Canine Language: Understanding Your Dog’s Signs
Most pet owners wish that they could communicate with their dogs in order to better understand what their four-legged best friends are trying to tell them. The good news is that although a Google Translate for bark language will not probably be developed anytime soon, dogs are actually quite expressive in their own body language and behavior.
By observing your dog’s posture, facial expressions, sounds, and movement while correlating these to their immediate environment, you can gain better understanding of what they are feeling and what they are trying to express. Establishing an effective behavioral language with your dog will strengthen the special bond that you share, allowing you to be a better owner to them, and it will finally answer the age-old question among all pet owners – what is my dog trying to tell me?
An entire section is devoted to the dog’s tail because it conveys so much about what your pup is feeling based on how it is raised and the way it wags. In terms of position, the higher the tail is raised, the more they are excited or aroused. Being excited may mean happiness, as seen in a dog with a raised tail wagging quickly from side to side or even in a circular motion like a helicopter, or it may mean aggression, as can be observed in a dog with a tail raised straightly high, like a flag, wagging in quick, small motions.
Dogs that have tails held out in a horizontal position may be expressing attentiveness, curiosity, or an interest to explore their environment. Dogs with tails lowered and pointing to the ground or tucked between their legs, wagging slowly, may be feeling wary, scared, and anxious. Dogs in a fearful state may run away or suddenly become aggressive and fight, so be careful about approaching them. It is helpful to note how your dog’s tail appears when held neutrally or in a relaxed state to accurately observe the change in emotions based on their tail language.
How to Tell if a Dog is Happy
A happy dog is the best dog, as dogs’ happiness are easily contagious to their owners. Happy dogs can be relaxed, as may be observed in a ‘happy dog face’ where the mouth is slightly open with the ends raised and the tongue out as if they are smiling. The head and ears assume a neutral position, and the posture may also be neutral or the dog is lying on their chest with their forelegs and hindlegs stretched out.
On the other hand, happiness can also mean excitement, usually in response to a favorable stimulus, such as a person they like (you!), a favorite food or toy. Happily excited dogs may have their ears perked up and forward as they jump and run around, their eyes wide open and focused. They may also assume a play-bow stance, where the forelegs are stretched out and the front end is lowered while the rear end is raised up in the air. Happy and excited dogs also tend to play-bite and bark.
How to Tell if a Dog is Anxious
Dogs, like humans, can get stressed, usually in response to an unfavorable stimulus. Anxious and fearful dogs express many similar behavior signs, such as extreme panting, lip licking and drooling, yawning, and repetitive movements such as pacing back and forth or circling around. The posture may be lowered and hunched, as if making themselves look small, and their ears may be turned slightly back. A dog looking away may also be expressing anxiousness or fear as they try to avoid the cause of their negative emotions.
How to Tell if a Dog is Angry
Angry dogs show behavior signs that translate to aggression, which you can observe like warning signs before they decide to run away or attack. Often, angry dogs assume a stiff posture, emanate a low growl while pulling their lips back to bare their teeth, and open their eyes wide showing the whites. Raised hackles on a dog may also translate to aggression, although seeing the hair on their backs standing up may also suggest other strong emotions such as excitement or fear.
It is important to remember that dog emotions can be complex and multifaceted, just like in humans. An anxious dog may feel excitement and aggression at the same time, and feelings may shift quickly such that you may not expect a dog appearing happily excited to suddenly jump at you and attack. Therefore, it is always imperative to be careful especially around dogs you have not established a bond with yet. Even with your own four-legged best friend, remember to always be gentle with them and remove objects and elements in the environment that you know may cause them distress.