Dog Looking Stressed and Confused

Things You Do That Stress Your Dog Out

Labeling your dog as “dominant”. Dominance is not a personality trait. Behaviors commonly considered a sign of dominance often stem from insecurity or hyper-excitability.

Pet owners who label their dogs as dominant often feel justified using harsh training methods. These tactics don’t encourage long-term good behavior and can create fear in your dog.

Assuming Your Dog Behaves Badly On Purpose

Your dog behaves the way he does, because it is natural to him. Your dog would need a notion of right and wrong to be bad on purpose. Dogs are motivated by outcomes not morals. If your dog does something you think is bad he is just reacting to your response.

Beagle Barking in Living Room

Punishing Your Dog For Being A Dog

Dogs are creatures of opportunity. Don’t leave food or scraps out where he can smell or see them. Don't leave him in the bedroom alone with your socks or slippers or socks. Only give your dog opportunities he can succeed at.

Natural for dogs: chewing, barking, chasing, digging.

Give him a proper outlet for his instincts. Redirect him to his toys. Create a designated digging pit. Play games that involve chasing.

Being Too Lax

Unstructured interactions with your dog open the door for chaos. Dogs need clear boundaries. Being punished for something some of the time but not all the time is confusing for dogs. Make your expectations clear always.

Expecting Your Dog To Obey Just To Please You

For some dogs praise and petting is not enough. Dogs respond to substantial and immediate rewards.

If your dog performs a difficult behavior, or does something correctly in a distracting situation, the reward should be whatever he loves the most such as a game of tug, or a special treat.

Telling Him "No" Over And Over

Telling your dog “no” may stop her behavior temporarily. But if you don’t offer an alternative, your “no” is merely an interruption, not a demand or request. Show your dog what you want her to do or she'll be right back to doing what you don’t want eventually.

Cute Puppy Showing His Tongue

Confusing Him With Different Commands For The Same Thing

Dogs don’t understand English. They don’t know that “leave it” and “drop it” mean the same thing.

Use simple, preferably single-word commands for your dog. Sit, stay, come, down, pee, poop. Use only these words, to communicate. Otherwise, your dog will be stressed because he knows you want him to do something but he doesn’t know what it is.

Telling Him "It's Okay"

People say this right before something not okay is about to happen. Things that happen at the vet or the groomer.

You always say “it’s okay” at these places she doesn’t like, trying to calm her. As soon as you say “it’s okay” to comfort her, she knows exactly what’s about to happen. “It’s okay” becomes a verbal cue to panic.

Pulling His Leash

Your dog wants to stop and sniff everything. It’s the main point of the walk in his mind. He doesn’t care about the concept of exercise. Let him have his fun and check his pee-mails.

Holding Him While You Kiss And Hug Him

Dogs find these expressions of affection confusing, especially if the hugger is a stranger.

Girl Giving a Kiss to a Happy Dog

If they are being held during the smooch-fest, that stresses them even more because it feels like restraint. Stick to stroking and petting, which most dogs can’t get enough of.

Staring At Him

People don’t like being stared at and dogs find it very unsettling. They see it as a confrontation, a “let’s rumble” signal and that triggers stress.

Pointing Or Shaking Your Finger At Him

This stresses your dog because you are usually doing it with a menacing posture or displeased tone of voice. You may think your dog’s guilty look is because he knows he did something bad but it’s because your finger-pointing is making him uncomfortable, confused, and stressed.

Telling Him To "Get Down" When He Jumps Up

If you use the command “down” to get your dog to go from sitting to lying down, it’s going to confuse him when you use it when he’s jumping up on somebody or something. Use something different such as “off” or “paws on floor” for jumping up.

Dog Being Teased to Jump

Waking Him Up

Avoid waking your dog up from a nice snooze. Being shouted or shaken awake is stressful for everybody.

Teasing Him

Children often tease dogs. Pulling their tails and ears, chasing them, wresting with them. These things can make a dog shy, insecure, or even aggressive.

Playing keep-away when he never wins the toy, moving his dish while he eats, or endless laser toy sessions can drive him nuts. No teasing!

Leaving Him On His Own Too Much

Dogs are social animals and your family is his pack. Being left along for ten hours each day can cause him deep psychological problems: separation anxiety, digging, barking, escaping, destructive behavior. Even backtracking on the potty training.

