Weekly Scoop
September 9, 2020

Do you know how to spot fear, anxiety and stress in your pup? Your kitty?

Two articles are included in this edition of the newsletter which focus on how to 'read' your pet's mood by looking at their behaviors.

In addition, we spotlight products which may help with your pets anxiety and stress.

And for the pet parents of stressful dogs/cats....we have a really cute product for you to check out!

We continue to look for ways to improve your experience with us. We will always be open to your feedback. Please send it.

It takes a village!
Terry Richardson
Behavior 101 - Spotting Fear, Anxiety, and Stress
Pet Sitters International (PSI)
Learning to understand dog body language is a lot like learning any new language. One usually begins with certain words that are commonly used and pretty easy to grasp. For example, wagging or baring teeth or cowering are dog behaviors most humans learn to understand early on.

As one advances with a language, they will soon encounter more advanced concepts such as words having more than one meaning. For example, in dog language, wags can be happy, submissive, or warnings. Eventually with practice and experience, one eventually becomes better equipped to grasp increasingly complex concepts of language such as nuance and context—which is what I want to explore here.

Each of the behaviors discussed in this article commonly mean one thing that is usually rather benign when it occurs on its own. However, when one of these behaviors is accompanied by other behaviors in the list, they usually indicate fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS). This cluster of behaviors is also sometimes called appeasement or displacement behavior. These behaviors are social cues that dogs use to let other dogs, humans, or even cats know that they are feeling uncomfortable and would like some relief. Some dogs display many of these FAS behaviors while others may display very few, but the vast majority display at least some and in close succession. Keep in mind, there is a spectrum to all behavior. The dog may be communicating severe stress that needs immediate intervention, or they may be just a little agitated and want a cookie.
Ears back can of course indicate a dog is listening or paying attention to someone or something that is behind them. In such a situation, there are often multiple different ear movements as the dog processes or locates sound. Dogs have 18 muscles in their ears that not only control this movement, but they are also involved in communicating emotion. When ears go back due to FAS, they may stay back briefly or for extended time depending on the situation. Ears may be laid flat or just held back a little. Picture 1 as well as several of the other provided pictures show this.
Lowered head is a behavior that can indicate FAS but is often overlooked. When uncomfortable, dogs may lower their head to the same level as or even lower than their neck and shoulders as demonstrated in picture 1. Here, the dog is very uncomfortable during the interaction with and proximity of the other dog.
Averted gaze occurs when a dog avoids looking at something, usually something stressful like an object, dog, person, or event. They may turn their entire body or head away or just their eyes to indicate FAS. Think of YouTube videos of dogs that "refuse" to look at the kitten, or when a dog shows "guilt" by not looking at their pee puddle on the floor. In these situations, the averted eye is not indicating guilt but rather stress. Picture 2 shows averted eyes when a dog is being told to "leave it." Of course, there are situations in which a dog may just be too lazy or comfy to lift their head to look, or
their attention is split between multiple things, or many other circumstances. Again, it's about context.
Whale eyes, wide eyes or half-moon eyes are terms that indicate the white part of the eyeball is visible due to the dog looking out of the corner of their eye. Typically, the eyes are looking in one direction while the nose is pointed in another direction. Usually, the dog is looking away from the source of stress, such as in picture 2.
Tongue flicks are brief glimpses of just a little bit of a dog's tongue, usually with the mouth closed. A dog may display repeated tongue flicks or just one isolated flick to indicate FAS. Of course, you can see a dog's tongue when they are licking their lips after eating or drinking or when panting but a FAS tongue flick is different. Some dogs flick their tongue over their entire nose, while others may only show a very brief sliver. In fact, it can be so brief you may only notice if you are looking directly at the dog, are experienced to specifically watch for it, or by replaying video. Picture 3 shows an example of a tongue flick.
Grimaces describe a particular lip position in which the corners of the mouth are pulled farther back than normal. Picture 4 shows an example of relaxed lips for reference. With a closed mouth grimace, the dog may be uncertain or processing the moment—I call this "worried lips." You may see the lips pressed closed as well as a C-shaped" muscle at the corner of their mouth, such as in picture 5. You may also see a wide-open grimace, such as when a dog is panting. Here, the more stressed the dog is the more of its molars you can see, such as in picture 6. Keep in mind, when a dog is panting due to heat, the dog is experiencing physical stress which can look the same as emotional stress.

Continued below
How to Spot and Treat Cat Anxiety
Cats with separation anxiety can be a huge problem for pet owners. Read our guide to find out more about cat anxiety and how best to help your pet.

