Causes of Stress in Dogs, the Signs of Stress and some Tips on how to avoid it.

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We all suffer from stress at some time

We’re all human and we’d probably all admit to being stressed at some points in our lives. Some may not admit to it but they will almost certainly suffer it in silence, no matter how limited the time period might be.

We humans can rationalise our fears and accept what causes us stress and most of us manage to conquer the stress by using various techniques which work for us as individuals.

However it is difficult for us to understand what causes stress in our canine friends and what we can do about it to help them conquer their fears.

We’ve attempted to identify the majority of causes of stress in dogs and to identify just some of the symptoms exhibited by our doggy friends when they are stressed.

We hope that this can help you identify stress in your own pet and help them to cope with it by providing some tips and strategies for de-stressing.

What causes dogs stress?

There are many reasons for dogs to become stressed and not all these reasons will affect all dogs thankfully.

However, the reasons can run from travelling to separation and from storms to baths.

The following is a list we have compiled of all the reasons we can think of which could cause dogs to become stressed:

Car Travel can affect many dogs in the same way that it can affect humans in that they feel sick and just hate the motion of the car which causes the sick feeling.

Fireworks and the loud noises they make or the flashes which make them attractive to us humans can be really frightening to canines and send them cowering into a corner or much worse. Fireworks often have much the same effect as storms on dogs when thunder, lightening and strong winds can cause them much stress.

Separation from their owners for long periods during the day can also cause dogs much stress with results which sometimes end with the owners parting company because they can’t live with the damage to their homes and lives.

Kennels are often frightening places for dogs, especially when visiting them for the first time. So many other dogs and such a wall of noise can be very upsetting for a young dog which has never been away from home before. Also, the separation from their owners can have the same effect as being left at home all day alone.

Grooming and Vet Visits can also cause stress to dogs as this usually involves travel and being poked and prodded and other treatment which they are normally unused to.

Other dogs can cause great stress to your own dog if they are unused to the company of other dogs or pets. This can occur when the dogs they meet are aggressive or noisy and full of energy. Pretty much the same effect that some humans can have on us.

Some People can stress dogs as much as other dogs can. Dogs can be very sensitive and can often tell when people they meet don’t like them and will want to get away from them as quickly as they can.

Baths and bath time can stress dogs who really don’t like water although many seem to take to it like a duck. Unfortunately for dogs it’s an essential which cannot be avoided for reasons of health and hygiene, but that doesn’t mean they have to enjoy it.

A move to a New Home can be very stressing for any dog. They may be uprooted from a home they have been living in for some years, have to travel many miles, perhaps by road or air to a new home which they have never seen before and which has nothing like the familiarity of the one they have just left behind. Even us humans can be completely stressed by moving to a new home with completely new surroundings, not knowing exactly what to expect.

Adoption is going to be pretty scary for any dog who is being adopted. Imagine you had been in a rescue centre and not knowing why you had been abandoned and feeling pretty miserable and sorry for yourself. Suddenly, you are being taken away by people you have only just got to know to somewhere you have never seen before. Scary, isn’t it? Stressful? you betcha!

Training is good for dogs and many will say it’s essential and they’re probably correct. However, for some dogs even training can be very stressful, but it is, of course, all a matter of how the trainer treats the dog and the methods they use. The best will always treat the dog with respect but with firmness and without causing the dog stress. Good training, early on, can often avoid a lot of future potential stressful situations.

Parties are great fun for us humans but are often the cause of stress for our canine friends. Strange people invade their territory in numbers with loud music playing and what seems to the poor dog like chaos. All they really want is a place of safety and peace away from the crowd and the music. Some dogs will love the noise and the party atmosphere and happily join in the fun. If your dog isn’t one of those or you are unsure, then make provision to house them away from the noise and bustle while the party is taking place.

We’re sure that there will be other causes of stress that you can think of which we’ve overlooked but we think we’ve captured the majority.

What are the signs of Stress in Dogs?

Each dog may exhibit different symptoms of stress under different conditions but the following are examples of possible stressed behavior.

Barking is accepted normal behaviour in dogs. They will bark in a number of situations which initially grab their attention like a visitor knocking at your door. What is not normal is excessive barking where a dog continues to bark almost endlessly. This can occur when a dog is suffering from separation anxiety, from confinement and separation or from frustration or possibly a lack of exercise or toys to play with.

Hiding is often a sign of stress which can occur when strangers visit your home. Dogs will often seek to hide from stressful conditions like storms or fireworks. If your dog is consistently isolating themselves from you or other pets then it may be due to some form of anxiety.

Elimination (peeing) in the home can occur for a number of reasons and it may warrant a visit to your veterinary practitioner to try to identify any medical condition which might be causing this. If there is no medical reason then it might be that the dog is suffering from separation anxiety or a sensitivity to loud noise if they are likely to be exposed to it.

Destruction of household items which may again be caused by separation anxiety or exposure to loud noises. If a dog is left alone for long periods in a day whilst you are working then it may be that there is insufficient outlets for their energy.

