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  • Writer's pictureLiz MacHaffie

Body Language and Stress

Updated: Feb 3

A close up of a woman with long brown hair burying her face in a Dalmatian's neck. The Dalmatian has his mouth wide open in a big yawn.

When we're trying to help our dogs feel better, it's invaluable to be able to read their body language! Especially behaviors that mean our dogs are stressed. When you can read subtler signs of stress, you:

  • Are more in tune with when and why your dog is stressed

  • Are better able to see how much progress they are making

  • Can intervene and help them earlier (which = less practicing of their Big Feelings!)

In our session, we watched video examples of many common signs of stress. Refer to the Ladder of Aggression (from Horwitz and Mills) for a reminder of some of those behaviors.

Ladder of Aggression
Download PDF • 110KB

A few common behaviors that might indicate mild to moderate stress in our dogs are:

  • A tense body

  • Lip licking

  • Staring

  • Head turning/eye aversion (Like when you see someone in the grocery store you don't want to talk to)

  • Walking away

  • Pawing behaviors

  • Shaking off

You can also find the full Powerpoint presentation available for download here. (It's a BIG file! Streamable video available in the future.)

Body Language of Stress Animal Insight
Download PPTX • 593.27MB

Have questions about your dog's body language? Let your trainer know and we can help you out!

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