What Is Your Dog’s Body Language Telling You?
Although your dog tells you a few things vocally, through their barking, growling, or whining, their main form of communication is through their body language, their posture and positioning, such as…
- The position of their ears and tail
- The shape of their mouth
- The expressions on their face
- The look in their eyes
- The general posture of their body
As a “dog parent” it is your responsibility to not only care for what we know are their needs, but also to understand what they are trying to tell you. You can do this by understanding their body language. It will help you know if they are happy, sad, scared, angry or nervous.
How to decipher what your dog is saying…
- What you can learn from their eyes:
- Wide open, soft eyes are a sign of affection or contentment. If the eyes are wide open and alert, she is probably frightened.
- Attentive wide open eyes are an indication she is anticipating play time.
- Wide open eyes, with the whites showing indicated stress.
- If the eyes seem fixed and narrowed, she is feeling dominant and possibly aggressive, whereas if her gaze is downward, and avoiding eye contact, she is expressing submissiveness.
- What you can learn from their posture:
- When a dog shifts her weight to her back legs and they are slightly bent, she is showing that she is nervous or frightened.
- If one of her front legs is lifted, she is demonstrating signs of either being stressed or exciteed…the situation will help you determine the correct sign. If your dog is a hunting breed, the lifted paw could be signaling that their prey is nearby.
- If your dog leans away, it’s a sign she would like to be left alone.
- You can tell your pup is on the alert if she is leaning slightly forward when she is standing.
- Let’s play is what your dog is saying to you when she places her chest on the ground and her rear is in the air.
- What you can learn from their hackles (the hair along their back):
- When the hackles are standing up, your pup is aroused for some reason, she could be upset, or excited or extremely interested in something.
- What you can learn from their tails and ears:
- When the ears are up or relaxed, Fido is feeling playful or happy.
- When they are pointing forward she is on alert or possibly aggressive, and if they are held back, she is probably stressed or feeling submissive or frightened.
- A tucked tail, that could be slightly wagging, lets you know your dog is afraid or nervous, while a tail held straight up and stiff is an indicator that she is possibly feeling aggressive or confident.
- The direction a tail wags can tell you different things:
- wagging to the right is a positive sign
- wagging to the left means the dog is feeling negative
- a tail wagging in a circle is the tail of a very happy dog
- What you can learn from their mouth:
- When a dog’s mouth is open, lips curled and teeth and gums exposed she is feeling aggressive and/or dominant.
- Her mouth will be closed if she is frightened, or alert. If her mouth is closed and it appears that the corners are down, she is most likely afraid.
- When she is feeling submissive or nervous, she will be licking her mouth in short, quick licks.
- A dog feeling stressed will have her mouth open, and possibly be panting or yawning.
- You’ll know she is feeling playful if her mouth is open with her tongue out a little bit. If her mouth is open and she appears to be smiling, and her lower teeth showing, she is happy.
What is your dog saying to you? Make the effort to know her body signals…you’ll understand her better and you will develop a closer bond.
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