Extreme scratching or licking is sometimes a sign that a dog may be affected by an allergy or some form of inflammation. A visit to your veterinary may be necessary to establish this. If it is not one of these then it may be due to stress because of a lack of distractions to occupy the dog which can lead to boredom and excessive behavior.

Shivering, shaking or trembling can be attributed to a stressful situation if the dog is not wet or cold or suffering from illness or pain. Again, many stressful situations can cause this type of reaction, such as fireworks or storms.

Drooling can also indicate stress and can be particularly noticeable when the dog is suffering from stress through travel.

Restlessness or agitation may also indicate that a dog is stressed for some reason. The inability to settle down and relax my be due to a stressful situation which cannot be immediately obvious but may be through lack of distractions to occupy the dog.

Reduction in appetite can be a sign of illness affecting a dog but can also be caused through some trauma or extreme stress suffered by the dog. if you notice a loss of appetite or an unexplained reduction in weight consult your veterinarian first. But if no illness can be identified then look for reasons for stress or trauma.

Aggression towards humans or other pets can indicate illness or stressful situations affecting the dog. You may need to seek the advice of an animal behaviorist if the dog is not ill.

As with the causes of stress there may be other signs of it which we haven’t identified here and we’re very happy for your to tell us about signs that your own dog displays when stressed which are not covered in our list.

Some tips on how to avoid stress in dogs

Identify the stress causing condition

Whatever the signs of stress in your dog, never, ever be afraid to visit your veterinarian to consult and ensure that the behavior they exhibit is not due to some medical issue that can be resolved by medication or dietary change. If there is no identifiable medical condition then consult with your vet on reducing the stresses being experienced by your dog. Also please review the issues we’ve mentioned in What causes dogs stress? This may help you identify the issue so that you can deal with it.

Diet, feeding devices and exercise

Sometimes stress can be corrected by diet. By choosing a high quality dog food suited to your dog’s lifestyle and the stage they have reached in their life may provide the balance they need in their diet. Any nutritional imbalance at various stages of their life cycle can cause stress to the dog.

If your dog’s stress is due to lack of stimulation or exercise then there are ways this can be dealt with. There are now available a variety of devices which act as food puzzles or food toys. Food toys are designed to dispense food or treats which only provide food when your dog has taken some action to release it. The main types are:

Dispensers which release dry food or treats when the toy is manipulated by the dog in the right way to achieve this.

Toys that can be chewed and can be filled with dry or wet food which is released by the dog chewing on the toy.

Some feeding stations require a dog to interface with a stationary object to dispense food which is usually dry, although some do dispense wet food. In order to release food the dog has to be resourceful in figuring out how to either lift flaps, open small doors, operate switches or spin knobs.

These types of food dispensers can not only provide food which satisfies the dog’s hunger but also stimulation through solving puzzles or chewing toys.

Of course, we should point out that it’s very important that you choose carefully the type of dispenser for your dog, choosing something that is not going to get stuck in their throat or injure them in any way. It’s also important that, in introducing the dispenser, you monitor your dog in the early stages of use so that they grow accustomed to it under your supervision. You may choose to use different types of toy for different meals to prevent your dog becoming bored with just one toy.

Finally, exercise is important for all dogs whether they be small or large. If your dog suffers from being left home alone then do try to take them for exercise before you leave for work in the morning. This will have the effect of raising their endorphin levels and also tiring them to some degree so that they are much happier and more settled when you leave for work.

Have a routine so that your dog gets used to that routine. When you arrive home from work in the evening take the dog out for a long walk and if you can find a local doggy park then take them there to play and let off steam. This will have the effect of releasing more endorphins and working off some of the stress they may have accumulated throughout the day.

Video your dog

If your dog becomes stressed through separation from you during the day, try setting up webcams around your house to monitor their behaviour whilst you’re absent. By doing this you can determine what they do during the day which may provide a pointer to what action you can take to divert them away from destructive or unhygienic activities.

Dog walkers and day care centres

These are available in some areas and cater for dogs which are left home alone all day. Clearly it costs to place them in a day care centre whilst you’re away from home but it may be worth the expense for a number of reasons. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety when you’re at work or away for long periods during the day, then this may be the answer you’re looking for, particularly if your dog is chewing up the furniture or carrying out other acts of destruction in your absence. Its may be less expensive to pay for the day care than replace your furniture on a regular basis.

Also, one of the major reasons for dogs being delivered to rescue centres is due to their behavior. Owners cannot cope with destructive and aggressive behavior due to daytime separation. After all, you chose to have your dog because you wanted a dog and you want to keep that dog as a pet in your home, not take them off to a rescue centre to languish in misery.

Dog walking has also become popular and providing you satisfy yourself that the walker you intend to use is capable and trustworthy, then having your dog exercised during the day when you’re at work could be beneficial to your dog and your pocket.

The walker will possibly handle a number of dogs on their walks and so an element of socialisation is introduced as well as stimulation through exercise.

Of course, neither of these solutions may be relevant if your dog gets stressed around other dogs, then you might want to look for a dog walker who will take your dog on their own.


