When a dog is thirsty, they pant. Oddly, they also pant when they are aroused (either through stress or excitement). When a dog a dog is hungry, they may lick their lips. Oddly, they also lick their lips when they are stressed (or aroused). These indications of arousal (it's easier to call it arousal rather than try to immediately determine whether it's stress or excitement) are so different that what humans do. It's important to notice these signals so we can understand what a dog is going through. Treating a dog like a human doesn't work because, for one reason, their arousal signals are different than the way humans react to things.
Here are some arousal signals in dogs (they can indicate stress or excitement). Once you notice one of these signals, you have a clue to what the dog is feeling. It's complicated because these signals change constantly, they often come in groups, and they can mean different things.
Watch the dog's eyes, ears, tail, mouth, and body orientation.
- Whale eye: This is when a dog's eyes roll back in their head and the whites of their eyes are visible. It is a sign of anxiety or fear.
- Flattened ears: This is when a dog's ears are pressed back against their head. It is a sign of fear or aggression.
- Tucked tail: This is when a dog's tail is tucked between their legs. It is a sign of fear or submissiveness.
- Raised hackles: This is when a dog's hair stands on end along their back and neck. It is a sign of aggression or fear.
- Lip-licking: This is when a dog licks their lips frequently. It is a sign of anxiety or stress.
- Yawning: This is when a dog yawns excessively. It is a sign of boredom or stress.
- Panting: This is when a dog pants excessively. It is a sign of anxiety or stress.
If you see any of these signs in your dog, it is important to try to identify the cause of their stress (or excitement). Then you can take step--either to remove a source of stress or work with their excitement in some way.