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7 Ways Your Pup Is Secretly Telling You He’s Stressed

Written by: Scott H
Scott Haiduc is the Director of Publishing for iHeartDogs, iHeartCats and The Hero Company. When not working, Scott spends his time on the farm, taking care of his animals and crops.Read more
| Published on February 21, 2019

When something is wrong, our beloved canine companions don’t have the luxury of being able to tell us what’s bothering them. Not using words at least. There are several ways our pups secretly tell us they’re stressed. They communicate with us nonverbally through their body language and actions. Think about the last time you took your pup to…​dare I say it…the​ V-E-T. Here are 7 ways to tell if your pup is stressed.

1. They Shiver

I’m a proud parent of a 5lb Chihuahua, so this is the first sign I notice when she’s stressed. If your dog is shaking like a leaf, there’s obviously something wrong. Sometimes, dogs shake for other reasons, too. For instance, they could be cold or sick.


2. They Use the “Potty”

Even the most obedient, well-trained pooches are prone to this problem. When our pups are scared, it is common for them to lose bladder control. They may also lose control of their bowel. As dog parents, most of us know our dogs are like children. Our beloved pups can be very childlike. Just as children sometimes have “accidents”, our pups are no different!

3. They Whine

It’s instinctive for dogs to whine when they are trying to tell us something. It.s their own little way of self-expression. Oftentimes, it can be cute when our pup whines to let us know he wants our attention. However, this behavior isn’t always cute and innocent. Dogs often whine when they are stressed (​Again, think of the Vet’s office!)​ . Wolf pups whine to their mothers to express what they want or need. So, our beloved pups are no different. Like wolves, pups will whine to express a need to their humans.


4. They Change Their Disposition

Our dogs’ eyes are ​very​ expressive.When pooches are scared, they may display pitiful, droopy eyes. BEWARE: “puppy dog eyes” can also be a trick used to steal that ​burger​ from your hands! Our pups are smart; they use this to their advantage. My Chihuahua gives me this look everyday when I am eating. Sometimes, you may even see a teardrop or two…aww! If your pup’s eyes are unusually glossy, he may be trying to tell you something’s wrong.


5. They Tuck Their Tail

Most of us know this sign. When he tucks his tail between his legs, your dog is literally saying, “Please don’t hurt me.” When pups are displaying this behavior, they are actually trying to make themselves smaller. He is basically telling the threat to ignore him, so the threat can leave him alone. In this case, your dog may be saying, “See? I’m no threat to you.” I have seen some dogs do this when they are caught acting out.

Think about this for a minute: when was the last time your pup had an “accident” on your rug? Or, when was the last time you caught your pooch doing something she shouldn’t have? We all know the hilarious “I’m Guilty” look they give us when they’ve torn something to shreds. Some pups will tuck their tail between their legs. In that moment, they are the “submissive” one and they may be telling you, “I know what I did was wrong. I’m sorry. I am backing down.”


6. They Hide

Sometimes, our dogs will hide somewhere when they’re stressed. I think the Fourth of July is the perfect example. Humans enjoy this day by watching fireworks. However, most dogs are totally stressed. The loud crackling sound of fireworks hurt their ears. Your pup’s cute, floppy ears are extremely sensitive, since they can hear at much higher frequencies. Many dogs respond to frightening sounds by hiding underneath tables and chairs. Unfortunately, some are so distressed by the fireworks they panic and run away. During this particular time of year, most shelters are extremely busy with frightened, “stray” dogs.

When any situation stresses your dog, be sure to reassure them that they’re safe. A good way to do this is by blocking out loud sound by using a noise-cancelling device such as a white noise machine, or even a music player. Some dog parents take it one step further by using essential oils (such as lavender) to calm their pets down. If you choose to do this, BEWARE—not all essential oils are safe for dogs.

7. They Crawl onto Your Lap

Again, our dogs are like kids in many ways (​hmm…Except they won’t leave you for college!​). Dogs are attached to us and look to us for comfort and reassurance when they’re stressed. Just as they protect us, we need to protect them. I’m not just talking “lap dogs” here; larger dogs are no exception (​true story: My 60lb German Shepherd jumped on my lap during the Fourth of July. In a moving car no less!)​


Be Aware

We need to take care of our dogs when they’re stressed the same way they take care of us. Being a pet parent is one of the most rewarding experiences we can have while on this earth. When dogs are stressed, good parents will do their best to distract them and comfort them. Unfortunately, we cannot control our environment at all times, so it is impossible for even the very best pup parents to protect their dogs from being stressed out all of the time. Life, as we know, is unpredictable. So when those stressful situations come up, it is wise to protect your fur baby  the best way we can—by knowing what “signs” to look out for when he’s stressed out.


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