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Reading a Stressed Dog’s Body Language & How You Can Help

Being a pet parent means lots of snuggles, walks, and treats. You are an expert on what toys your dog loves and how to give the perfect belly rub.

You are also a body language specialist. Since our furry buddies sadly cannot talk, we have to rely on their body posture and actions to help us determine how they are feeling.

Let’s discuss canine body language, potential signs of stress, and how to help encourage a healthy, happy dog.

Why Do Dogs Feel Stressed?

Although we like to think that our best buddies are happy-go-lucky, sometimes our dogs can feel stressed.

It’s important to learn the signs of a stressed dog so you can help your buddy feel less stressed and even try to prevent those triggers in the future.

Change In Routine

Your dog probably has a set routine in place. They typically wake up around the same time each day and wait patiently for you to wake up. More than likely, though, they are your personal wake-up call. Then your dog will wait by their bowl for a yummy breakfast and then go outside to tend to their business.

Sometimes dog behavior is difficult to predict (who knew that your dog would jump on the countertop to eat a sourdough starter?). Yet, when that routine is flipped over, your dog may be thrown off and may feel nervous at the unexpected.

This is especially true if you are going out of town and your dog will be staying with a friend or family member, or if they will be going to doggy boarding. For some dogs, a new situation is a stressful situation.

Separation Anxiety

Your dog may also feel stressed when you leave home if they are super attached to you. This separation anxiety can also be exacerbated by the fact that many of us have been working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. With nowhere to go, we could pay attention to them all day long.

Many of our dogs are now used to us being home all the time. If your work is now back in-person, your dog may experience anxiety being left alone for hours a day.


It is inevitable that our dogs will not feel well from time to time. They may have gotten into the trash or into something outside that doesn’t quite agree with their tummy. They may have been bitten by a bug or another animal that caused an injury.

There are also communicable illnesses that can be transferred via dog parks, doggy daycares, or just on the ground outside.

New Places

If your furry pal is a homebody, going to new places can be exciting but also stressful. Your fearful dog may feel overwhelmed by all the new people, new smells, and even other dogs in the area. It can be a lot to take in all at once.

Loud Noises

New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July are holidays that many look forward to for the gatherings and fireworks displays. Pet parents may have a different outlook on these holidays since loud noises can scare our pups. Many a pet parent has experienced having to go home from events early to be there to comfort their pup during prime firework time.

Thunderstorms, lawnmowers, and vacuum cleaners are other loud outside noises that can also stress out our dogs too.

What Are Dogs’ Stress Signals?

Like people, dogs have particular facial expressions that can signal anxiety, like avoiding eye contact. Besides their puppy dog eyes, their body language offers other fantastic clues.

Reading our dog’s body language is immensely helpful in knowing their mood. Knowing if our dog is in a playful or stressed mood can help us determine our interactions with our dog and what they need from us.

If you see these signs (usually in combination), your pet is likely feeling stressed:

  • Tucking tail between legs
  • Shaking
  • Lip licking
  • Pacing back and forth
  • Looking for a small space/cowering
  • Urination or defecation (especially in response to a loud sound)
  • Whites of the eyes are showing. Often called “whale eye”
  • Panting or whimpering

How To Help a Stressed Dog

When our dogs are stressed, we want to help them to the best of our ability. Let’s look at some ways we can help our furry pals feel a little better when stressed out.

Rule Out Illness

The first thing to rule out is if your dog is stressed due to illness. If you suspect that your dog isn’t feeling well, make an appointment with their veterinarian or use the KONG Club app to chat with a licensed vet 24/7 to ensure that they receive the care that they need to get back to feeling like themselves.


If you are headed back to work in person, your dog may feel stressed by being left alone during the day when they are used to having you there for company. This stress can help be mitigated by ensuring that your dog receives plenty of exercise.

When looking to help regulate a dog, it’s best to work with their natural instincts. Dogs chew, run, dig, and play in the wild. By fulfilling these canine instincts they inherited from wolves, you can help meet your dog’s mental and physical needs.

Calming Apparel

Apparel made just for dogs can help with relief from stress and anxiety. This apparel is a little snugger on your dog, comparable to a weighted blanket or a swaddled baby.

This light pressure can be calming for your dog while you are away, or if they are feeling stressed due to another reason, like thunderstorms or being in a new place.

Proactive Planning

Eventually, most dogs get a little stressed now and then; people sure do! In both cases, asking for help is key.

With the KONG Club app, you can work with Certified Pet Lifestyle Experts to create successful plans to manage stress, behavior, and more. So if you’re wondering why your dog is drooling so much or are looking for socialization tips, the KONG Club can help clue you into how your dog feels.

Calming Signals: The KONG Club

Keeping our dogs occupied can help divert their focus from being stressed to being interested in getting a treat. To keep your dog busy while you are away, or to help them redirect their attention when stressed, consider becoming a member of the KONG Club to schedule your 1:1 pet coach session.

Having access to 1:1 pet coaching and to the Clubhouse, allows you to join fellow pet families for trading advice and tips.

Your dog loves to be by your side, and KONG Club is by yours to help you take the best care of your pet.


7 Proven Ways to Calm Your Anxious Dog | Central California SPCA

Effect of Wearing a Telemetry Jacket on Behavioral and Physiologic Parameters of Dogs in the Open‑Field Test | PMC

Good (and Bad) Ways to Help a Dog Afraid of Fireworks | Scientific American Blog Network