Stress Signs - Smelling Bad

Another sign of stress is smelling bad, either from the coat or the mouth. I know my immediate though if something smells bad is that it is dirty and needs to be washed, but often for our dogs it is stressed and needs to be given protection and space from the stressor and time to decompress. Washing them and brushing teeth will only make things worse. Of course, your dog does need their teeth brushed, but at a time when they are relaxed and when they have been trained that it is an acceptable, if not enjoyable, thing to do. When my dogs smell bad from stress, the smell usually dissipates after they are calmer.
grooming spray bottle
Be aware that often when is your dog is at the vet, boarded or groomed, they will be returned to you having been sprayed with grooming spray or another product to cover up this scent. While your dog might find any of these experiences stressful, you want to know so you can take steps in the future to reduce the stress. It is a good idea to ask for your dog not to be treated with this.

Stress Signs - Shedding

light brown patch of dog hair with small sections of lighter hair about to fall out
Max's Flank With Patch of Loose Hair
Some dogs, and Max is a prime example, will shed when they are nervous. Most often this will show up as a pile of hair left where the dog was or hair almost flying off a dog. But as the photo of Max's flank shows, this can also result in loose hair similar to what you would see during shedding. For Max, this is the result of having several stressful days, in this case our legal fireworks season. Like other stress signals, this type of shedding or losing hair is a signal to us that the dog is stressed and intervention on our part is likely necessary.

Why Stress Signs Matter

Why do we care about whether or not our or another dog is stressed? There are a bunch of reasons:
  • Too much stress isn't fun, it is well, stressful.
  • Every being deserves a life where stress and anxiety aren't the primary factors.
  • Your dog can't learn if it is stressed.
  • If you can't recognize stress signals, you might not realize that your dog has gotten stressed to the point of shutting down and that "good behaviour" is in fact physical and emotional shutdown.
  • Stress and fear set off the fight or flight reaction and in today's world dogs don't usually have the opportunity for flight so they end up biting, fighting and exhibiting other dangerous behaviour.
While some dog behaviours can be either a sign of stress or attempting to calm the situation down (or both), other behaviours are generally just a result of stress. We'll look be looking at stress specific behaviours in future posts.