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Reward-Based Positive Dog Training | Toronto, Ontario

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Signs of Stress in Dogs

[Photo Credit: caitlinburke]

A lot of my work as a trainer is identifying and educating people on the more subtle signs of stress in their dogs. These stress signs include:

  • tongue flicks
  • yawning
  • pacing
  • cowering
  • sweaty paws
  • excessive shedding
  • refusing treats
  • avoidance
  • hyper-vigilance
  • whale eye (danger!)
  • freezing (danger! danger!)

Dogs offer these signs as early indicators that something is stressing them. Too often these signs are ignored and we have no idea anything is wrong until our dog suddenly lunges and snaps, or worse, bites someone.

Here are some of my favorite resources for understanding the early signs of stress in our dogs.

First on the list has to be Dr. Sophia Yin's illustrated poster outlining the signs of stress and fear in our dogs.

Then I would turn to Lili Chin of DoggieDrawings.net for her poster on Doggie Language.

Finally, for the real behavioural nuts in the crowd, Sarah Kalnajs has a DVD titled “The Language of Dogs” that is an AMAZING chance to see these stress signs, and many others, in action. [Amazon.com link: The Language of Dogs]

In summary, every owner should be on the lookout for signs of stress or fear in their dogs.

Do not be overly alarmed if you start seeing some of these signs. My dog throws tongue flicks every time I pet his bum or sit too close to him. He's a bit of weirdo in that regard. Noticing these signs just lets me know that I am causing him a bit of discomfort and so I look for other ways to satisfy my ape-ancestor desire to groom and touch the other members of my family.

If you start seeing a lot of these signs in combination, or your dog appears to be escalating his use of them, contact a dog-friendly, positive reinforcement behaviour consultant for help.

 

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