Animals can be afraid of many things: loud noises, fireworks, and even a bath! But when it comes to cats, we don’t often hear about anxiety problems. Yet cat anxiety can be a big issue for many owners, even if they don’t know it’s actually happening. Just like in humans, anxiety in cats can manifest in many different ways, and it isn’t always as easy to identify as a straightforward illness – there’s no blood test for cat anxiety! Read on to find out more about what makes cats anxious and some cat calming methods.

Signs and symptoms of cat anxiety can include:
  • Failing to use their litter tray
  • Change in mood
  • Hiding
  • Aggression
  • An increase in vocalisation (excessive meowing)
  • A change in appetite or weight
  • Following people around the house
  • Increased lethargy
  • Vomiting

11 Stress-Relieving Products for Anxious Dogs
INSIDER | by Chelsea Greenwood
Owning a dog is one of life's greatest joys, but nobody's happy when Fido has to stay home alone — especially for long periods of time. Separation anxiety is a problem for many dogs and their owners, particularly when pets are young. And even normally calm dogs may freak out during bad thunderstorms or fireworks.
PetChatz's camera lets you video chat with your dog and dole out treats. Chewy
Thundershirt's anxiety jacket makes your pup feel safe and secure. Chewy
Calm Paws Calming Disk Dog Collar Attachment uses a premium blend of essential oils that have soothing effects on your anxious dog, this disk simply slides onto most standard collars or harnesses so he can breathe in the calming scent. Chewy
ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser for Dogs
Is your dog barking excessively, whining and hiding?
These behaviors are likely caused by fear and anxiety.
ADAPTIL is a clinically proven, drug-free solution that helps your dog feel calmer.
ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser provides “comforting messages” (dog appeasing pheromones) that helps dogs feel calm and relaxed in situations like loud noises (thunderstorms and fireworks), staying home alone, or other fearful situations. These odorless messages are only perceived by dogs and provide a strong signal of security and comfort. Cats and people are not affected. Chewy
Lick Lick Pad Dog Distraction Lick Mat
Key Benefits
  • Keeps your dog distracted and happy while he gets groomed.
  • Sticks to almost any flat surface and is paw-fect for sinks, grooming stations or tile, porcelain, granite and glass surfaces—no suction cups or adhesives required.
  • Spread your pup’s favorite lickable treat on it like peanut butter, yogurt, wet food and more!
  • Crafted from 100% food-grade silicone without BPA, BPS, lead or phthalates.
  • Dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

7 Natural Ways to Ease Cat Anxiety
by Stephen Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S.
If there’s one thing any cat owner wants to avoid, it’s a stressed out cat.

Whether it’s a trip to the vet, moving to a new home, or too much noise, stress can result in a number of unsettling (and unwanted) feline behaviors. Hiding, excessive grooming, not eating, and aggressive actions such as hissing,  growling, and even biting are just some of the classic symptoms of cat anxiety.

And then there’s the number one behavioral issue that veterinarians see in stressed cats – peeing outside the litterbox.
But the stress doesn’t stop there. These behaviors also tend to cause anxiety for cat parents, who just want to know how they can help their pets relax, without resorting to Kitty Prozac.

If the situation is litterbox related, and you’re a multiple cat household, the solution may be as easy as getting more litter boxes. Other behaviors may pose more of a challenge. Getting a cat to calm down is often easier said than done—but with a little trial and error, and a healthy dose of patience, it can be done. Here are a few natural approaches to cat anxiety relief that I recommend trying:

  • Calming Cat Treats
  • Pheromone Sprays
  • Catnip
  • Earthing
  • Safe Spaces
  • Old-Fashioned TLC
  • Bach Flower Remedies
  • Valerian, Chamomile, and Other Calming Herbs

Windmill Cat Toy 5-in-1
Funny Windmill Cat Toy That Promotes Independent Play!

  • Perfect for Chasing, Swatting, Batting, and Interactive Play
  • Encourage Your Cat's Natural Hunting and Playful Instincts
  • Attach To Any Smooth Surface - Windows, Doors, Tables, Floors
  • Will Spin At a Very Light Touch - Easy for Cats
  • Soft Center Ball Is Designed For Chewing and Face Rubbing - Reduces Cats' Anxiety
  •  Includes Two Detachable Balls With Light And Catnip
  • Size: 6 x 2.5 inches
  • Sent In Random Colors (Green, Blue, Yellow)

This product feeds 4 shelter dogs!
Pawdorable Pups Poolside 'n Patio Wine Cup Set (4)
Picture yourself lounging by the pool or hanging out on your patio, sipping a cold beverage from this pawdorable wine cup and soaking up some sun with your pup!

