How Okemos

Before we accept dogs and puppies into our doggy day care, dog boarding, and puppy training classes, we observe how they interact with others. Our staff at Dog Gone Fun is also well-trained so they can intervene when they spot stressful dog behavior.

As a dog owner, it's important you recognize when your dog is stressed and needs some space. When a dog feels scared or threatened, the best thing to do is to leave them alone until they can calm down. Continue reading to learn how to recognize stress signals in dogs and avoid escalation.

Blinks, Yawns, or Licks Nose

Your dog may blink, yawn, or lick their nose if they want to avoid confrontation. This indicates they mean no harm. Avoid staring into your dog's eyes as this will make them uncomfortable and could be seen as a threat.

Turns Head Away

When your dog meets other animals or humans, they may turn their head away and avert eye contact. In the human world, this type of behavior would be seen as avoidant or anti-social. However, dogs turn their heads to be polite and to show others that they mean no harm.

If your dog turns their head, they're not trying to ignore you. Your dog is simply trying to communicate with you to get a response they understand. The next time your dog turns their head, do the same or offer a yawn or sigh. This will let your dog know that you are calm and friendly.

Turns Body Away

A stressed dog may turn their body away from you in an effort to de-escalate a situation. Many dog owners think their pets are ignoring them when they turn their bodies away from their gaze or cameras. In reality, their dogs are trying to calm themselves or their owners.

Walks Away

A stressed dog may walk away from an unfamiliar person, animal, or situation because they don't feel safe. If a dog walks away from you when you try to pet them, give them some space.

Pulls Ears Back

If your dog has their ears completely pulled back, they may be scared or trying to show that they aren't a threat to a human or other animal. For example, a dog may pull their ears completely back if someone yells at them.

Tucks Tail between Legs

A frightened dog might tuck their tail between their legs to show that they aren't a threat. The lowered tail lets other animals know that they're submissive and won't challenge them. If your dog has their tail tucked between their legs, give them some space or try to remove them from the situation that's scaring them. This body language lets you know that your dog is afraid of being hurt.

Lies Down with One Paw Tucked In

If your dog is trying to avoid a person, animal, or situation, they may try to hide and make themselves as small as possible. If you don't leave a stressed dog alone, they could believe you're a threat and bite you. Give your dog the space they need to calm down and feel safe.

Freezes and Stares

Among humans, eye contact is a way to connect with other people and show that you're paying attention. Among dogs, staring is a threat. When a dog holds their body very still and stares at you, avert your gaze and turn your head to show that you mean no harm. Hold very still to avoid escalating the situation to a bite. When a dog freezes and stares it's usually because they are experiencing high levels of stress and fear. Keep your distance until your stressed dog calms down.


When your dog growls at you, they are warning you to stay away. Never punish your dog for growling. Growling is your dog's way of letting you know he or she is about to bite. If your dog starts to growl it means you are pushing past a boundary where they no longer feel comfortable and safe. If your dog growls, stop whatever you're doing and stay very still. Once your dog stops growling, move a safe distance away.

Snaps or Bites

When a dog is pushed to their outermost limit of stress and fear, they may lash out. Keep in mind that the escalation of stress and fear leading up to a bite can happen in a matter of seconds. Each dog is different and will respond to stress in different ways. It's important to understand that a stressed dog may skip some of the steps listed here, especially if they feel the need to act quickly. Not recognizing the signs of dog anxiety is the quickest way to get bitten.

Most dogs are friendly and wish to avoid confrontation. However, if we ignore their signs of stress, they could feel the need to protect themselves. Just because your dog has never bitten in the past, doesn't mean they won't bite if they feel threatened. At our dog and puppy day care, we do everything we can to make sure your dog feels safe and happy.

To enroll in our puppy training classes or doggy day care, call Dog Gone Fun in Okemos today at (517) 657-4300. Our dog training classes can help you better understand how your dog communicates and what they need from you to live their best life.