18 Critical Signs Of Stress In A Dog

Have you ever wondered what the signs are when your dog is stressed?

It’s important that we learn how to spot these signs early on so that we can take corrective action and help our furry friends feel better.

In this article, we go over 18 critical signs of stress in a dog.

Chewing On Furniture, Wires, Or Other Objects 

little puppy laying and chewing on things

When dogs are nervous or anxious, they may use coping mechanisms such as chewing to relieve their discomfort.

It may be a sign of underlying stress if you have noticed your pup engaging in something uncommon, such as chewing on furniture, wires, or other objects.

Signs of elevated stress are hiding away from the family or barking excessively at random noises.

To avoid these issues developing into bigger problems, owners must reduce environmental triggers that can cause distress and focus on providing a safe and comfortable space for their furry friend.

If the problem persists, consulting a professional trainer or veterinarian can help get the pup back to a healthy emotional state.

Pacing Back And Forth 

When a dog feels anxious or stressed, it may start to pace back and forth.

This behavior is an automatic response that allows them to release excess energy and has been observed in wild canines for many years.

It can be hard to recognize pacing as a sign of stress in your pup because it is also a common playful behavior, so it’s important to look out for other signs like lip licking, yawning, and hard staring, which may indicate discomfort.

If you notice your pup pacing more than usual, provide them extra comfort and reassurance, such as treats or walks with you.

This will help reduce the amount of emotional distress and calm the body down.

Eye And Ear Changes

black dark brown dog face from near

A common sign to look out for is if your dog’s eyes and ears change a lot, such as becoming wide-eyed or perking up more frequently.

If this happens, pet owners should take time to observe their pup more closely and look out for other signs.

Checking your pet’s body language and paying particular attention to their environment can give a clearer indication of why they are displaying these behaviors.

Exercise, interactive playtime and safe socialization opportunities can help reduce stress in dogs, so consider scheduling additional activities into the routine to keep them content and healthy.

Urinating Or Defecating In The House 

Urinating or defecating in the house can signify stress or anxiety in dogs. 

Stressed dogs can express this behavior by leaving messes in areas they feel safe, like their beds or owner’s area.

This generally happens when your pup feels overwhelmed, which could be caused by changes like a new home, visitors, or even just the addition of new furniture.

It’s important to note that any type of change may provoke this behavior in dogs, and it should not be taken as a sign of disobedience or laziness. 

Licking Their Lips Constantly 

brown dog is licking his lips

Licking their lips constantly indicates that the dog may be feeling anxious or stressed.

When a pet licks its lips, this can signify that it is uncomfortable with its current environment as it is an attempt to self-soothe.

It’s important to observe your pet and note any changes in its daily routine to understand how it reacts under stress and what activities tend to relax them.

Avoiding People Or Other Animals 

Another key warning sign is avoidance or distancing yourself from people or other animals.

We need to be mindful of this behavior and understand its implications, as it can be an indication of a need for more patience and understanding care.

Unfortunately, dogs are sometimes not socialized properly at an early age.

However, if we give them the attention they deserve and create a safe and trusting environment, they should develop better social behaviors over time.

Furthermore, it is wise to seek guidance from a behavioral specialist to help your pup through its anxiousness and provide you with further advice on how to manage the situation moving forward.

Shedding More Than Usual 

white dog shedding a lot

Shedding more than usual is an indicator that your beloved furry friend may be under a lot of stress.

Dogs typically shed seasonally, so it’s important to be aware of the amount of shedding that your pup regularly experiences.

If you notice an excessive amount of hair around the house or on your furniture, it could signal that something isn’t right.

Stress in dogs can stem from many sources, including separation anxiety, a difficult relationship with another household pet, or simply environmental changes such as moving.

It’s important to evaluate your pup’s surroundings and overall care in order to ensure their well-being.

You could try home remedies for your dog’s shedding and need to eliminate the stress in your dog.

Having Trouble Sleeping 

Dogs may become agitated or have their resting time disrupted if their environment is stressful, making them struggle to relax and get a good night’s sleep.

Owners need to identify when their dog has trouble sleeping, as it could indicate they are feeling overwhelmed.

Knowing this information, owners can reduce their pup’s stress levels to ensure they lead happy, healthy lives.


Shaking and trembling are common signs of fear and anxiety in both dogs and humans, so they are easy to detect.

