How to Tell If Your Dog Is Upset: Signs to Look For

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Dogs, like us humans, can experience a range of emotions, from joy and excitement to fear and anxiety. But how can you tell if your dog is upset?

Recognizing the signs of distress is key to helping your pup feel better and improving their overall wellbeing.

In my experience, there are certain telltale signs, but there are also some not-so-subtle ones.

In this article, I want to share with you a comprehensive guide to understanding our dog’s behavior and how we can make them feel better.

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Dear Dog Owner

Key Takeaways

  • Look for changes in behavior as a sign of distress in your dog.
  • Dogs can experience a range of emotions, just like humans.
  • Understanding your dog’s emotions is key to improving their wellbeing.

Recognizing Signs of Distress

Just like our relationships with friends and family, you should be able to recognize when your furry friend is feeling upset.

There are several signs of distress that you can look out for, including body language cues, vocalization patterns, and behavioral changes.

Body Language Cues

Dogs often communicate their emotions through their body language. Some common signs of distress include:

  • Tail tucked between the legs
  • Ears pinned back against the head
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Hunching or cowering

If you notice any of these signs, your dog may be feeling anxious or upset.

Vocalization Patterns

Another way that dogs communicate their emotions is through vocalizations. Some vocalization patterns that may indicate distress include:

  • Whining or whimpering
  • Growling or snarling
  • Excessive barking or howling

If your dog is making these types of sounds, it’s important to pay attention to their body language and try to identify the cause of their distress.

Behavioral Changes

Finally, changes in your dog’s behavior can also be a sign that they are feeling upset. Some behavioral changes to look out for include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy or decreased activity levels
  • Aggression towards people or other animals
  • Destructive behavior, such as chewing or scratching

If you notice any of these happening, I highly recommend you consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions and to address potential behavioral issues.

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Understanding Canine Emotions

Dogs are emotional creatures and can experience a wide range of emotions, just like humans.

In this section, I will discuss some of the basic principles of canine emotions.

Stress Triggers in Dogs

Dogs can experience stress in many different situations.

Some common triggers include loud noises, unfamiliar people or animals, changes in routine, and separation from their owners.

When a dog is stressed, they may exhibit physical and behavioral signs such as panting, pacing, whining, and hiding.

That’s exactly why it is so important to identify your dog’s stress triggers and try to avoid them as much as possible.

The Emotional Spectrum of Dogs

Did you know? Dogs experience a wide range of emotions, including happiness, fear, anger, and sadness.

They can also experience more complex emotions such as jealousy, guilt, and empathy.

When you pay attention to your dog’s body language and vocalizations, you can better understand their emotional state.

For example, a wagging tail and relaxed body posture usually indicate happiness, while a tucked tail and cowering posture may indicate fear or anxiety.

Health-Related Concerns

Physical Health and Upset Behavior

Dogs that are in pain or discomfort may exhibit signs of upset behavior.

For example, if your dog is experiencing joint pain, they may become more irritable or less active.

Similarly, if your dog is experiencing digestive issues, they may become more lethargic or refuse to eat.

When to Consult a Veterinarian

In many cases, you can make small changes at home that will lead to positive results.

However, if you notice any of the following for a prolonged period of time, it’s best to see a vet.

  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Lethargy or decreased activity
  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessive scratching or biting at themselves

Your veterinarian can help identify any underlying health concerns and provide appropriate treatment. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your furry friend’s health.

Improving Your Dog’s Wellbeing

Creating a Comfortable Environment

This includes ensuring that they have a cozy bed to sleep in, access to clean water, and a healthy diet.

Dogs also need a safe and secure space to call their own, such as a crate or a designated area in your home.

Loud noises should be reduced as much as possible too.

Training and Socialization

Proper training can help prevent behavioral issues and keep your dog safe in different situations.

Socialization is also important for dogs to learn how to interact with other animals and people.

Both of these can be done through obedience classes, daily walks, and playtime with other dogs, and remember, you need to start early, as it can be more difficult to teach an older dog new behaviors.

Don’t forget to provide mental and physical stimulation for your dog.

This can include puzzle toys, interactive games, and regular exercise.

I have written a simple ebook that contains 7 fun games you can play with your dog. You can grab it above, just after the table of contents.

Professional Advice and Resources

If you’re having trouble identifying your dog’s behavior and emotions, there are resources available to help you.

Here are some professional advice and resources that can assist you in understanding your dog’s behavior.

Seeking Behaviorist Help

A behaviorist can provide you with a thorough evaluation of your dog’s behavior and provide you with a personalized training plan.

They can also help you understand your dog’s emotions and how to address them.

To find a certified dog behaviorist, you can consult with your veterinarian or search for one through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).

Educational Materials and Support

There are many educational materials and support groups available for dog owners.

These resources can provide you with helpful tips and advice on how to recognize and address your dog’s behavior.

Some of the resources available include:

  • Books: There are many books available on dog behavior that can help you understand your dog’s emotions and behavior. Some popular books include “The Other End of the Leash” by Patricia McConnell and “Don’t Shoot the Dog” by Karen Pryor.
  • Online Communities: There are many online communities and forums where dog owners can connect and share their experiences. Some popular communities include Reddit’s r/dogs and the Dogster Community.
  • Local Training Classes: Local training classes can provide you with hands-on training and support. You can search for local training classes through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) or consult with your veterinarian.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the signs that my dog might be feeling angry?

Dogs can show anger in a variety of ways, such as growling, snarling, barking, or even biting. They may also display signs of aggression, like raised fur or a stiff body posture. You need to pay attention to these signs and take steps to calm your dog down before the situation escalates.

How can I recognize if my dog is displaying sadness?

Dogs can show sadness in a number of ways, including lethargy, loss of appetite, and decreased interest in playtime or socialization. They may also whine, whimper, or become more withdrawn than usual. If you suspect your dog is feeling sad, it’s important to provide extra love and attention to help lift their spirits.

In what ways can a dog express displeasure with its owner?

Dogs may express displeasure with their owner in a number of ways, such as ignoring commands, refusing to obey, or even displaying aggressive behavior. They may also become destructive, chewing on furniture or other household items. It’s important to address any negative behaviors as soon as possible to prevent them from becoming a habit.

What behaviors indicate that a dog is not just playing, but actually expressing anger?

If a dog is expressing anger, their play behavior may become more aggressive, such as growling or biting during playtime. They may also display other signs of aggression, like raised fur or a stiff body posture. It’s important to intervene and redirect their behavior before it becomes dangerous.

What are the indicators that my dog trusts me?

A dog that trusts its owner will display a number of positive behaviors, such as seeking out physical contact, following commands, and displaying relaxed body language. They may also be more willing to try new things and explore their environment. Building trust with your dog takes time and patience, but it’s an important part of building a strong bond with your pet.

In Conclusion: How Do I Know If My Dog Is Upset?

In wrapping up, remember: your pup’s happiness is in your hands.

By tuning into their needs, offering comfort, and a whole lot of love, you’re not just a pet owner, you’re their best friend.

Here’s to a lifetime of tail wags and cherished moments together!

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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