If your dog has been tensing up, when you pet it, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do about it.

Common causes of dogs tensing up when being pet are injury, fearfullness, anxiety or getting pet too hard.

There are a number of possible causes and your dog might be doing it due to a combination of them. However, there are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason and there are a number of things you can do about it.

Reasons why your dog tenses up when you pet it

Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and what would make each of them more likely to be the main reason.

Injury

The cause could be that it has an injury. This would be more likely if your dog has started tensing up suddenly and if it has been showing other signs of being injured such as moving its head abnormally and keeping its head low to the ground a lot. In this case, the best option would be to take it to a vet.

Petting it too hard

The cause could also be that you have been petting it too hard or someone else has been petting it too hard. This would be more likely if it tends to tense up when you start petting it harder than normal. Instead, it would help to be gentle with it and to stop anyone else from petting it too hard.

Fearfulness

The cause might also be that something has been causing it to be fearful. This would be more likely if your dog has been doing it more at a certain time such as when there are loud noises outside.

Anxiety

Another possible cause is that something has been causing it to be anxious. This would be more likely if it tends to do it at a time when it is likely to be anxious such as when you are leaving home which would suggest it has some separation anxiety.

Things to consider

Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.

Other body language signs that it shows

It would help to consider other body language signs it shows when it tenses up. If it does things such as hide its tail and make itself appear smaller, it would be a submissive sign and suggest it is doing it due to fearfulness or because you are petting it too hard.

If it has always done it

If your dog did not always tense up, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly, it would make it more likely to be due to things such as getting injured.

How old it is

It would also help to consider its age. If it is still a puppy and it has not been with you for long, it might be the case that it is still unsure who it can trust and it should start to become more comfortable with you petting it over time. Whereas, if it is an adult, it would be more likely to be due to things such as injury, being pet too hard or anxiety.

If it always does it

It would also help to consider if it always tenses up, when you pet it, or if it just does it sometimes. If it does it sometimes, it might be the case that the timing has something to do with it. For example, it could be the case that it does it due to separation anxiety if it tends to do it when you are leaving home.

What to do about it

Below are some options you have when dealing with the behavior.

Get help

If it seems like your dog has been doing it due to injury or it has been being very anxious, it would help to get help from a vet. By doing so, you should be able to get expert advice tailored to your particular dog and to rule out injury as a cause.

Avoid being too forceful

As mentioned above, it might have been doing it due to being pet too hard. It would help to be gentle when petting it instead.

Limit reasons why it might be fearful

Since it might also be doing it due to something causing it to be fearful, it would also help to limit reasons why it might be fearful. Things to do might include letting it stay in a quieter room and limiting its interactions with other pets that it might not like.

Limit reasons why it might be anxious

It would also help to limit reasons why it might be anxious. Things to do could include feeding it, walking it and letting it pee before leaving it for a long time.

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I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.