As a trainer, often when I ask owners how their dogs respond during potentially scary events such as vet or grooming appointments, thunderstorms, travel, etc., I receive the answer “They are fine.”
When we say our pets are “fine,” we need to explain what “fine” looks like. Animals can have different fear responses, which include the well-known “fight or flight” behaviors, but also “fret” and “freeze.” Nervous dogs may become over-active and fidgety, or they may suppress behavior and shut down. To someone who is not well-versed in dog body language, both of these things could be interpreted as being fine, when actually the dog is quite stressed.
What does a dog look like who is truly feeling “fine”? A comfortable dog will have a loose, wiggly body, a relaxed face, open mouth, oval eyes, and ears and tail at a normal position. They may solicit attention, engage in their usual behaviors, and be able to relax.
If you aren’t sure how to recognize the multiple signs of fear, stress, or anxiety in your dog, there is a good blog post to check out here.