Understanding Dog Body Language
It’s sometimes hard to believe that our four-legged pals have no idea what we’re saying in most instances. We consider them our friends, companions and sometimes even children, but most of us never consider dog body language. While we may not be able to hold a conversation with them, we can tell a lot about what they’re trying to tell us by understanding their body language. Dogs are instinct loaded and will all act in a similar fashion under different circumstances. By paying attention to different parts of a dog’s body, you’ll be able to tell if your pup is content, agitated, stressed or ready to play. We hope to shed some light on some of their body languages and help you understand when your dog is craving attention or just wants its own space.
Recognizing Happiness In Dogs
Probably the easiest emotion that your dog can display is happiness. A relaxed forehead, a steady pant, and soft gentle eyes are sure signs that your dog is thrilled to be around you. A wagging tail on a relaxed pup is the greatest indication of a happy dog. Just think of it as their way of smiling and showing that they appreciate you.
We’ve covered a happy dog but there are also signs that a dog can show you that means you need to stay back. A dog will show that it is feeling aggressive and dominant by standing its tail straight up and also raising its hackles, or hairs along its back. If you pay attention to an alarmed dog you will notice that its ears will be standing forward and its teeth will be exposed. If your dog ever lowers its body and tucks its tail between its legs, you need to be prepared for a potential attack on whatever it feels is threatening to it.
Recognizing Stress In Dogs
Did you know that dogs can feel stress and even anxiety? As a person, I’ve realized that anxiety is one of the worst feelings that our brains can give us. A dog that is dealing with anxiety will usually wrinkle its forehead and hold its ears back slightly while it tries to get an idea of what danger it is sensing. You may notice a wagging tail—it will be obviously different than the wag of a happy dog. They will usually wag in a more discreet way that looks like more of a nervous tick. The best way to overcome your anxious dog would be to stand next to it and assure it with relaxing tones.
Recognizing Stubbornness In Dogs
A focused dog is a stubborn dog. You’ll notice a tense body from the way it stiffens its legs. I once had a dog that never paid any attention to bugs, snakes, etc. But if he saw a Cicada shell, he was a totally different animal. He was stiff-lipped, wouldn’t blink and wouldn’t leave the shell until I picked it up and showed him that it wasn’t a threat. Even as I brought the shell close to him he would remain stiff and somehow back up at the same time. They’re usually easy to get back to their normal self once they see that the threat is gone.
Recognizing Fright & Fear In Dogs
As rational humans, we can brush off certain things that dogs can’t. Dogs are known for being dramatic and share similar behaviors when they are frightened. Some dogs will cower to present themselves as a smaller non-threat, others stand still as to not invite danger while others will just bark at whatever is threatening them. A frightened dog will usually dart their eyes back and forth at their enemy, (probably just a shell of an insect) and typically refuse to leave the scene until the threat is neutralized. That comes from their basic instinct to survive. If their predecessors that were fighting off mammoths and dangerous predators could only see them freak out over an empty insect shell!
Why You Should Understand What Your Dog Is Telling You
Your dog will feel relief the same way that you do. You’ll easily be able to tell when your dog is feeling relieved over whatever worry it had. Its body will loosen up and their eyes will soften. You’ll be able to see their face muscles return to their normal non-flexed state and they won’t stand as tall and confrontational. One of the funniest signs of a relieved dog is how it will appear to almost be embarrassed of overcoming their fears. Some will avoid eye contact, yawn a little and drop their heads a bit. This is their way of showing that their (sometimes non-existent) threat has been neutralized.
Even though dogs aren’t actually able to speak and tell us what they’re thinking, they are able to tell us all we need to know by using different body language. It’s pretty amazing how much we can learn just from how a dog is standing. By paying attention to their body language we can easily avoid disaster by leaving an aggressive dog alone. Children that grow up around dogs have a tendency to believe that every dog is as friendly as the dog that they call a friend. By noticing different stances, tail positions, and aggressive behaviors, we can avoid which dogs ourselves and our children should come in contact with.