This set of 4 wine cups features sweet pup-themed art on new, high quality acrylic cups.
Your sitters and walkers love caring for your pet family! Thanks for tipping. They greatly appreciate it!
Behavior 101 - Spotting Fear, Anxiety, and Stress (continued)

Yawns of course normally occur when a dog is sleepy or relaxed. However, if you see a yawn in the middle of a training session or play date, you are looking at FAS. This yawn is often exaggerated, extra wide, and may be accompanied by a "yawn sound" or a little shiver after. Picture 7 shows a dog yawning during a play session.
Stretching can simply be stretching in the context of sleep or relaxation. However, when it occurs out of this context and in a cluster with the other behaviors described you are looking at a FAS stretch. Such a stretch is often exaggerated, with a big stretch back, then another stretch forward, perhaps accompanied by a yawn and can be followed by a shake off and even a sneeze.
Scratching usually indicates, well, an itchy dry skin, fleas, or just a tickle can all spur a dog to itch. However, in FAS situations some dogs will scratch. The difference can be hard to spot, and it may be situational. I had one dog who scratched incessantly during training sessions, but never otherwise and the vet found nothing going on. My theory is that he became excited and there was some sort of tickle or extra sensitively that resulted from the increased blood flow. However, the itching was always followed by anogenital sniffing then a shake off.
Anogenital check-ins among my client dogs are often followed by a "stop that" from the parent. Dogs do this behavior for many reasons, and we need to let them so we can determine why! The dog may be sniffing or licking their anogenital area simply to clean themselves, due to anal glands or urinary issues, or due to FAS. A common FAS sequence I see involving this is for a dog to scratch, check in, then shake off which is exactly what happened in picture 8.
Shake offs occur after a dog comes in from the rain or during their bath. They shake their whole body to get water off. FAS shake offs look the same but they don't involve water. Imagine instead of shaking off bits of water the dog is shaking off bits of stress. We like shake offs and should always praise, as it may indicate the dog is relaxing a little bit and "getting rid of" some stress.
Ground sniffing is very commonly overlooked and attributed simply to smelling. Of course, much of ground sniffing is for smelling only. However, if you pay close attention to context you may spot FAS related ground sniffing. Picture 9a illustrates this when the doodle moved too close to the brown dog, who was against the wall. In response to this pressure, the brown dog sniffed the ground (see picture 9b), and in response to the sniff the doodle gave the brown dog space (refer all the way back to picture 1).This sequence of events is common and can only be spotted if you pay close attention. If the dog continues to smell that spot regardless of what is going on around them or if another dog joins in or if someone keeps coming back to sniff that spot, you are most likely looking at smelling.
Sneezes are designed to clear the nostrils of particles and irritants. However, dogs can also sneeze when stressed. This sniffing may or may not occur along with sniffing and it may be a single sneeze or multiple sneezes. You will want to pay close attention to context to differentiate. One example is my dog when she needs to poop! She goes to the door, stretches big, sneezes several times, and shakes off. She may throw a yawn in there as well.
Paw lift does not usually indicate a dog is a pointer mix, much to the surprise of their owners. It is very common for dogs to lift one paw in situations where they are feeling FAS. Often, paw lifts are accompanied by lowered heads and other behaviors previously discussed. Some dogs may be lifting their leg to give paw due to training, but if you aren't asking for paw it is much more likely you are seeing FAS. One way to assess with some dogs is to see if your behavior can impact the paw. If you approach and the paw goes up, back up to see if the paw goes down, step forward again to see if the paw goes up, and so on. This clearly tells you the dog is experiencing FAS and is asking for space.

Remember, these behaviors are normal ways for dogs to let others know they are feeling uncomfortable and would like some relief. That relief is best achieved with a break, such as moving the stressful thing (you, another dog, nail clippers, etc.) away from the dog or moving the dog away from the stressful thing (exam room, stranger, bathtub, etc.) or ending the event (exam, training session, bath, etc.). The more you practice, observe and learn the better you will be able to understand and communicate with dogs—and the better you will become at spotting even the subtle examples of these behaviors. I encourage everyone to keep challenging yourselves to get better at speaking "dog." The world needs fewer self-proclaimed "whisperers" and a lot more dog- proclaimed "listeners"!
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