Stress in dogs

4th August 2016

At Bollington Veterinary Centre we see dogs of all sorts of sizes, breeds and temperaments. Our ability to examine and check an animal properly is significantly affected by how well behaved they are, and this is often linked to how stressed they are. We’re constantly looking out for the signs of stress, and we adapt how we react to them accordingly.

Some of the common signs of a dog feeling stressed are listed below, many of which you may have seen before.

  • Yawning – often associate with a high pitched squeak
  • Tongue flicking - look for the tongue licking the lips and nose
  • Tail tucked – if the tail is held tight under the belly, your dog is anxious
  • Panting – many stressed dogs will pant even though it’s not hot
  • Eye contact – dogs who are unhappy will avoid looking straight at you
  • Shaking – you might see uncontrolled trembling and shaking of the legs
  • Barking – a dog doesn’t have to be boisterous to bark
  • Lunging – we sometimes find a stressed dog will pull and jump


It’s always a good idea to reduce the stress triggers as much as possible, and at Bollington Veterinary Centre we have some simple suggestions that may in many cases help.

6 ways to help reduce stress

  1. Provide a hiding place – keep your dog’s bed in a quiet part of the house. A back room, bedroom or under the stairs is ideal. You could use a cage with a blanket cover as well.
  2. Only reward good behaviour – make sure you only rewarding good, calm and appropriate behaviour. Don’t forget to tell everyone (including children and visitors) NOT feed or praise your dog when it’s barking, jumping or chewing.
  3. Maintain a routine – we strongly recommend keeping your pet’s normal routine as much as possible. Feed and walk at the same time every day.
  4. Regular exercise – why not take your dog out for more frequent walks.
  5. Calming products – there are a wide range of products we use to help keep dogs calm these days, including Adaptil, Kalm Aid, Nutracalm and Zylkene. When you speak to one of our vets we’ll be able to inform you of their benefits and proper use. Be aware that inappropriate use of these can be counterproductive, so do check by asking us first.
  6. See a specialist – we’d always recommend you visit a recognised animal behaviourist if you are struggling. At Bollington Veterinary Centre we’ll be able to recommend a veterinary behaviourist who is known to us.

There are certain things that you should and shouldn’t do when handling a dog with anxiety. We thought you’d appreciate a few simple rules, so we created our ‘Do’s and Don’ts of handling a stressed dog’.



  • Stay calm – it always helps if you keep calm and quiet yourself. Dogs are very good at picking up bad-vibes.
  • Give them time – if your dog is nervous, allow them time to settle down first before rushing to calm them
  • Give them space – your dog will appreciate being not being crowded
  • Crouch down – allow your dog to approach you. If you get down to their level they will be more reassured to come to you
  • Approach from the side – approach a nervous dog from its side, and you’ll be considered less of a threat
  • Ignore – by not making a fuss of a stressed dog, you’ll ensure you’re not rewarding them for the anxious behaviour



  • Lean over – it’s never a good idea to impose yourself by leaning over a nervous dog
  • Give eye contact – avoid intimidating direct eye contact
  • Expose them to loud noises – too much noise will usually make a dog stressed. Choose a quiet area to meet and greet


You are not alone

If you think your dog is showing some of the signs of being stressed, remember you are not alone. At Bollington Veterinary Centre we are always trying to help, and we have a lot of experience in this area. Please call us on 01625 573375 to make an appointment and let’s work together to make your dog as stress free as possible.