Signs Of A Stressed Out Dog


Stressed dog


In today’s world it shouldn’t surprise us that our dogs find it difficult to cope with our hectic lifestyles. Loud noises, strange objects, new environments or our always on the go attitude can easily stress out our 4 legged companions. Unfortunately there are a number of people out there who have no idea when their dogs are experiencing stress!

Here are a few signs that’ll let you know when your dog is stressed out:

Trembling / Shaking

This particular sign I usually always see with the smaller breeds i.e yorkies, chihuahuas, maltese, etc and I’m amazed by the fact that many pet parents relate this behavior to being cold. I would completely understand why someone would confuse this stressed sign with that of a temperature issue but when you live in South Florida where the temperate is a hot and humid 90 degrees all year around it’s hard to believe that your dog might be cold. It’s also unfortunate that pet parents misunderstand this information because then their dogs are walking around wearing sweaters or jackets!

If your dog is not wet or cold and is shaking or trembling then your dog is more than likely experiencing a very stressful situation.


Dogs who try to ignore you and pretend as if you don’t exist are exhibiting avoidance behaviors. If a dog refuses to look at you, turns their head away, or tries to back out of a situation then he/she is definitely trying to avoid you because they’re stressed out and possibly terrified of you!

Displacement Behaviors

This is another one of those misinterpreted behaviors similar to the trembling and shaking that pet parents get so wrong sometimes. If you have a dog who shows any of these signs in a situation where it is unwarranted then they’re showing them because they’re stressed.

Yawning when a dog isn’t sleepy or tired, panting when a dog hasn’t been in extraneous activities, licking their chops when they haven’t eaten or out of the presence of food and even scratching or licking all of a sudden are sure signs that your dog is stressed out.

Low Ear Carriage

Many dogs who find themselves in stressful situations will show low ear carriage. Their ears will practically be glued to their skulls! Along with having low ears they’ll also show signs of avoidance behaviors, their tails will be tucked between their legs, they may or may not sit down and refuse to be sniffed if there’s another dog around and may roll over exposing their belly which translates to “PLEASE DON’T EAT ME!!!”

Now in some cases there will be dogs who show low ear carriage but they may in fact be excited or happy and not at all stressed out.

Excessive Barking

Excessive barking is a dead give away for dogs who are extremely stressed or terrified and I see this behavior a lot when it comes to smaller breeds. I call my smaller breeds “land sharks” or “piranhas” because when they’re terrified they just go into these barking frenzies and look like they’re going shred you to pieces but we all know that they’re scared to death inside. You know who you are, you little chihuahuas! Usually when they’re going through these little tirades they’ll also get very brave and lunge and snap at you and if you move back a fraction of an inch they’ll pounce and more than likely bite you!


These signs are not the only ones you’ll see when dealing with dogs who are stressed. Each dog is different and will react differently to the stressful situation they are in so a few other signs to consider would be:

  • Salivation
  • Aggression
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Hiding
  • Shedding
  • Pacing
  • Raised hackles
  • Shaking off (as if they have been soaked in water)
  • Low Body Posture
  • Excessive whining
  • Slow or tense movement


Knowing and understanding what our dogs are communicating is extremely important but it’s even more important to know when they’re experiencing stressful situations. Our dogs look to us to provide and protect them so we owe to them to be as fluent in “dog” as we can be especially when it can be the difference between avoiding and instigating a possibly dangerous situation.

Related Articles: Cat Body Language: Angry or Scared 

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Lori Waters

Lori Waters

Animal Expert Extraordinaire! at The Litter Sitter, inc.
Lori Waters is the author and voice behind Thee Inside Poop as well as the owner and operator of The Litter Sitter, a local dog walking and pet sitting company in Miami Beach, FL. When she's not busy blogging and taking care of clients' pets you can find her running around with her german shepherd Zoey or having in-depth conversations with her two fur balls, Michi and Oakley!
Lori Waters

  • Hope Beaulieu

    This is a great article, however I am wondering how to handle a dog that is stressed and aggressive. Every time my friend (the dogs owner) leaves for workhis dog paces and is aggressive. He even tries to bite his owner.

  • Asia Smyth

    Great informative post! Thanks for sharing, Lori! 🙂

    • Thanks so much Asia! Glad you enjoyed it 😀