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    Spotting stress in dogs

    Steve-King

    Stress, what stress? It seems like it’s everywhere and it’s not just humans that are feeling it.  But do you recognize when your dog is showing signs of being stressed?

    Once you know how to read dogs’ body language, it is amazing how many signs dogs exhibit when it comes to stress or feeling anxious.

    •Panting: dogs pant for a number of reasons depending on the climatic conditions, whether they are thirsty or if they are fearful or anxious about something or someone. When a dog is stressed it will pant and at the same time will have it’s ears pulled back and tail tucked under, so there is more than mere panting to look for.

    •Yawning: as with humans, dogs may yawn if they are tired but they may be indicating they are stressed as well. Excessive yawning, rather than the occasional yawn, can be indicative of stress.

    •Stretching: often after a nap or a night’s sleep dogs will stretch, again like their human counterparts but it is excessive stretching which can indicate a dog is stressed.

    •Drinking: stating the obvious, dogs drink when they are thirsty but can also drink excessively if they are either unwell or stressed. Again it is the degree of drinking rather than the act of drinking itself which is relevant to establish whether a dog is stressed or not.

    •Scratching: in this part of the country we have a very dry climate and dogs are as susceptible to dry skin as are humans. Dogs can be plagued by fleas in the warmer months or may just have an itch that needs scratching. Another option to explain scratching may be the dog is stressed but, as with other indicators, it is the amount or degree of scratching that may indicate stress in a dog.

    •Seeking comfort: stress as much as fear may find your dog looking for comfort from yourself. Dogs look for comfort, or being close to you, for a number of reasons from the social aspect (“I want to be on your lap” or “I need a belly rub”) through to needing security from an actual or perceived stressful situation. You may find your dog pushing against you, hiding behind you or, in more extreme situations, frantically pawing you to get your comforting help.

    •White eye: when dogs are stressed they often display what is known as “white eye” where they display more of the white of their eye than normal. This indicator is linked with other signs of stress, rather than being an isolated sign.

    •Looking away: because dogs find direct eye contact an aggressive posture, to avoid a buildup of stress you will find dogs look away from you or other dogs as a way of calming themselves.

    •Shaking: as with other indicators, dogs will shake for a variety of reasons such as after a swim in the local lake or first thing after waking up in the morning. But when shaking starts to happen over and over in a short space of time, then stress is likely involved unless the dog has an underlying medical condition.

    The more you know your dog, the better you will become at spotting signs of stress, taking appropriate action and relieving your furry friend of his/her discomfort.

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