Detecting signs of fear and anxiety in dogs

Body language and behaviors are communication from your pet that tell us about its emotional state. By observing your pet’s body language on a daily basis, you will find that this is how your pet communicates with you. Here are some signs
associated with fear or anxiety in dogs :

A dog that puffs, licks their lips repeatedly or yawns repeatedly.

The animal can adopt a low posture with a tail stuck between the legs. The ears will often be flattened backwards. The whites of the eyes may be seen given the great vigilance towards the environment and the pupils may also be dilated. The body may be tense or may even shake.

Their behavior may show an inability to sit or relax, they may seek excessive attention from known people.

On the contrary, they may whine, vocalize excessively or growl, seek to flee or hide while also showing signs of aggression by baring their teeth as a defense. They may also refuse treats.

They may jump easily at small noises or movements, or may not seem to hear instructions.

Anxious or scared dogs may also empty their anal sacs. These small sacs containing microscopic glands are located at 4 and 8 o’clock on either side of the anus. So, if your pet leaves a rather characteristic smell of rotten fish that seems to come from the anus, your pet is probably very anxious and uncomfortable with its environment.


You may have seen your pet do a little urination on the floor of your house when someone else arrives, or on the floor of your veterinary clinic. In reality, this little urination is quite involuntary and can be explained neurologically.

When the animal becomes overly stressed, the mechanism allowing the ability to hold back urination is inhibited and the animal becomes unable to hold back and so the inappropriate little urination on the floor appears. It is therefore hardly relevant to reprimand your pet since it has no control over its environment. However, you have the power to intervene by detecting signs of stress in your pet and taking actions to remedy them.

By observing your pet frequently, the detection of signs associated with fear and anxiety will become a natural process and your view of its actions and behaviors will change. You will be able to better understand your pet, which will guide you in your future actions in order to reduce your pet’s stress and give him a most positive experience on a daily basis.

Writer: Vetachroniques – Veterynary student at Montréal (Canada)