Nine out of ten cannot recognise ‘crucial’ signs of anxiety in dogs


Up to nine in ten dog owners wouldn’t be able to identify some ‘crucial signs’ of anxiety in a dog – despite the fact that almost three quarters (72%) believe they can accurately read their dog’s body language and know if they’re feeling fearful or happy, according to research by the Kennel Club.

The Kennel Club adds, “A staggering nine in ten (88%) do not know that yawning could be an early warning sign of anxiety or fear, and there was a similarly high lack of awareness about other important stress signs, including licking lips (82%) and staring, wide eyes (65%).

“Furthermore, of those owners who are also parents, the majority have not made their children aware of some of the signals which can show a dog is stressed or fearful, resulting in a ‘dangerous knowledge gap’.

Less than one in five have identified and discussed a dog yawning, licking their lips or holding their tail firmly upright as potential early warning signals of fear or stress, with their children.”

Recently, research from Edge Hill University found a link between dog attacks and ‘misunderstanding of dog behaviour’. The study suggests this contributes to the rise in dog attacks in the UK, as the majority of dog bites occur in the victim’s home and involve a familiar dog. This is the case in 91 per cent of bites on children in the UK.

According to the Kennel Club, one in ten dog owners (10%) couldn’t identify any signs of stress or fear in a dog; less than half could identify the more well-known signs, including a dog putting their tail between their legs.

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club, said, commented, “It’s alarming that so many owners are simply unaware of how a dog can show signs of stress or fear, while, on the contrary, how many falsely believe they understand their dog’s body language, which can be gravely dangerous in escalating situations. Given this, it’s unsurprising that one in four say that their dog can behave unpredictably. Not being able to recognise when your dog is frightened or stressed can have serious consequences and we are extremely concerned about this worrying knowledge gap.

“By failing to understand the signals, we are not only putting ourselves in a potentially harmful situation, but also our dogs who are relying on our understanding of how they express themselves. Much more awareness of our beloved pets’ behaviour is needed, for owners, children and the wider public alike, to ensure everybody is kept safe.”


  1. Hi. Loved this article. I help kids who are afraid of dogs and I teach them how to recognize stress signals in dogs so they know how to stay safe. We’re afraid of things we don’t understand. Wrote a book too!


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