Dogs can’t talk. That much should be obvious. But that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. It just means that we, as pet owners, need to take a little more time to and effort to figure it out.
Below are a few of the common body language hints dog use to convey their emotional states, and what you ought to do about each one. Let’s begin:
I’m Relaxed. Come Say Hi.
Do you know a relaxed dog when you see one? Typically, he will have his ears up, tail down, head high and mouth slightly ajar. This confident body language means, I am ready to meet new friends.
If you are letting someone new meet your dog, this is a good time to do so. Try offering dog training treats to really butter him up.
I’m Excited. Let’s Play!
Have you ever walked up to your dog when he is a goofy mood? His ears are up, his eyes are bright and his tail is up. A bending of the front legs with the head tilted down usually follows. If you see this behavior, you can almost be certain your pooch is going to jump or run in some random direction. This is an invitation to play or roughhouse. So go ahead, give chase, or throw his favorite toy and watch him sprint like Usain Bolt.
Of course, a playful pup isn’t always appropriate for certain situations like meeting small children. If you have a big dog, be careful to monitor these moments. Your dog might not have a mean bone in his body, but his erratic behavior could scare little ones.
I’m Alert. What’s Going on Over There?
Canines, like people, aren’t exactly sure how to react to every situation. In fact, some situations can be downright confusing for your pup. In these cases, your pooch will likely take on the alert posture; tall horizontal, wagging slightly, ears forward as he listens for clues with his mouth closed and body leaning forward.
Basically, your dog is waiting to see how the situation unfolds. This might occur when he hears a rumbling in the bushes. Is it something scary? Is it something fun? He will likely stay alert until he knows exactly what’s going on.
I’m Scared. Keep Your Distance from Me.
Fear can manifest itself in any number of ways for your dog, because there are so many different ways (and reasons) to be scared. There’s aggressive fear, distressed fear, even total surrender to fear. A lowered body with ears back, accompanies almost all of these—along with his tail tucked between his legs.
In extreme cases, your dog might go belly-up as a symbol of complete surrender. Whenever your dog is scared, your best course of action is removing him from the situation.
I’m Angry. Get Away from Me!
In the doggy realm, everything is about status. The above examples of fear represent a submissive attitude: I don’t like this situation, so I will make myself as small as possible to avoid it. The angry stance, on the other hand, is all about dominance. His fur will be bristled, his stance will be forward, he will likely snarl and bark, showing off his teeth as much as possible.
That being said, a fearful dog can still be an aggressive dog. Take notice of his body language and give him space. That’s what he wants.
Bonus: I’m Curious. What’s That Sound?
It just might be the cutest thing doggies do. You make a noise and your dog tilts his head from side to side. What in the world is going on? He thinks.
No one is totally sure why dogs do this, but most experts speculate it has to with trying to hear the sound (or see the source) from different angles to better analyze the noise. Don’t worry, dogs aren’t bothered in these situations. In fact, they are usually pretty playful when it comes to silly sounds.
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