Understanding Dogs & Stress

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Understanding Dogs – Uncomfortable, Anxious or Stressed

Understanding dogs may be difficult. Dogs have a language of their own. Sometimes dog owners fail to understand or misinterpret the messages dogs give. Understanding dogs and their language is essential. In this article we will focus on the signs dogs give when they are either uncomfortable, anxious or stressed.

Understanding when a dog is uncomfortable, anxious or stressed is crucial to be able to help the dog overcome the cause. In many cases, stress results in defensive behaviour that some misinterpret as aggression. If you have such issues with your dog then read on. This article will try to shed some light on possible cues you may pick up on.

Tail Wagging

When excited, dogs wag their tail quickly and in an excited manner. On the other hand a tail that is moving slowly indicates that something is wrong. If your dog does this observe what is around and what he is looking at. In many cases you will spot the stress causing factor immediately.

A Tucked Tail

Similar to the above point, the position of the tail can give an indication of the state of the dog. A tail tucked in between the legs shows that the dog is uncomfortable. Look around and see what is the cause.

Loss of Appetite

A stressed dog will usually not eat, not even his favourite treat. There can be health reasons why dogs may refuse their food but if you see that your dog was eating just a moment ago and suddenly stopped (and is showing other signs of stress as well) it means that something is wrong. Observe and try to understand the cause.

Pinned Back Ears

Dogs give us a lot of messages by the position of their ears. Ears that are pinned back are a sign of submission and discomfort.

Rapid Breathing / Holding Breath / Panting

Any breathing pattern that is not the usual is an indication that something is wrong. When stressed the majority of dogs breath much rapidly but some dogs may breath less rapidly but deeper. Panting (not as a result of exercise) is a sign of stress.


There are many other things that indicate that a dog is stressed. The above five points are the ones that you may most easily spot. Other more subtle messages may be difficult to read thus professional help may be required.

Our advice is that if you see any of the above signs or any other behaviours that you cannot fully understand, then seek professional advice from a dog trainer.

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