Signs of Stress in Dogs

Updated: June 25, 2024

How do I know the signs of stress in dogs?

Just like us, it is totally normal for dogs to feel stressed. However, excessive stress may lead to greater, more serious behavior and health problems for dogs—anxiety for example.

Our furbabies primarily use body language to communicate. Pet parents should learn to recognize signs of stress in dogs, to determine what it is they are trying to communicate.

Understanding how stress impacts your dog's behavior can help to lessen the development of anxiety, or other health issues.

"Dogs primarily use body language to let us know they are experiencing stress."

Signs Of Stress In Dogs


One way your furbaby may communicate their stress, is through growling. When a dog growls, it may indicate they feel threatened, hurt, or insecure. Calm dogs are not likely to growl, however, growling does not always translate to aggression. Dogs often growl as a warning to show they feel uncomfortable, or that someone is invading its space.

Signs of Stress in Dogs

Dog parents commonly reprimand their pup when growling begins. However, this may not be the best practice. The fear of punishment may lead a dog to immediately bite instead of warning us with a growl.

It is recommended you do not punish your furbaby for growling. Instead, identify what may be causing them to behave in this way. Identify possible environmental triggers, or determine if they are in pain or feeling unwell.


Another sign a dog is stressed is pacing. When pacing, your furbaby walks back and fourth from one spot to another, and cannot seem to settle. Pacing is a dog’s behavioral response to stress.

Changes in the eyes, ears, and dog body language

Stress exhibits itself through changes in the eyes and ears of dogs.A stressed dog will look startled. They may blink abnormally fast, or their pupils may appear dilated.

Their eyes may also open wide, showing a lot more white than normal, this is known as a dog whale eye. Dog whale eye is one of the subtle tell-tale sign that your furbaby may be experiencing stress.

Stress will also show through dog body language. Dog body language can include alert ears that are highly raised and pinned back. Dogs may also tuck their tails between legs, appear stiff, and cower.

Excessive Shedding

Shedding is a natural process dogs go through to get rid of old, or damaged, fur. Dogs go through shedding regularly. However, stress may lead to excessive shedding. According to The Dog People, stress shedding is one of the very first signs of stress in dogs.

When your dog is stressed, they release epinephrine. This release of epinephrine also releases fur. There is no known reason yet for why this happens, but it has been observed that when a dog experiences stress, they shed excessively!

Displacement Behavior

Dogs may exhibit displacement behavior when they are stressed. Your furbaby may choose to distract themselves, or focus on other things as a diversion to their stress.

Signs of Stress in Dogs

They may sniff their environment, resort to digging, excessively lick themselves, or run away. Some dogs may also choose to hide themselves under objects like tables, beds, or cars to feel safe. They may also opt to avoid any forms of interaction with other dogs or people.

According to the American Kennel Club, other signs of stress in dogs include the following:

  • excessive barking and whining
  • aggression
  • destructive behaviors such as excessive chewing, digging, and scratching
  • restlessness
  • accidents, despite being potty trained and housebroken
  • reduced appetite
  • changes in energy levels
  • excessive grooming
  • yawning
  • licking lips

As pet parents, it is necessary to know that all dogs are different. Signs of stress in dogs are not exclusive, and depend on the personality of each dog, the environment they are in, and the context of their circumstances. Knowing your dog and understanding how they react in different situations is key.

How To Calm A Stressed Dog

There are a lot of things you can do to help calm a stressed dog. Identifying what stressed your furbaby is the very first step. Pinpointing the cause of your dog’s stress will help aid you in opting for the best way to help calm them down.

Regular exercise. Exercise can help to calm down a stressed dog. This will help your furbaby release some pent-up energy from stress. Dog exercises, like walking, hiking, jogging, playing frisbee, dancing (yes, dancing!), swimming, and “doga” (dog yoga!) are few examples of the exercises you can do with your dog!

Calming supplements. Providing calming supplements can help relax your stressed dog. Calming supplements, like Calming SoftSupps®, act as a calming aid for dogs. Calming SoftSupps® can be used for all dog breeds, ages and sizes. Result-driven ingredients such as organic hemp, valerian root for dogs, taurine for dogs and chamomile work to tackle the issue from multiple angles. The branded super ingredient, Suntheanine®, is clinically studied for promoting relaxation without drowsiness. These chews are best given in stressful situations like traveling, exposure to loud noises, hospitalization, moving or other situations which may increase stress in dogs.

"Calming supplements, like Calming SoftSupps®, act as a calming aid for dogs."

Provide chews. According to ASPCA, dogs often chew when stressed, or experiencing separation anxiety. To prevent your dog from chewing on anything in sight, consider giving your dog Gnawtlers®. These Premium Deer and Elk Antlers for dogs can help relieve some of your dog’s stress. According to Balance Behaviour, chewing has a comforting affect on your dog as it triggers the release of endorphins. Chewing can also alleviate boredom and frustration.

Mental stimulation activities. Providing your dog with mental stimulation activities, like brain games for dogs, can help to calm dogs. It also helps your furbaby stay entertained! Brain games, like hide and seek, treasure hunting, and providing activities, like Forager® Mat or Forager® Bowl, will enrich your dog, improve your relationship, build their confidence, and help curb destructive behaviors caused by stress.

If your dog has been exhibiting aggression, or other problematic or destructive behaviors, it is recommended you speak with your vet or schedule a consultation with a professional animal behaviorist.

Stress in dogs is something all pet parents come across. Identifying the signs of stress in dogs can help with managing the environment, and responsive behaviors, before it becomes a serious issue. By recognizing and monitoring stress in your furbaby, you can help them live their best, happy, stress-free life!