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Doggie Language 101

Doggie Language 101 1

For a dog emotion is displayed through body language

Our beautiful beasts may not be able to actually ‘talk’ to us (even though we do have many a conversation with them) but they can show us how they are feeling. To understand what our beautiful beasts (and those we meet on our daily adventures) are communicating to us, we need to be aware of their whole body as well as the situation and context to which they are reacting, for example an alert dog could be misinterpreted as being threatening.

Happiness is the most joyful response to see in a dog, a happy dog is clear to see, and includes displays such as:
• A whole body tail wag
• Rolling over to show their belly
• No tension in the body or ears
• A good-natured bow to initiate play
• Looking at you directly with relaxed face & eyes
• Mouth closed, partially opened, or panting in a regular rhythm
• Some dogs curl the corners of their mouths up, often described as smiling

An anxious or fearful dog could turn to aggression if not understood correctly. Their body language tends be more moving away than towards, and they may present themselves in ways such as:
• Ears flattened or stuck to their side of their head
• Tail held lower than normal, they may wag it quicker than normal or if really scared tucked between their legs
• Hunched to try and appear smaller, lowered or cowered on the ground
• Some may growl or bark, or yawn in an exaggerated way

Dogs can be aggressive for many reasons but the most common one is fear. A fearful dog however will display different behaviours to a dominant/threatening dog.  Dogs which are being threatening through dominance may display body language such as:
• Eyes smaller than normal eyes and staring directly at another dog
• When being possessive/guarding may look out of the side of their eyes at you and showing a large amount of the whites,  also known as ‘whale eye’
• Ears raised up and forward
• Retraction of lips to display teeth
• Wrinkling of the muzzle
• Stiff legs, body leaning forward
• Tail held stiff and high, or rigidly moved back and forth

Being alert means being ready for anything, even play!
• Tail held still and higher than normal
• Ears raised and pointed in the direction of what has alerted them
• Mouth typically closed, some may growl or bark

The aim is to have balanced dogs who can handle excitement.  Dogs who can be in a high state of energy and still have a collected mind. Excitement and joy can be expressed by:
• A playful demeanour, initiating play with a bow, bouncing around with exaggerated movements
• Ears up and tail high wagging happily
• Puppies especially may nip
• An intense look, focused on the source of their excitement, with weight on back legs ready to go
• Mouth open or even a bark

People tend to think that a wagging tail means a dog is happy, or ears pricked forward is a threat. Looking at the whole picture and all of the subtle signals will help us ‘hear’ what our beautiful beasts are trying to tell us.



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