Stress Responses: The Four Fs




Your dog may show one or more of four typical responses to stress, known as the four Fs.

The first is Fight, where your dog barks, growls, lunges or bites. It does not have to be actual fighting but includes any active response intended to move another dog or person away.

The second is Flight, where your dog tries to avoid a situation. They may look away, hide, try to move away or flee a situation. If your dog can’t escape when they need to, their Flight response can turn into Fight.

The third is Freeze, where your dog stops moving or responding. This is sometimes misread as calmness, because the dog is not reacting, but a dog in Freeze will have fixed body language and is unlikely to be able to take food.

The final F is Fool Around, where your dog plays the fool. Your dog may lower their body and put their ears back. They may wiggle a lot and wag their tail rapidly. This can be misinterpreted as friendliness but they are actually concerned.

Look at how your dog responds when they’re stressed and if you see any of these behaviours proactively take steps to reduce the stress that they’re feeling.

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