On Identifying Cues From Dog Body Language
When two canines meet for the first time, they understand each other within moments.
Their body language tells each other what to expect from the other animal.
If you observe dogs together, you’ll notice their interaction follows a uniform code.
This is because they essentially “speak” the same language.
Owners who learn to interpret their dogs’ body language can protect them, as well as other pets and owners.
They can defuse confrontations before they escalate, or prevent them from occurring in the first place. Owners will also form stronger bonds with their canines since they’ll be able to better respond to their needs.
The goal of this article is to help you identify important cues from your pet. We’ll first highlight important features to watch, and then describe various temperaments. Even though your pet is unable to speak, you’ll learn to recognize how he feels, and be able to predict his next moves. This skill alone can help you avert dangerous situations.
Noteworthy Features To Observe About Dog Body Language
Your canine uses his head and face to express a number of emotions.
For example, he might wrinkle his forehead or lean his head to one side when he is confused.
He may turn his eyes away from another animal to show submission.
He might open his mouth and allow his tongue to hang from one side when he feels content or relaxed.
Your pet also uses his tail to communicate with others. A wagging tail implies he feels happy or excited. He might position it between his legs to show submission.
Posture plays an important role in expressing a canine’s intent. If you notice your pet bowing to another animal or person, his bow suggests he wants to play. On the other hand, if his body becomes rigid, he may feel threatened.
As you’ll see below, these features will convey all of the information you need in order to understand how your dog is feeling at any given moment. In many cases, they will help you quell confrontations before they can spiral out of control.
Dog Body Language: Anxiety Or Fear
Dogs can become anxious for many reasons. You’ll notice your pet becoming tense, and his ears may be held slightly back. He might begin to lick his lips or whine to express his anxiety.
If another animal is making him anxious, he may yawn to let the animal know that he poses no threat. The best response is to move your canine away from whatever is causing him to feel nervous.
If something frightens him, his body may start to shake. If another animal is the trigger for your dog’s fear, he will take a defensive posture.
This usually includes baring teeth, growling, and even tightening his body in preparation to fight. Here, too, quickly separating your pet from the source of his fear is the best response.
Canines often show submission when they encounter other animals or people. Typically, they roll onto their backs to expose their stomachs, urinate, or look elsewhere to avoid eye contact.
The purpose of these actions is to let the other animal (or person) know that the dog poses no threat. A response from the owner is seldom necessary.
Happiness Or Playfulness
When a canine is happy, he’ll start wagging his tail and panting. His step will be light, and he’ll interact with others with confidence. When he becomes playful, you’ll notice his ears standing erect while he jumps around.
A telltale sign of a playful dog is the bow described earlier. Neither a happy or playful pet is likely to fight, but make sure your canine avoids irritating other pets in his zest.
Dog Body Language: Dominance Or Aggression
A dog that shows dominance toward other animals walks with confidence, and maintains eye contact. There is decidedly less mirth in his step.
As long as other pets show deference and submissiveness, confrontations are unlikely. If, however, another animal refuses to submit, a dominant canine may be motivated to fight.
When a canine becomes aggressive, his body will be tense and his teeth will be bared. You will notice his ears are peeled back against his head, and his nose will likely be wrinkled, especially if he is snapping his jaws.
A dog’s body language is filled with important cues that reveal his feelings and intent. Learn to recognize your pet’s cues to respond in a way that minimizes the likelihood of injury.
Dog Body Language Explained!
Even though dogs routinely bark, whine, howl, and growl, vocalization is not their main method of communication. Their gestures are more telling.
They reveal what a canine is feeling and his attitude toward his immediate environment. They can also be used to anticipate his actions, and thus avoid dangerous circumstances.
Given the importance of a dog’s gestures and the information they convey, it’s worth learning to understand them. Below, we’ll describe the most common, and explain what they communicate.
You’ll learn how to tell when your pet is feeling playful, stressed, threatened, submissive, or aggressive.
Dog Body Language: Bared Teeth
When a canine bares his teeth, he does so to communicate, not attack (though an attack may follow).
He is warning another animal or person to stay away. A number of situations may trigger this reaction.
The animal may be guarding food; he may be fearful, and lack a means of escape; or, he might be warning potential intruders to stay off his territory.
Don’t approach a dog that is baring his teeth.
Instead, back away slowly. If your pet is showing his teeth to you or your family, enlist the help of an experienced trainer.
Dog Body Language: Yawning
A yawning canine is not sleepy. He is trying to send a specific message. In most cases, yawning is a means of communicating conciliation. The animal uses it to calm another animal or person when he feels stressed or frightened, and does not wish to confront the object of his fear.
For example, if a large dog approaches another canine, the latter animal might yawn to inform the former that he feels threatened. Rather than fighting, the yawn is meant to calm the situation and avoid a confrontation.
Dog Body Language: Play Bow
Most people can recognize this gesture. The dog brings his chest to the ground while his hindquarters are raised in the air. His front legs and paws are spread out in front of him.
