Interpreting the behavioural signs

Any one of the behavioural signs on the next 5 pages can indicate that your dog is anxious or fearful. However, some of these signs could occur in other situations (e.g. dogs often lick their lips when given a treat, but lip-licking is also shown when a dog feels uncertain, anxious or fearful). So, in order to recognise the difference between when your dog uses the behavioural signs when anxious, fearful or for another reason, keep these points in mind:

  • It is likely that your dog is anxious or fearful if you notice combinations of the anxiety and/or fear behavioural signs, such as licking lips, with ears back, and a tense facial expression. But combinations of signs can vary between dogs and even within the same dog. Also, due to physical differences it can be harder to notice behavioural signs in some dogs. Therefore you may only notice one of the behavioural signs, and this can still be important.
  • If you see an increase in frequency of any of the behavioural signs (e.g. repeated lip licking), or an increase in bouts of the behavioural signs, it is likely that your dog is experiencing anxiety or fear.
  • If your dog shows the behavioural signs in specific contexts, and not in others, it is likely that your dog is experiencing fear or anxiety in those specific contexts.
  • If your dog pants, salivates, yawns, or licks his lips for no apparent physical reason (such as heat, exercise, tiredness, presence of food), it is likely that he is anxious or fearful.
  • Some of these behaviours are often interpreted to mean other motivations. However, research and clinical experience shows that they can all be signs of fear and anxiety, especially when multiple signs are shown at once.

Now continue onto: facial expressions

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