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Deciphering canine body language

Dogs communicate through various ways

Our dogs communicate through various ways and it is not only when they woof or ruff. Verbal cues from our dogs will tell us what they need or want, but dogs body language plays a far more important role when they communicate with us. Dogs will use their whole body to communicate with us. They will use their body posture, ears, tail and facial expressions to communicate with you.Taking the time to observe your dog’s movements and actions can be hugely beneficial to you and your dog’s happiness, allowing you to recognize stress or discomfort, and respond to potential problems before they get worse.

Eyes

Eyes are the windows to the soul. But in dogs case you always need to look at their body language in conjunction with their eyes and facial expression. Knowing your dog firsthand will enable you to identify what emotions the eyes are saying. A relaxed dog will have normal shaped eyes.  Eyes that appear enlarged indicates a frightened, stressed or threatened dog. Dogs that feel unwell have droopy eyes or may squint a lot. Eye contact is another important indicator of our dogs current mood.A hard stare may be a precursor of a dog that is going to react. A dog that is avoiding eye contact wants to calm a situation down. .

ears

Ear position is another crucial way that our pets communicate with us. A relaxed dog typically holds his ears forward and slightly to the side. His ears may twitch when he is listening to interesting sounds. His ears will move forward and be erect when he is interested in something. When preparing to react to something, he will hold his ears tight and forward. Reactions may be simple like chasing another animal, or may show aggressive behaviour like reacting and lunging to a person or dog. Your dog will flatten his ears against his head when he is submissive, stressed or scared. the more fearful a dog is the more he will press his ears against his head and this may progress to the dog showing signs of aggression by protecting himself.

Tell tail signs

All dogs wagging their tails are friendly right?  This is a widely assumed misconception. Dogs wagging their tails show us that they want to interact with us or another animal. However this interaction is not always a positive interaction. Your dog will show you the following tail signs: (https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/interpreting-tail-wags-in-dogs)

Tail position may indicate:
  1. Preparedness or agitation. When dogs are alert, they stand with their ears up and tails raised. This posture indicates that they are watching and ready to confront whatever caught their attention.
  2. Negotiation. When a dog suddenly stops wagging his tail and freezes, it may mean that he wants divert a threat without being aggressive. Many dogs do this when petted by strangers to communicate that they don’t want to interact with them.
  3. Aggression. When a tail moves from a neutral position to a vertical one or arches over the back, it indicates that the dog may be aggressive. The higher the tail, the greater the threat. This high tail position also releases more of the dog’s scent from the anal glands which announces the aggressive dog’s arrival and marks his territory.
  4. Submission. When a tail moves from the neutral position to a lower one, the dog is submissive and is not a threat. If the tail is tucked tightly between the rear legs, the dog is scared. He perceives a threat and is asking not to be harmed. This lower tail position reduces the amount of scent emitted from the anal glands and allows the dog to remain in the background or fly under the radar.
  5. Curiosity. When a dog is curious about something she hold her tails straight out in a horizontal position.
  6. Happiness. When a dog is happy, he holds his tail in a neutral or slightly raised position and adds a healthy wag.

The rate at which a tail moves adds further meaning to canine communication.

Wagging speed may indicate:

  1. Excitement. The faster the wag, the more excited the dog. A tail wag may range from very slow to extremely rapid (known as flagging). Sometimes the dog’s tail wags so fast that it appears to vibrate.
  2. Insecurity. A dog that is tentative about meeting a new person or another dog may wag his tail ever so slightly to indicate that he is insecure.
  3. Friendliness.  A dog that is very friendly may wag his tail more freely and even wiggle his hips at the same time.
  4. Aggression. When a dog wags his tail very fast while holding it vertically, he may be an active threat. So, remember that a person can get bitten by a dog that is wagging its tail!

The tale of the tail? Dog tail signs help pups communicate not only with us, but also with other dogs. Knowing the meaning of how a dog is using his tail can go a long way to showing you how your pet is feeling.

Body posture

Observing a dogs body posture will enable you to understand your dog better and prevent future behaviour problems. A dog’s weight distribution can tell a lot about mood and intention.  A dog that is stressed will cower and be hunched over to the ground. This dog will try to make himself smaller that he can be unnoticed or be able to get away. A dog that is lying on his back exposing his tummy is an extreme posture of fear and vulnerability. This may look like a dog soliciting a belly rub, and in a relaxed dog, it often is. But it can actually be a sign of considerable stress and anxiety. The dog may even urinate a little in appeasement. The opposite posture is a dog with his or her weight shifted forward. This dog will try to get closer to something. This may simply be qa dog that shows interest but when it is combined with tai twitching, a dog that appears larger it may be signs of aggression. One of the most well know postures is known as the play bow.  This is when dogs place their chest on the ground with their rump in the air. This is when a dog want to initiate play with other dogs or people.

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