16 Common Things Which Stress Out Dogs

Are you familiar with the different things that can cause stress in dogs?

Stress is a common reaction within dogs, and it can happen for many reasons.

For dog owners, this means being aware of the signs of distress rooted in situations or objects an animal experiences regularly.

To give our canine companions peace when life gets hectic, start by understanding the very real sources of stress in their environment.

In this article, we discuss 16 common things which stress out dogs and how to help your pup overcome them. 

Wake Them Up

white black little dog under a rosa blanket

It is important to be mindful when waking up a dog, as sudden movements or raised voices can easily startle a canine.

Such disturbances can cause their heart rate to spike.

And this can lead to a feeling of stress and anxiety, particularly if it happens frequently.

If left unchecked, this could lead to changes in behavior and potential aggression.

To avoid this scenario altogether, ensure that you are gentle and encouraging while waking your pet up.

Doing so will help keep your pooch calm and relaxed so they can enjoy restful sleep time each night.

Pointing Or Shaking A Finger At Them

Pointing or shaking a finger at dogs is not an effective or recommended way to communicate.

When humans point or shake a finger at them, dogs may interpret this as a sign of aggression and become startled or scared.

Studies show that dogs feel threatened when humans use aggressive hand gestures such as pointing and shaking a finger.

This can lead to anxious behaviors in the dog, such as barking, cowering, or even growling.

A more positive way to interact with your pup is to use words and voice commands instead of pointing or shaking a finger in their direction.

Telling Your Dog “It’s Okay”

dark brown and black dogs head getting petted

Many people may think that telling their dog “it’s okay” is a comforting phrase, but it can actually cause more stress in the long run.

Dogs can pick up on vocal cues from their owners, such as calm reassurance or anxious energy.

When you tell your dog “it’s okay” in a nervous or hurried tone, it might cause them to think that something is wrong.

That way they will start feeling anxious or uncertain.

This reaction can be further exaggerated if you continue to use this phrase around other people or animals.

The reason is that dogs learn social cues from their owners and environment.

Instead, use calming tones and words when addressing your pup.

Try using phrases like “It’s safe here” or “You are doing well” to give your furry friend the comfort they need without causing any additional stress.

Loud Noises

Dogs are much more sensitive to sound than humans, meaning loud noises can cause immense stress for our canine companions.

Reason for it is that dogs can hear much better and things more far away than us humans.

It’s not only loud noises from machinery such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and jackhammers that can cause distress for dogs.

Even seemingly harmless activities like kids yelling or running around can be enough to make them nervous.

Recognizing the signs of anxiety in your dog before it escalates into full-blown stress is important when protecting your furry friends from uncomfortable situations.

Common signs of distress include droopy ears and tail, pacing, lip licking, yawning and panting, or attempting to hide or escape the noise. 

Knowing how to manage surroundings that may pose a risk is essential when trying to keep dogs calm in potentially stressful environments.

Strangers Or Unfamiliar Environments

white brown dog face laying on the ground

Many dogs find it incredibly stressful to be around strangers or in unfamiliar environments.

This is due to the evolutionary traits of their ancestors, that would often see at-risk activity and danger from unknown sources.

It is important for owners of dogs to be aware of this, as they are generally more sensitive and easily stressed when placed in different surroundings.

Professional behaviorists will recommend familiarising your dog with social and environmental elements with expertly structured succession plans to get them used to being calmer in those situations.

Doing this right can help create a safe and comfortable environment for your canine companion.

Lack Of Exercise Or Interaction

Dogs are social animals, and lack of exercise or regular mental stimulation can be detrimental to their health.

This is because dogs are naturally active, curious animals that need both mental and physical challenges.

Without these activities and interactions, like vigorous activity, consistent playtime, or problem-solving tasks, dogs can get bored and stressed out.

Aggression, excessive barking, soiling the house, and excessive panting are all signs that your dog may be too stressed to handle it. All of these behaviors could lead to destructive ones, like chewing furniture or digging holes in the yard.

Ensuring that your canine receives adequate exercise and daily interaction will help them stay calm and content.

Introducing Your Dog To New People

dog not looking amused meeting new people

Introducing your dog to new people can be stressful for both the dog and the person being introduced.

When meeting a stranger, dogs will often look to their owner for cues on how to act, so it’s important that they be given positive reinforcement. 

Before introducing them, ensure your dog is comfortable with the unknown person by giving them a chance to smell their hand or offering a small treat first.

Establishing trust between dog and human is key in order for the interaction to go smoothly.

