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Hi everyone,

This forum has been so wonderful and I am hoping that others have some advice and/or reassurance for the increased yawning, scratching, and panting that I have been noticing throughout the day in my male puppy, Hugo. Here is some context:

Hugo is now 9.5 months old and is intact. 98% of the time he is a stereotypical Golden -- a very happy, excitable, playful, friendly, social guy who absolutely loves every person and every dog (and our cats). We attended puppy school, and then Level 1 and Level 2 obedience. He was a star there and is a very well-behaved boy, generally speaking. He is definitely in adolescence, but still listens well. We have made great strides with loose-leash walking and ignoring distractions outside (still a work in progress with people, dogs, bunnies, etc. but great strides have been made over the past few months and I am very proud of him).

He is definitely going through intermittent fear periods for the past month or so where he will startle and be scared of/bark at sights/noises that he is usually fine with, but this is not constant and will last a day or two and then he will be fine for another week or so and then it will return for another day or two. It's random but not frequent. Happy to provide more detail on this if it would be helpful. He's a fairly gregarious guy and enters most new situations confidently.

I walk him twice a day for 45 minutes each time. The first 10 minutes of each is a structured loose-leash training walk to a park, and then the remainder is on a long-line at the park (different locations on a regular basis) where he gets to explore, sniff around, run, chase a ball, be a dog. He has a play day with another Golden every Saturday morning which he completely loves (I don't do dog parks because he is intact and I know they can be targeted, and he can no longer go to his daycare that he used to go to once a week because he's intact and over 6 mo.)

We do small training sessions at least twice a day, and I also do "calming" mat training which he does really well with (https://babysafedogtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Relax_on_a_mat.pdf). He gets lots of mental enrichment throughout the day: kongs, puzzles, snuffle mats, bully stick in the evening, etc. He works for all his meals and is never fed from a bowl. He is not destructive with anything in the home. He can relax on his own and will nap sometimes while I work, other times he will play independently.

I only use positive reinforcement training and give him plenty of love. He loves to cuddle and is a 60 lb. lap dog. I work from home and there is random playtime and training throughout the day. I still have him on enforced naps, which he goes down for willingly in his crate, twice a day for about two hours each. He sleeps 9-9.5 hours a night. We have a daily general schedule but it's not rigid and there are variations throughout the day -- but nothing major.

HOWEVER he exhibits stress signals over the past few months, like panting, scratching, biting his tail, and yawning, at different times throughout the day. And I can't understand what he is stressed about -- am I misreading these cues? Are they just a normal part of a dog going through adolescent development stages?

For example, this morning I let him out of his crate and he was very happy to start the day, as usual, and very excited to see me, as usual. He came over to be pet, which I obliged, and I stopped after a few seconds to make sure that he wanted me to continue. He pressed up against me and nuzzled my hand. So I kept petting him. Then I get up to get changed and then go to the bedroom door to take him out and otherwise start the morning. He shakes off and then immediately starts biting at his tail and can't be easily redirected. After about a minute of biting/licking at the tail I'm able to get him to come with me to start the morning. We go to the backyard door to go outside for potty, and he yawns while sitting at the door waiting to be released (we have done this routine at all doors every single day since he came to us at 9 weeks old, and the yawning only happens about 10% of the time). Then we come back in after potty and he brings me a toy and we play for a bit -- all is well and he acts very happy. Then I unload the dishwasher and he goes over to his bed area with his toys and starts scratching. After a minute of that he starts playing with a toy. Then I sit on the floor with him for a bit and he comes and lies between my legs with his toy and rolls over on his back. I rub his belly for a bit and then I stop. He lifts his head to look at me like "why did you stop?" and wags his tail, so I pet him again. After a few minutes, I stop and get up to make coffee. He shakes off again and scratches. I am interpreting this as our interactions are somehow stressing him, but when I give him the opportunity to walk away from them, he never does and always gives signs that he wants more. He's also the one that starts them.

I'm so confused and these stress signals are now, ironically, starting to stress ME out. Everything seems normal with him, we just had a check-up at the vet where I mentioned the scratching and she said it sounded fine and his exam and bloodwork were all good. I am doing my very best to make sure he's happy and a well-rounded canine citizen, and I can't identify any source of stress for him. I will also note that he is adopted and was rescued from a puppy mill situation, I don't know if maybe there is mild anxiety from being born in that situation? Just throwing out random thoughts.

Apologies for the extraordinarily long post, I just wanted to provide as much background as possible to try and get some answers. Thank you so much in advance for reading :)
 

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I think you’re over analyzing waaaaaay too much. It sounds like he has a good life, with a lot of balance. Maybe some more off leash running, etc, but really all of those things you describe sound like him being a dog. It’s okay that he experiences and expresses small amounts of stress (eustress or distress) throughout the day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think you’re over analyzing waaaaaay too much. It sounds like he has a good life, with a lot of balance. Maybe some more off leash running, etc, but really all of those things you describe sound like him being a dog. It’s okay that he experiences and expresses and experiences small amounts of stress (eustress or distress) throughout the day.
This is definitely what I needed to hear - thank you! I'm a first time dog owner so in situations like these I have a hard time knowing what's normal and what's not. Thank you so much for the response!
 

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My Rukie has a morning and sometimes other times ritual where he rubs his back on someone's feet that are hanging off the recliner, then turns in circles and grabs his tail. It is his happy dance.😄
 
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My Rukie has a morning and sometimes other times ritual where he rubs his back on someone's feet that are hanging off the recliner, then turns in circles and grabs his tail. It is his happy dance.😄
Beckett is the same! He’ll rub up against my legs when I let him out in the morning and when I scratch his rear end he’ll turn and oh, surprise! His tail is there! Then he’s gone and forgotten the scratches, and is spinning like a top to grab his tail. hilarious every single time!

To the OP- have you checked where he’s scratching to see if his skin is irritated? Do you put a collar on during the day? Beckett doesn’t wear a collar at home, so he is ALWAYS scratching when we go out since it’s a “new” feel. He also scratches right when he wakes up—he does his morning wiggles on the ground, shakes off all the loose fur, and then scratches behind his ears. I call it his morning wake up routine 😊
 

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Beckett is the same! He’ll rub up against my legs when I let him out in the morning and when I scratch his rear end he’ll turn and oh, surprise! His tail is there! Then he’s gone and forgotten the scratches, and is spinning like a top to grab his tail. hilarious every single time!

To the OP- have you checked where he’s scratching to see if his skin is irritated? Do you put a collar on during the day? Beckett doesn’t wear a collar at home, so he is ALWAYS scratching when we go out since it’s a “new” feel. He also scratches right when he wakes up—he does his morning wiggles on the ground, shakes off all the loose fur, and then scratches behind his ears. I call it his morning wake up routine 😊
All of this is exactly what Hugo does! I'm so happy that it's perfectly normal. Thank goodness for this forum. I am surrounded by non-dog people and as a first time owner I can't always tell what's normal dog behaviour and what's a sign of stress, since apparently they can be both. And to answer your question, the skin doesn't appear to be irritated, he's usually scratching his elbow/shoulder blade area.

Thank you for sharing about Beckett and Rukie!!
 

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My trainer says these are displacement behaviours. Ie he is an adolescent full of hormones so wants to get his own way and go go go, doesn't want to wait at door so yawns, doesn't want belly rubs to stop so scratches (although agree with above and check for skin problems). My girl yawned at me this morning because I was taking too long to get my shoes on for our walk and she was impatient! Sounds normal but keep an eye on it :)
 
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