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Dog Stress Symptoms and Tips on How to Relieve Dog Stress

Updated by Sheryl on Nov 25, 2021

Humans can feel anxious and stressed from time to time, and so can your dog! Dogs may be stressed out by your neglect, diet change, exercise, etc. It's okay for your dog to feel stressed once in a while. It's persistent stress that causes dog parents to worry. Prolonged stress in dogs can cause serious problems like anxiety and destructive behavior.

To help your dog relieve stress and be calm, you need to identify the dog stress symptoms. In a short answer, when your dog shows unusual panting, abnormal lips licking, pacing, shaking, or restlessness, then he's probably in a state of mild anxiety; And when he peeing or pooping inside the room deliberately, with a loss of appetite, you must pay attention to it. I'll discuss more details later, just follow me.

a big eyes dog
  • Signs of Stress in a Dog
  • How to Relieve a Stressed Dog
  • What Causes Stress in Dogs?
  • You May Also Want to Know
  • Conclusion

By knowing what stress looks like in dogs, you can help them relax and avoid the situations that are causing your dog to stress out.

To know whether your dog is stressed or not, you need to be fully aware of your dog's usual behaviors. Only then can you notice a change in their behavior and can find a way to prevent it.

You know your dog pants when he's tired, after a run in the park, or it's too hot outside. But, if you notice him panting even though the weather is normal and he has not exercised yet, he might be under stress.

Small Signs of Stress in Dogs

  • Unusual panting (often with the tip of the tongue curled instead of straight)
  • Yawning, but he's not tired (prolonged and more intense)
  • Ears pinned back
  • Dilated pupils, whale eyes, and rapid blinking
  • Licking lips or drooling
  • Whining or barking
  • Pacing, shaking, or restlessness
  • Walking or standing up on rear legs

Critical Signs of Stress in a Dog

  • Aggressive behavior like destroying objects in the house
  • Peeing or pooping inside the room
  • Tail tucked between the legs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shedding (dogs shed a lot in a stressful situation)
  • Trembling or shivering (when it's not cold)
  • Hiding or escape behavior (hiding behind the owner, trying to escape)
  • Diarrhea or increased bowel movements
  • Defensive behaviors like howling or biting
a barking dog

Tip 1 - Avoid the stressor

The first thing you can do to ease your stressed dog is avoiding stressful situations inside or outside the house. You can install a safety gate in your house to give separate space to your dog and keep excited children away from his reach.

Tip 2 - Exercise your dog

As with people, exercise is great for the mental well-being of a dog. A long walk in the park, playing fetch can help them release stress. And you may need a retractable dog leash for him!

Tip 3 - Keep him entertained

Keeping your dog entertained and engaged with things he likes will distract him from things that cause him anxiety and stress. You can give him food puzzles, toys that have treats inside them, or play some indoor games with him to comfort him. Here comes a smart dog chasing toys for your little friend.

Tip 4 - Be consistent with his training

Right training allows you to communicate with your dog while making them feel safe and secure. Continuous training with positive reinforcement helps dogs to eliminate their feeling of fear, insecurity, and uncertainty.

Tip 5 - Stay nice and calm

You have to be really nice and calm with a stressed dog, especially during his training. Try not to raise your voice, and don't panic if he takes time to respond. You might scare him and cause more stress to an already stressed dog.

Tip 6 - Don't punish your dog

Don't punish your stressed dog if he shows destructive behavior. Punishing a stressed dog may be able to stop him from growling but he will choose to do something instead like biting or snapping.  

Tip 7 - Calming supplements for dog

There are many calming supplements available for dogs in the market. Like any anxiety calming aids, these supplements can make him a little drowsy and help to relieve stress. There are some over-the-counter supplements for dog anxiety treatment which means you don't need any prescription for that. But it's always recommended seeing a vet to make sure your dog actually need supplements to relieve anxiety and stress.

Tip 8 - Thunder shirts for dogs

You can buy a Thunder shirt for your dog. These are anxiety vests that wrap around the torso and apply gentle, constant pressure giving the dog a snug-hug feeling.

Thunder shirt anxiety vests have similar effects as hugging a distressed person or swaddling a crying infant.

a women and a dog

A dog can feel stressed out when they are bored, scared, anxious, and frustrated. Your dog might be feeling stressed out because of the following reasons:


Separation anxiety is the most common reason for stress in dogs.  Dogs are social beings, and they need companions. Like people, when they are left alone for a long time, they feel lonely and scared. Whining, barking, howling when you are leaving the house may indicate signs of separation anxiety. See a behaviorist for separation anxiety treatment.

Loud noise:

Dogs are susceptible to loud noise. Fireworks, thunderstorms, and construction works may contribute to stress in dogs.

Change of residence:

Whether you're moving into a new apartment, sending your dog to a dog kennel, or rehoming a dog, change of residence can trigger stress in dogs of any age group. If you see your dog peeing often or throwing up inside the house, it might be because he is stressed out for the new place.


Like people, dogs can also become stressed when they are bored. Lack of exercise, lack of human touch, and affection can make them feel frustrated and anxious, which causes stress.

Loss of loved ones:

A dog recognizes you and other members of your family as his 'pack', and when someone leaves or a new one comes up, it often causes stress and anxiety in dogs.

New people:

Whether it's because of trauma from the past owner or your dog is territorial, meeting new people can make him stressed out. The best thing you can do is not to force him to become friends with new people. Take things slowly. Give him some time.

A stressed family member:

Apart from these reasons, a dog can become stressed from always being around a stressed family member. They reflect the stress levels of their owners as they can sense it when things are not right.

a dog in the bed
When it's time to see an animal behaviorist?
If your dog has become aggressive, or destructive, or showing other distressing symptoms talk to the vet about it and find a professional animal behaviorist. They will help you find the cause of the stress and will help you find ways to calm your dog.
Do dogs sleep when stressed?
A stressed dog may sleep a lot more than usual or become lethargic. If you know your dog's sleeping schedule and notice him sleeping more than usual, yawning, or sudden loss of excitement, it might be because your dog is stressed out.
Can a dog die from stress?
Veterinary science has no proof of dogs dying of heart failure due to stress. But you can see behavioral changes in dogs such as loss of appetite, diarrhea after losing a companion or owner, which eventually leads to death.
What does separation anxiety look like in dogs?
A dog with separation anxiety whines, howls, or barks when left alone or is separated from its owner. This type of barking or howling will be persistent and will happen wherever the dog is left alone. It's best to see an animal behaviorist for effective treatment.
How can I help my rescue dog with anxiety?
Rescue dogs often have past trauma and separation anxiety. To help your rescued dog cope with his anxiety, always be nice to him, give him his time and space to be comfortable around you, make sure he's eating well, resist your urge to overly-loving him, take him out on walks, ensure consistent training with positive rewards.

Do your best to comfort your stressed dog and see an animal behaviorist or a vet. He might prescribe some calming supplements for dogs if needed.

But remember that little stress in everyone's life is helpful, including dogs. It teaches them how to deal with difficult situations. Stress induces fear which makes us find solutions to avoid dangerous situations. Our dogs should learn to shake the stress off.

Sheryl is an editor from iPetor, owns extensive pet care experience. As a professional writer, she can provide useful pet care tips for all "parents".
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