Your dog needs to spend time with you. Get some regular visitors for him if you have to be away a lot. Even other pets can help.

Kid Teaching a Dog Drop It Command

Taking Him To Crowded Dog Parks

Some dogs love meeting a lot of new dogs. Some find it stressful. Dog parks and doggie daycares can stress your dog, not help.

A sociable dog can get along with six or seven other dogs if they have enough space and manners. Increase the number of dogs or reduce the space and it may be a problem for all the dogs.

Avoid parks or daycares with high numbers of clients or densities of frenzied dogs.

Making Him Meet Strange Dogs

Your dog’s instinct is to feel threatened and protective if a new dog enters her turf. Many people think their dogs instinctively love other dogs bring their dogs over for unscheduled visits.

Your dog may actually hate this. Introduce the other dog when both are out walking. Reward them with treats and let them interact. Don’t let them fight over toys.

Changing His Routine

Dogs rely on routine and consistency. Feeding times, potty times, walky times, play time. Those are engrained in his brain and he expects them to happen.

Don’t randomly change the schedule.

Using A Tight Leash

If your dog is dragging you down the street with the leash stretched tight he’s not paying attention to his training.

Dog Pulling on Its Leash

The constant tension on his collar harness could cause physical problems. And, even though the dog is creating the tension, it bugs him.

Learn to teach your dog loose leash walking.

Signs Your Dog Is Stressed Out

Sudden Excessive Shedding

Have you ever noticed how your dog’s fur practically explodes off him when he is put on the table at the vet? This is because he is stressed. If you see your dog doing this somewhere else besides the vet, it’s because he’s stressed.

Ears Pinned Back

If it’s not a breed characteristic, your dog is expressing discomfort, displeasure, or stress when his ears are drawn back and low. This is a very easy-to-recognize sign.

Licking His Nose And Lips

Dogs are always licking things, but repetitive obsessively licking his lips or nose can be a sign of stress. Especially if he is showing other signs of stress.


Yawning is a sign of tiredness. But if it is accompanied by other stress signs, such as pinned back ears, it is probably a sign of stress.


Dogs usually pant to cool themselves down after exercise or in the heat. It’s their way of sweating. But if there is no apparent reason, and there are other stress signs, it may be because of stress.

Two Dogs Meeting on a Road

Like how you break out into a cold sweat. If he suddenly stops panting and closes his mouth, he may be about to bite.

Destructive Behavior

Some dogs try to alleviate stress by biting or chewing. They may even excessively lick themselves or bite themselves. Pay attention to what is going on around your dog and look for other stress signs.


If your dog is showing avoidance instead of aggression when he’s uncomfortable, respect the message and do something about it. Avoidance is turning away, avoiding eye contact, tail tucked in.

Bathroom Accidents

This is a major sign of stress in dogs. Some dogs who are stressed about being left alone may backslide in their potty training. Consider crate training him or confining him to a space of his own when you are out to make him feel more secure.

Excessive Sniffing

If your dog is ignoring your commands and sniffing around instead, she’s probably distressed about something. Pay attention and see if you can narrow down the reason.


Does your dog exhibit signs of stress with physical symptoms? Loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, skin problems or allergies can all be signs of stress in man's best friend.

If any of these physical symptoms don't have an obvious cause, stress should be your prime suspect.

Some dogs show stress through symptoms of sickness. Skin problems, allergies, diarrhea, vomiting, or loss of appetite. If these don’t have an obvious physical cause, it could be stress.

Five Dogs Running and Jummping in a Dog Park


Excessive barking or howling, indoors or out, can be a sign of anxiety. Try to determine the pattern of when it happens to figure out why.

Shaking Off

Dogs shaking off like after a bath but when they aren’t wet - this often happens when more than one dog is together, maybe sharing a toy or a bowl.

Make Your Dog’s Life More Stress-Free

Keep things routine and scheduled. Avoid situations that you know stress your dog. Crate training may help if he is anxious when home alone (eventually the crate will be left open for him to enter on his own to fee secure). Lots of exercise, but keep it relaxing and fun.

Too much of one type might stress him, so find a balance. Spend time with him. Being near you is good for him.

Confusing rules (see list of ways you stress your dog above). Your dog wants to please you but he can’t if he is confused about what you want. Provide your dog with clear boundaries.

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