We use cookies to help us improve website user experience. By continuing to use this site or closing this panel, you agree to our use of cookies. See our cookie policy

Please be advised our Fair Processing Notice has been updated. If you would like to know more please click here.

Behaviourist's Corner

How to calm dog anxiety and stress


We asked animal behaviourist Inga MacKellar for the signs to look out for if your dog is feeling anxious, and how you can help. Here are some tips on using your body language and surroundings to ease your pet's distress.


First, recognise the signs

Dog

1. Your dog will try to avoid eye contact by turning his head away. He may also lick his lips repeatedly.

Dog

2. Look out for yawning - it isn't a sign that your dog is tired, but is one way he might show stress. Some dogs give a subtle yawn, while others give a huge, toothy one.

Dog

3. To make himself feel less visible, your dog will lower his body and appear to hunch. He'll also tuck his tail tightly between his legs, and lay his ears flat against his head.

Use your own body language to help

Dog

1. Don't crowd your dog or make a fuss of him - he'll need his own space to feel safe, so give him some time alone and keep a watchful eye over him from somewhere close by.

Dog

2. To prevent your dog from feeling more threatened, try not to approach him head-on and don't make direct eye contact or lean over his body. Instead, approach him from the side and, if you need to touch him, move from under his belly not over his back.

Dog

3. If your dog seems extremely anxious, get down to his level by sitting on the floor a short distance away. Then use an encouraging tone to ask him to come to you and, if he does, reward him with a treat.

Control your surroundings

Dog

1. If your dog is anxious around other dogs, try to avoid meeting any head-on in a restricted space. If you do meet another pet, calmly lead your dog away to avoid a confrontation. You can also use distraction techniques, such as a fun game with lots of positive encouragement, to take his mind off a possible threat.

Dog

2. Keep your dog's lead as loose as possible. A tight lead may increase his stress, as he'll interpret this as a sign of your anxiety.

Dog

3. Avoid crowded spaces or busy areas - they'll heighten your dog's feeling of being threatened and he may resort to 'flight or fight' mode to get away. Instead, remove him calmly from the stressful situation, making sure to keep your voice low and encouraging.

Inga says: 'Remember, each pet is different and many factors can come into play when handling a stressed dog. It's most important that you try to keep calm, and then approach your pet according to his needs and level of stress. But if your dog's anxious behaviour persists even when he's away from stressful situations, consider asking your vet to refer you to a qualified animal behaviourist who'll help you come up with long-lasting solutions.


Back to top