Top Signs That Your Dog is Stressing Out


Puppy Basset Hound

Stress is something we all feel whether human or canine. It’s a part of life for any being. We have all felt the fight or flight instinct and dogs are no different from us in that regard.  However, we generally have a way to get out of a stressful situation but dogs do not always have that same outlet.

It’s important to notice and recognize signs of stress in your canine pal before it’s too late. But here’s a word of note:  Do not freak out at the first sign of some of these stress signals. Take a look at the context in which it’s occurring and then decide.


If you notice that your dog is licking her lips and nose repeatedly – and you have not just given her a spoonful peanut butter – start watching for some of the other stress signs in combination with this.

This type of licking will look very different from the peanut butter lick you’ll see (as she tries to remove a glob of goodness from the roof of her mouth).


Dogs will yawn and stretch as they wake up from sleep. A stressful yawn, however, will occur with a lot more intensity than a yawn that follows sleep.

A stress yawn can be combined with a dog who looks away, closing their eyes and avoiding whatever could be stressing them.

Combine that yawn with licking her nose and lips, and you could be looking at a stressed out dog.


Unless your dog has just come in from a run or it’s hot outside, excessive panting is a sign of stress. For instance, if you have a dog that is not used to being in the car and you start taking him for a ride, he will probably pant excessively because it’s a situation he’s unfamiliar with.

If you have a dog who has been showing signs of stress by panting and she suddenly stops and closes her mouth, that’s when you need to be alarmed. That is the calm before the canine storm when she may be about to snap or bite someone.

Sad Dog


Seeing a dog who pins his ears back does not necessarily mean that he’s under a lot of stress. Here again, this is where context is king.

If the dog you are seeing has a solemn expression or fear in his eyes that could be stress. If, on the other hand, the dog whose ears are pinned back is smiling and relaxed there’s nothing to be concerned about.


This is an attitude that needs to be respected. If you find that your dog is looking away or turning away, she is showing you that she is uncomfortable with a situation. This is definitely better than aggression.

If you notice that this goes on for longer than a day or so, it would be a good idea to get your dog to the vet because there may be an underlying medical condition causing her to avoid certain situations.

Dogs speak a very physical language. Learning the signs will help you and your canine live happily ever after.


Photo Credit:

WagBrag’s co-founder, Russ Boles, has a deep history in animal rescue and welfare. For the past 12 years, Russ has served in various roles with Atlanta-based animal advocacy organizations focused on rescue, training and education. In addition, Russ led a local rescue volunteer team into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina, assisting in efforts to rescue and care for stranded animals. This experience changed his life, and animal rescue and advocacy will always be a part of everything he does.