This is a gesture that is meant to encourage other canines to play. It also informs other animals that the dog feels no aggression or fear. He simply wants to interact.
When two canines meet for the first time, and agree to play together, there may be a few bumps along the way. One may play too roughly, causing the other to react with a bark.
If neither animal is willing to back down, a confrontation may occur. Otherwise, they might resume their play, or simply stop.
Dog Body Language: Whale Eye
This is a gesture that displays the white portion of the dog’s eyes. You can observe it when the animal looks slightly sideways at something or someone. It is a method of communicating a sense of unease or anxiety.
While whale eye appears harmless, it can be a precursor to an aggressive response. The canine feels nervous, and thus is more likely to attack when provoked. Many people make the mistake of approaching an animal when they observe this gesture. Doing so is dangerous.
Dog Body Language: Lip Licking
When a dog licks his lips, he either does so due to the thought of food, or to send an entirely unrelated message. In the latter case, the gesture has essentially the same purpose as yawning: to calm another animal or person. The canine feels threatened, and wants to appease the animal or person he considers to be a threat.
It’s important to highlight that lip licking, while a form of conciliation, can eventually lead to an aggressive response. The reason is because the animal feels threatened. This makes him more likely to react aggressively if he feels he must defend himself.
Dog Body Language: Wagging Tail
Most people believe a wagging tail communicates happiness or playfulness. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Much depends on the manner in which the dog is holding his body while wagging his tail.
For example, if the animal’s body is stiff, he is letting you know that he feels anxious about something. If you reach toward him to pet him, he may attempt to bite you.
Canine gestures offer a window into a dog’s mind. Learn to recognize the gestures above, and understand what each communicates.
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Understanding Dog Body Language – Video
In the same way you can interpret a canine’s feelings and intentions based on his body language, dogs interpret certain things by watching people. They might infer deference, aggression, a threat, or friendliness based upon what they observe. Many people are unaware this occurs. As a result, they occasionally send signals to canines that are interpreted in the wrong way, which can potentially lead to dangerous outcomes.
In this article, we’ll explore the manner in which a dog interprets your body language. You may be surprised by the messages you are conveying by your actions and mannerisms. By gaining a deeper understanding of a canine’s perspective, you can influence your interaction with him, and avoid unnecessary confrontations.
Persistent And Direct Staring
In the wild, canines avoid staring at each other since doing so communicates a challenge. Instead, they will typically avert their eyes. In cases where one animal stares at another, the outcome is dependent on whether the second animal is aggressive.
If he is, he will stare back, and express his displeasure by growling, baring his teeth, and similar behavior. If he is not, he will likely look away or roll over to expose his stomach as an act of submission.
When people look directly into a dog’s eyes, they issue a similar challenge – at least, from the animal’s perspective. Most canines will submit to people because people are larger and positioned higher.
However, some animals have dominant tendencies, and will respond aggressively. When a child stares without understanding the message he or she is sending, the results can be tragic.
Dog Body Language: Posture And Stance
Canines express their level of self-confidence by the manner in which they present themselves to others.
For example, a dog that walks with his neck extended upward, and his head positioned high, is seldom submissive by nature. If he is approached by another animal bearing the same posture and stance, a confrontation might ensue.
Likewise, if you advance upon a dog with your shoulders pulled back, and head held high, your posture may communicate a challenge. Here again, most canines will submit. Those that are aggressive, however, may react hostilely.
Grabbing Sensitive Areas Near The Head
Many people, and particularly children, make the mistake of grabbing a dog’s nape. While this rarely leads to a confrontation, it is important to understand how a canine perceives the treatment.
When he was a puppy, his mother would discipline him by focusing upon his nape. She would also direct attention to his muzzle. When he became an adult, other dogs would focus on these areas to communicate dominance. He may have done the same to other animals.
When a person grabs a canine’s nape, even with affection (as many children are wont to do), he may perceive the action as a challenge. In a household with a clearly-defined hierarchy of authority, this may not be a problem. When done to a strange dog, he may react with aggression.
Dog Body Language: The Frontal Approach
Consider two dogs that meet for the first time. They rarely approach each other face-to-face. Instead, they usually investigate one another by wandering to the side and sniffing the other animal’s hindquarters. On occasions when canines approach one another head-on, the encounters can easily progress into confrontations.
This occurs because frontal approaches are often construed as mild challenges. Both animals become more alert and wary of the other. They sense the tension in one another, and become increasingly tense as a result. If one of the dogs is naturally aggressive, they may begin to fight.
People who walk directly toward a canine may accidentally communicate the same intention. This is especially true for animals that already suffer a general phobia – or discomfort – when near people. In such cases, they might respond aggressively.
While it is important to know how to interpret a canine’s body language, it is equally important to learn how he perceives your own. Doing so will help you avoid triggering aggressive behavior due to a misconstrued message.