If your dog begins shaking in response to a trigger and it cannot be for another reason, such as the cold, they are most likely nervous.

Shaking isn’t always the only sign, and it’s usually accompanied by others.

Pinned Back Ears

Pinned back ears in dogs can be a sign that they are feeling stressed. 

If you notice your pup’s ears pressing back against his head, this could signal the beginnings of distress.

Whining Or Barking For No Reason

white dog howling

Dogs are highly sensitive to their environment, so even subtle changes can cause stress and make them uncomfortable.

One common sign of stress in dogs is vocalizing without an obvious stimulus or reason.

Whining and barking without apparent purpose are visible cues that a dog may feel stressed or anxious.

While these behaviors can be challenging for any pet parent, addressing the root of the problem is critical to provide your dog with the comfort they need.

Excessive Panting

Excessive panting in dogs can be a sign of physical exertion, illness, or even stress.

When it comes to stress, panting can happen when a dog becomes overwhelmed with their environment or has been subjected to an uncomfortable situation.

This can be something like loud noises or even too many people. 

Owners need to watch their pet’s behavior and pay attention to signs that might indicate excessive stress, such as pacing, drooling, lip licking, and panting.

They should provide their dog with things that help relieve stress, such as a cozy spot to sleep away from the commotion, providing calming treats such as peanut butter frozen into toys.

Not Eating Or Eating Too Much 

white brown puppy is eating looking scared

While stress in dogs is normal and a natural part of life, changes in appetite can be a warning sign that something more serious may occur. 

If your dog isn’t eating enough, it could be trying to tell you that it is feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

Similarly, if your dog is eating voraciously, this could indicate that it needs additional comfort.

If you suspect either of these issues is at the root of your pup’s behavior, consider talking to your vet about possible treatments or ways to ease the tension your dog might have.

Grooming Themselves Excessively 

Excessive grooming can indicate stress in dogs since it usually occurs when a dog is anxious or feeling uncomfortable.

This behavior typically takes the form of a dog licking or chewing on parts of its body that are difficult to reach or cover, like the belly and paws.

Scratching More Than Usual 

It’s important to take note of any changes in your pup’s behavior, especially if they seem to be scratching excessively, as this could be a sign that they are feeling overwhelmed and need a calming environment. 

If so, it’s best to provide them with an outlet for release, such as a walk outside, snuggling on the couch, or playing their favorite game together. 

And once you’ve identified the root cause of their stress, you can start taking steps to help reduce it and create an environment where your dog can feel safe and secure again.

Growling, Snapping, Or Biting People Or Other Animals

Exhibiting signs of aggression such as growling, snapping, or biting is a response to stress in dogs.

This is an instinctive behavior and can be rooted in fear or anxiety. 

Depending on the situation and context, it may also indicate that your dog is feeling territorial or protective of something like a toy or food. 

While this behavior might seem alarming, it becomes indicative of a problem when the reactions occur more frequently and intensely than normal.

In these cases, your dog will benefit from professional behavioral training since this is likely stemming from an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

brown little dog sleeps on the floor

Becoming Withdrawn And Inactive

One of the most common signs that a dog is stressed is changes in their activity level and behavior. 

If you normally have an energetic pup, sudden withdrawal and an unwillingness to engage in activities can indicate stress.

In addition to being inactive, your pup might become unusually clingy or avoid familiar areas of the house.

If you notice these kinds of changes in your pup’s behavior, it may be time to take some steps to reduce their stress level by providing more exercise or stimulation.

You may even need to enlist the help of a professional if home remedies aren’t helping.

two dogs sitting near dog pee

Having Accidents In The House

Seeing accidents in the house can be a cause for alarm.

Unwillingly soiling the floor may signify underlying stress in dogs.

This behavior, although often seen as a sign of disobedience, could stem from factors such as anxiety and fear.

Anxiety can stem from changes in routine or environment and separation anxiety due to owners leaving their canine companions alone for extended periods.

If you’ve noticed your pup having more accidents lately, examine his behavior and living situation for potential triggers to breed an understanding and create a happy, healthy home for your pet.

Before You Go…

You now know the critical signs of stress in a dog.

If you want to learn more, read the following article too!

Mena Emad, DVM
Mena has a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. His expertise, passion for animal welfare, extensive knowledge, and experience in the field of veterinary medicine make him an excellent resource for our readers.