Dogs have a unique ability to communicate with us in ways that even we humans cannot. They can convey messages through facial expressions, eye contact, body posture, and more. Understanding canine body language is essential for any pet parent looking to strengthen their human-animal bond between themselves and their beloved canine companion. In this pet blog, we share a few of your dog’s body language cues and what you need to know.
Read the whole picture
Every dog is different, so it will not necessarily exhibit all the signs when angry, scared, relaxed or worried. So, when understanding your four-legged friend’s behaviour, paying attention to their entire body, not just isolated parts like their ears or tail, is essential.
As you get to know your dog, you should be able to read their body language to understand what and how they are feeling. Dogs will generally demonstrate more than one body cue, so, for example, a relaxed body posture with an open mouth is a sign that your pup feels at ease and content. On the other hand, closed mouths and tense muscles can be a sign of stress and potential aggression.
If your pup is panting heavily or licking their lips, this could be a sign that they are feeling anxious or possibly even scared. And if your furry friend is yawning or shaking off (as they would do after a bath), this could mean they are trying to release some excess energy and calm down.
Direct eye contact is another important factor in interpreting canine body language. While making brief eye contact can be seen as a sign of respect, prolonged eye contact is usually interpreted as a warning sign. If your pup has wide eyes and gives you a wide open-eye look (whale eye), this could indicate that they feel uncomfortable or threatened.
When it comes to tail position, this can also vary depending on the breed and individual dog. Some may have their tails held high in a neutral position, while others may wag rapidly when excited or happy. A warning sign of aggression can include a tail tucked between the legs or held low and still.
Barking is another way your pup may be trying to communicate with you. High-pitched barks can indicate fear, while low, rumbling barks could indicate aggression. When the barking is accompanied by other body language signals, such as baring teeth or growling, this may also be an indication that your pup is feeling threatened.
Smelling out a new situation
Another important factor when it comes to interpreting canine communication is scent. Dogs have an incredibly acute sense of smell and rely on their noses to interpret their environment and react accordingly. If your dog approaches you with their nose held high in the air or sniffs around for long periods of time, this could be a sign that they are trying to learn more about you or their environment.
Friend of foe?
It’s also important to pay attention to how your pup interacts with other animals and people. If they seem to be avoiding eye contact, cowering away, or showing signs of aggression such as barking or snarling, this can indicate that they feel threatened by the presence of the other creature or person.
Getting your dog’s attention is essential in more challenging situations, and spending time playing games with your dog and discovering what grabs his attention (is it food or a ball or toy?) is valuable knowledge you can revert to as a distraction tactic when required.
Dealing with undesirable behaviour
If your dog shows undesirable behaviours, you must address them quickly with corrective training and positive reinforcement. Working with a dog trainer who is an expert in canine behaviour should help you navigate any issues and understand why your dog is demonstrating fear or aggression to help you solve the problems.
If you have a young puppy, taking them to training classes to pick up training tips can help instil confidence in your puppy and build a stronger relationship between you. It is also the perfect opportunity for your dog to socialise with other dogs of all sizes and shapes in a controlled environment under expert guidance.
If you are concerned by any aspect of your dog’s behaviour, always seek expert, qualified advice immediately.