Pet owners can learn signs dogs are stressed

There are ways for dog owners to learn to understand what their pets are trying to communicate to them by observing their body language.

There are ways for dog owners to learn to understand what their pets are trying to communicate by observing their body language.

Dogs exhibit calming signals owners can learn to recognize to help avoid a stressful situation from escalating. (Petfinder)

Dr. Anne Marie Carey, with the Atlantic Veterinary College, said there are signs dogs exhibit that owners can be aware of and react accordingly, for example when children are interacting with a dog.

The veterinarian said, “Dogs are very peaceful creatures by nature. They want to avoid conflict so they developed a pretty good system of communication to say 'This is stressing me out', so it doesn’t escalate.”

The calming signals are very subtle and are often mistaken for something else.

The signals are:

  • Lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Lying down
  • Looking away
  • Stiffening

Carey said these signs may look like a dog is bored, but it's not. "This is a dog saying this is really worrying me. It’s time to chill out.”

Children can be intimidating to dogs for various reasons including being loud, using quick movements and sometimes being at eye level with the dog.

Pet owners can teach their pets to be calm and relaxed around children but Carey said it takes time and it is a process.

“We have very high expectations on our dogs and sometimes we put them in situations that are dangerous and just assume just because they are not doing anything bad, they’re happy about it.”

Carey said the calming behaviours are at the bottom of a ladder of behaviours that leads to growling, biting and snapping. If a dog is exhibiting the calming signals and the owner recognizes that, then it can avoid a more serious situation from taking place.

“The appropriate thing to do is to remove the dog from that situation.”

Carey adds many serious situations can be avoided once a pet owner learns to recognize the signals the dogs employ.  


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