Signs of doggy stress that are easy to miss

Author picture Jessica

Interpreting doggy language is usually easy enough….a wagging tail, barking excitedly, that classic ‘guilty’ face when you catch your dog chewing your favourite pair of shoes…but as part of the Pawshake family, we hope you have that extra edge of knowledge to interpret the more subtle signs - whether you’re a dog sitter or dog owner. 

Next time you go to the vet, visit the dog park or have a meet and greet, watch your dog closely. Even a seemingly indifferent dog can be trying to appear as relaxed as possible whilst inwardly saying ‘I’m freaking out a little here!’. 

It pays to know the signs in the context in which they’re shown. A yawn at home might mean something very different when meeting a new dog at the park, or sitting in the waiting room at the vet.

Best of all - knowing how to spot these signs can avoid a nip or even an unsuitable match going ahead with a booking on Pawshake. 


Is your dog looking away, or fixing their gaze on something and showing the whites around their eyes? Beware…this is known as ‘whale eye’ and is a classic sign of an anxious dog.

Body language

If a dog in your care is showing any of the following signs (or a combination of a few of these), be very careful: are they frozen stiff, with ears back, whale-eye, staring unblinking, holding their breath, growling or with the corners of their mouth drawn forward? 

This is a dog that is giving you a warning, saying ‘I’m at the end of my patience, please back off’. Give them plenty of space and time to cool down, or remove them from the source of stress. 

Ignoring or avoiding

Another example might manifest in your dog appearing to strongly ignore, or pay extra attention to an object or human that isn’t the source of stress. Look at the context for clues as to what really might be going on.


This is pretty obvious when you visit the vet then gives your dog a pat…only to be left with a handful of fluff. You might notice their fur standing up a little, or that it feels like there’s extra static. 


Another one to check out at the vet….dog’s sweat through their paw pads, so you might notice wet patches on tiles where your dog has been standing. This is just the same as when we are nervous and our hands and feet sweat!

Lack of appetite 

Your dog might normally ADORE a liver treat at home, but at the vet or in a new environment it can be a whole different story. A nervous dog might have a reduced appetite….they’re just too nervous to eat.

Licking, yawning, sneezing or shaking off

These might seem like perfectly everyday behaviours, and that’s because they are! 

Your dog is using calming signals to show ‘it’s all good’ in a situation that might be a little stressful – both for them, and for other dogs and people around them.

Again, look at the context. A lot of these signals depend on what is happening at the time your dog displays them.