minimised.

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