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10 signs of distress in dogs


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We’re all probably aware that if a dog is growling, snarling its lips and bearing its teeth, we are being given pretty clear signs the dog is unhappy and warning us to stay away. This can be due to aggression, fear or stressful situations. However, very few of us are aware of the less obvious signs of distress a dog can show. If we take the time to learn about these more subtle indicators, we can learn to be respectful humans, more responsible dog owners and potentially stop or lessen the chances of a dog bite or attack. Here are 10 signs of distress in dogs:


  1. Eyes – you can tell a lot from their eyes, just like a human – so showing the whites of their eyes is an indicator they’re scared or warning you.
  2. Turning their head away – if a child is trying to hug or pet a dog and they’re turning their head, it’s a pretty good sign they don’t want the attention.
  3. Panting when not hot or thirsty – dogs can display this behaviour as a way of calming themselves when stressed. A baby trying to crawl on a dog that suddenly starts panting is a sign for you to step in!
  4. Walking away – if a dog repeatedly gets up and walks away every time a child or person goes near, it’s not coincidence. They’re removing themselves from anything they’re not comfortable with so again, respect their space.
  5. Shivering when not cold – this again is a dogs way of expelling  nervous / tense energy. Just like a person can shake when they’re angry, the same can be said of a dog.
  6. Lip and nose licking – unless there’s any food or treats about, like the panting and shivering, its a sign they’re stressed and another way of self-calming.
  7. Low posture and or tale between their legs – this is a defensive position and sign they’re not comfortable with the given situation.
  8. Repeated yawning – unlike a tired yawn, stressed dogs may repeatedly yawn with more intensity than a sleepy yawn.
  9. Pinned back ears – many animals such as cats and horses, will pin their ears back when they’re unhappy.
  10. Shaking off – if they’re not getting out of the bath or river, dogs tend to shake off after an ‘unpleasant’ experience. You may see this after a vets exam so look out for this beaviour and take note.
distressed dogs

Remember, all dogs are different and may display just one or many of the above signs they’re not happy. As a human, be respectful of what they’re trying to tell you and as a dog owner, be responsible for understanding their language. With this link in communication, we can pave the way for a happier future for man and his best friend.




About Rebecca Robinson

About Rebecca Robinson

After spending the last 8 years juggling life as a mum of two, wife and working full time as a Project Manager for a global telecommunications company, Rebecca Robinson made the decision to follow her love of writing and took the plunge; turning her passion into a full time career. Since becoming a full time writer, Rebecca has worked with various media and copy-writing companies and with the ability to make any topic relevant and interesting to the reader, now contributes to The Working Parent on articles ranging from credit cards to teenage relationships. Ever the optimist, Rebecca's dreams for the future include a house in the country filled with children, dogs and horses in the field!

Website: Rebecca Robinson

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