It seems as though dogs are an open book when it comes to their emotions. They wag their tail when they are happy, give those sad puppy dog eyes when they are begging for food, and lower their head when they’ve been caught being naughty. However, dogs aren’t always as easy to read as we may think. They also give off subtle clues which let us know their emotional state, including when they are stressed or anxious.

Knowing to look out for these signals can help you become a better pet owner, as you can understand your dog better.

Lip licking, yawning and panting are the most common and obvious signals that your dog is feeling stressed out.

If your dog keeps flicking that tongue of his over his lips and nose, in a repetitive manner then there’s a good chance he isn’t feeling too good about his current situation. If you are struggling to know if the lip licking is down to anxiety or simply trying to lap up those last scraps of food from around his mouth, then keep an eye out for other signs of stress, such as yawning.

Pay attention to the different ways that your dog yawns and you’ll soon be able to to tell if it’s due to tiredness or stress. A dog’s stress yawn will usually be accompanied by other anxious behaviors, such as pacing or pinning the ears back. A stressed out dog may also shake their head and let off a high pitch whine whilst stress yawning.

Panting for no reason is the third most obvious sign of stress and anxiety in a dog. If your dog isn’t hot or trying to cool themselves after a walk, yet is still panting heavily, then this is a clear indicator of stress. The ears may also be pinned back, and at this stage your dog needs to be removed from the stressful situation before it escalates into potentially aggressive behavior.

Another way that your dog may tell you he is stressed or wants to get away from a certain situation is by shaking, in the same way that they might shake after a bath.

If your dog shows these signs of feeling stressed then it is your responsibility to calm them down. If your dog is showing anxiety then remove them from the situation which is causing the stress, whether that is being petted by a stranger or being walked in a busy, crowded area.