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Canine Body Languages

Hannah Ruess . Thursday, May 26, 2016 . Comments
Canine Body Languages

What is your dog trying to tell you? Dogs are very communicative animals and they have a language capacity that allows them to connect with other dogs and species. They are conflict-solving animals and it is usually us the human species, who incline conflict between dogs or dogs and our self.

Fortunately, we can learn to recognize and interpret their signals, with these skills we will be able to interact with our dogs with greater satisfaction and safety.

It is important to learn about the various mechanisms that make up dog body language. Dogs signal their intentions and feelings with the use of facial expressions, ear set, tail posture and overall appearance too. Breaking their body language down into sections can be helpful to build our observation and interpretation skills.

Keep in mind that in order to truthfully define what the dog is trying to communicate, you have to observe the entire dog body and the situation and environment your dog is in. The great news is that all dogs speak the same languages all around the world. Due to their different appearance some breeds have certain signals better established than others.

Signals of a happy dog:

  • Relaxed body
  • Relaxed blinking eyes
  • Relaxed mouth, slightly open
  • Comfortable ears
  • Tail carriage (holds his tail in its natural position)
  • Wagging tail like a helicopter
  • Wiggling backside
  • Play bow

Signals of an aroused dog:

  • Closed mouth
  • Eyes intense (starring)
  • Body tense - very stiff
  • Ears pricked forward
  • Body tense - leaning forward
  • Tail raised
  • Tense tail – may or may not be wagging

Signals of avoidance behaviour:

  • turning head away
  • the dog gets up and leaves the environment
  • hiding behind person or object
  • barking and retreating
  • the dog rolls over onto its back in a submissive way (please don't hurt me!)

Signals of displacement behaviour:

  • yawning when not tired
  • nose/lip lick without the presence of food
  • sudden scratching when not itchy
  • sudden biting at paws or other body part
  • sudden sniffing the ground or other object
  • wet dog shake when not wet or dirty

Signals of anxiety

  • Tail tucked between legs
  • Tail low and only end wagging
  • Tail down or straight for a curly tailed dog
  • Half moon eyes (Whites showing)
  • The look of pleading
  • Leaning away
  • Ears sideways for erect eared dogs
  • Ears back and very rapid panting

Signals of aggression:

  • dog raises tail when approached
  • dog stands with front legs splayed, head low, looking at you
  • dog freezes - becomes suddenly stiff
  • dog curls lip to show teeth
  • guarding
  • snap and miss
  • snarl
  • aggressive barking which is not stopped by your request for quiet
  • lunging on or off the leash, with barking or growling
  • biting
If you have a dog who is showing a lot of signals of aggression or anxiety, you should consider the help of a professional dog trainer. I am always happy to help!
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