Stressed, anxious or fearful dogs can be soothed by music playing in the background. There are companies which have provided music specially recorded to soothe dogs. The music is designed to help your dog relax during stressful times or whilst you’re training them. Two companies which are active in this field are Through a Dogs Ear
and Pet Acoustics. The latter company also have a device fitted to a collar which plays music and soothes your canine friend at times of stress. This method could be particularly beneficial to nursing mothers who can often show signs of stress especially with their first litter.

Jackets, shirts etc

There are a number of commercially available jackets and shirts which are specially designed to reduce stress in dogs by applying gentle, constant pressure to their bodies which relaxes them and eases stress. They aim to replicate the feeling of having a security blanket wrapped around the dog which relaxes and comforts them.These appear to be generally effective and may be worth a try for your dog.

Also available are a number of dog collars which claim to have a calming effect on dogs. Collars induce a calm feeling in dogs by releasing pheromones which mimic those released by mother dogs to their pups after giving birth and are designed to keep them calm, comfort and support them in the early stages of their life. Other collars contain herbal remedies which release soothing scents to calm the dog.


There are a number of diffusers available which plug into electrical sockets and release pheromones into the atmosphere in a similar way to which some dog collars work. These are available online and in most large pet store markets.

Calming aids

Other solutions to induce calm, stress-free behaviour in dogs are available in the form of tablets, powders, liquids and treats. These are also available online and in pet supermarkets. They largely provide relief from stress in dogs by providing their bodies with traditional herbal remedies which have been used by humans for many years. They include such constituents as Lemon Balm which has muscle relaxing properties as well as being anti-bacterial and anti-viral, Chamomile which is a herbal remedy designed to calm nerves and stomach. Other constituents can include Valerian which has long been known as a natural relaxant, Ginger which is used to help relieve travel sickness and generally aids digestion. Thiamine (Vitamin B1) acts as an anti-stressor and Tryptophan is generally accepted for reducing aggression and behavioural problems in dogs. There are others but these are examples of a few calming aids for dogs. PurePetsPlus does have a liquid Calm-Aid which has all of the above ingredients.

Training and Behaviour Management

Working with a professional dog trainer with behavioral modification experience can help to identify and work towards eliminating the the fears your dog has and can certainly help with any aggressive behavior your dog may display as a result of their fears. Among professionals you could consult about your dogs stressed condition are Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists, Veterinary Behaviorists or Certified Professional Dog Trainers.


If you can identify the cause of stress in your dog then it is possible that counter conditioning may help to alleviate the fear which they have. The aim of counter conditioning is to match something bad with something good. So, if your dog has a fear of visits to the vet and this causes them to be stressed then, as their owner, you must find something they really like which counters that stressful situation. However, be aware that it is possible to make the stressful situation worse if the counter conditioning is not done correctly. The help of one of the professionals identified above can help to avoid causing unnecessary stress to your dog.

Trust in their owner

Building a solid relationship with your dog from puppyhood can often resolve any early stressful situations and behaviour. Your dog needs routine and to be able to trust you. Establish the daily routine early on and take your puppy to training sessions so that your relationship grows day by day through closeness and togetherness. Get used to playing with your dog, give them regular exercise and build a close relationship with them, letting them know that you care about them but staying in control.

Once they begin to trust you and the routine you establish they will feel more secure and this will help them to deal better with their fears and conditions which cause them stress. Once they are used to your routines they will know when people are due home and when they get exercise, toilet breaks, feeding and so on.

Create a safe place

If your dog suffers from stress as a result of storms, fireworks, parties, visitors or anything which affects their life in their home, then you need to consider creating a safe place where they can get away from the stressful situation. Choose a room away from the main living area where they can relax and be cut off from noise.
Have a security blanket and familiar toys in the room and even provide a box or crate where they can hide away. Visit them often until the stressful event has subsided or ceased. You spending time with them will be very reassuring to them. You could even have music playing which is specially designed to relax dogs.

Massage your dog

If your dog loves being massaged this may be a good way to help them relieve stress.
Gentle massage can cause some dogs to relax and let their stress drift away. This may not work on all dogs but it’s worth trying. Gently massage your dog in slow, long strokes down their chest and back. At the same time talk softly and soothingly to them whilst continuing the massage movements. Slowly, your dog will relax physically and a lot of the stress will seep out of their bodies as they continue to become more relaxed. Give them praise when they become really calm and relaxed.

If you’ve ever personally enjoyed a good massage you’ll know how relaxing that can be. It can be the same for your dog. Try it.


If your dog displays any of the signs of stress don’t hesitate to take them to your vet to ensure there are no medical reasons why those signs are being exhibited. Providing there are no medical conditions affecting your dog then you may be able to identify the reason or reasons for your pets stress.

If that is not apparent then it may be that you want to involve a professional to work with you in identifying and resolving the cause of your pet’s stress. We know this may become expensive and time-consuming but you probably don’t want your pet to live in a stressed state when certain conditions occur in their lives. After all, the condition may occur often and cause them to live in a continually stressed state and that is not what you want for your beloved pet.

We hope this article will have given you some pointers as to what might be causing your pet’s stress and how you might help your pet overcome their fears.


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