If you notice your dog getting agitated during the introduction, take a break and try again later.

Keeping things calm and relaxed will make sure that everyone enjoys the experience!

Unhealthy Foods

Even if you think your dog is living the good life with treats, be aware of the type and quantity.

Some snacks include too much fat and salt, which can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Too many unhealthy foods might cause a nutrient imbalance, so choose natural, balanced options instead.

The occasional treat will always make your pup happy, but keep in mind that a balanced diet should be the mainstay of their nutritional needs.

Using Multiple Verbal Cues To Indicate The Same Behavior

brown dog sitting on grass in front of a woman in punk shirt

Using too many verbal cues to indicate the same behavior can cause a lot of stress for dogs.

Even if the terms used are similar, they can still confuse your pup.

If you want your dog to understand what you’re asking from them, only give one cue at a time and be consistent with it.

That will minimize the confusion and help reduce any added stress on your pet.

Additionally, try not to put your dog in a situation where they have to guess what behavior is being asked of them.

Be direct and clear with each command given so that there is no misinterpretation. Doing this will make training easier for both you and your pup.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a real issue for dogs that many owners are unaware of.

Separation anxiety in dogs can appear as barking, whimpering, and destroying furniture.

It’s prevalent among rescue animals who have been abandoned or separated from their litter too soon.

Identifying and comprehending the problem can help your pup cope with being alone, whether through behavior modification training, offering toys and treats, or both.

With patience and consistency, pet parents may help their pets relax while they’re alone.

Changes In Routine

little white brown dog sitting on a wooden floor

This can stress out dogs since they rely on predictability to stay calm and comfortable.

It’s no surprise that something like a change in environment, such as moving to a new home or adding a new pet, or having their owners gone for longer periods of time, can put them on edge.

Unless done carefully, disruption of established routines related to things like physical activity, meal times, and sleeping schedules can cause dogs plenty of distress as well.

A good way to approach any kind of major change is gradually introducing it so that the dog has a chance to gradually adjust and become accustomed to it.

This will help make the transition much more pleasant for your furry companion!

Pulling On Their Leash

Pulling on a dog’s leash is incredibly stressful, both physically and emotionally, for the animal.

Physically, it can lead to neck strain, pain in the throat, and airway blocking, producing an inability to breathe correctly.

Mentally, it can be traumatic and lead to immense distress and confusion.

If your pup isn’t familiar with you or perceives you as a threat, having that close proximity will cause them extreme anxiety.

Still, all of this can be avoided by teaching your canine companion to undertake walks without pulling on the leash – it just takes patience, consistency, and perseverance from the human!

Staring Directly At A Dog

Staring straight into a dog’s eyes makes them uncomfortable and can cause discomfort.

Dogs view eye contact with humans as hostility or submission, both uncomfortable responses.

The greatest method to interact with a furry buddy is to briefly look at them and then look away.

That will help make your pup more comfortable and reduce the amount of stress they experience when you interact with them.

beagle dog getting hugged by a human

Hold Them While You Hug Or Kiss Them

Constant physical contact with a dog can be a source of stress for the animal.

When someone hugs or kisses them excessively, they may become uncomfortable and anxious due to the lack of control they have in that situation.

Dogs need an appropriate amount of physical affection and contact, just like humans do, but giving them space when needed is important.

Pay attention to their body language.

If they’re squirming or tensing up, step back and don’t force any contact.

Instead, try talking or petting them gently, as these activities are more controllable for dogs and can be relaxing rather than stressful.

Tell “No” Over And Over

Dogs are highly intelligent and curious animals, always learning from their environment.

When owners consistently say “no” in a firm or angry tone, they may become confused and stressed.

That ultimately sets them up for failure.

The goal is to set boundaries but approach training with consistency and kindness.

Your dog will learn faster and feel more confident in your connection if you say “no” softly but firmly and praise and reward good behavior.

Positive reinforcement helps dogs comprehend expectations, which calms everyone.

brown white dog on grass playing with a yellow ball

Pretending To Throw The Ball

Deceiving your pup by pretending to throw a ball may seem like harmless fun. However, it can cause a great deal of stress for your canine companion.

Deceiving a dog by saying “fetch” or making a throwing gesture with no ball causes distress.

Waiting for the ball increases your dog’s anxiousness as he wonders what will happen next.

For these reasons and more, pretending to throw the ball does indeed increase stress in pip, so remember to treat your pooch always with respect!

Before You Go…

You now know the things which stress out dogs.

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.