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Signs your dog might be feeling anxious

As dog owners, we always want to ensure our furry family members feel happy and healthy. However, just like us, dogs can experience strong emotions such as fear and anxiety.

Dogs don't speak our language, but their body language and behaviour can tell us a lot about how they feel. Some behaviours are subtle, happen quickly and are easy to miss; recognising the signs of anxiety is the first step to helping them to feel better about things that worry them.

Body language clues

When reading your dog's body language, it's important to consider your dog as an individual and how their breed may affect how they are able to express themselves. For example, dogs with flat faces or wrinkles may not be able to move their faces in the same way as others, and dogs with short or no tails may be unable to communicate this way. Having lots of hair, especially around the face, can also make reading body language difficult!

Some general clues to look out for include;

  • Ears held back closer to the head

  • A furrowed brow and wrinkled skin between the ears

  • Lip licking

  • Facial muscles become tense (usually resulting in a tightly closed mouth)

  • Lowered or tucked tail

  • Tension in the body

This article by Dogs Trust is a great visual resource for learning to understand your dog's body language in more detail! If you like books, Doggie Language by Lili Chin also comes highly recommended!

Pacing or restlessness - Your dog may be unable to settle if they feel uncomfortable about something.

Panting and shaking - It's important to take the situation into consideration too, so if it's not hot or you haven't just been for a long walk or playing together, panting may be a sign that your dog is anxious. Some dogs may tremble or shiver when they're not cold, too. A big shake from side to side (like when they're wet!) could be your dog's way of "shaking off" a challenging situation.

Running away and hiding - Some dogs may try and run away or avoid something that worries them by hiding.

Displacement behaviours - A displacement behaviour is a normal behaviour displayed out of context; this is often a way for dogs to cope with anxious feelings and avoid conflict. Some behaviours to look out for include lots of sniffing around or scratching/licking themselves continuously.

Loss of appetite and not taking treats - Your dog might not feel like eating when faced something that worries them, or they might take the treats forcefully or spit them out.

Mouthing and jumping up - Your dog might seem clingier than usual or show what appears to be attention-seeking behaviour.

Try and identify what is causing your dog to feel anxious so you can help them to feel better. Working with a professional dog behaviourist can help you to understand your dog's anxiety and work towards changing their feelings towards their triggers. If you'd like to help your dog feel happy and confident, please get in touch.

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