Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dog's Body Language

Understand Your Dog's Body Language (Part 2)

Although your dog cannot use "words", he is always communicating. Dogs use their bodies to express their emotions, to show affection and to identify rank.
Unlike humans, dogs don't hide their emotions so what you see is what he's really feeling.
Dogs communicate with their actions, movement of their eyes, ears, mouths, etc, body gestures, tail wagging and more. Know to tune into your dog's body language, you'll realize what he's talking about and what he needs. Of course, each dog, like each human, has his own personality traits. Over time, you'll no doubt come to learn these individual traits. But there are general moods and behaviors that you can expect from dogs.

Dogs bark for many reasons, such as when perceived intruders (humans, dogs, or other animals) approach its territory, for identification, when hearing an unfamiliar or unidentified noise, when seeing something that the dog doesn't expect to be there, or when playing. Barking also expresses different emotions for a dog, such as loneliness, fear, suspicion, stress, and pleasure. Play or excited barks are often short and sharp, such as when a dog is attempting to get a person or another dog to play.
Dogs generally try to avoid conflict; their vocalizations are part of what communicates to other dogs whether they mean harm or are in a playful mood.
The bark of a distressed or stressed dog is high pitched, atonal, and repetitive (and tends to get higher in pitch as the dog becomes more upset). For example, a dog left home alone and who has separation anxiety might bark in such a way.
Some research has suggested that dogs have separate barks for different animals, including dog, fox, deer, human and cat.

Growls can be used to threaten, to invite play, and to show dominance. Growling should be watched with special attention because it can indicate dominance or aggression. A soft, low-pitched growl often indicates aggression; the dog may feel threatened and may be provoked to attack. An intense growl, without showing any teeth, may often indicate a playful attitude. Always consider the context of a growl, and exercise caution.
Whines and Whimpers
Dogs whine and whimper to show that they are either in pain, or are afraid, or when excited, such as when greeting another dog, or in anticipation of a treat or an outing. Some dogs may use whining as a means of getting attention.

Howling provides long-range communication with other dogs or owners. Howling can be used to locate another pack member, to keep strangers away, or to call the pack for hunting. Sometimes dogs howl in response to high-pitched or loud noises such as alarms, sirens, music, or singing.

Dogs that are confident and comfortable will stand erect. Their tails will be up and wagging in a sweep. The ears may be pricked up or relaxed, and they will look directly at you. The mouth will be partially open in what some call a smile.

Dogs that are fearful will lower their stance. The tail will usually be down, tucked between his legs, although some dogs actually wag their tails when they are unsure and evaluating a situation. The fearful dog will not look directly at you. When he turns his head away, he's thinking, 'hmmm” if I don't see you, you don't see me, and nothing bad is going to happen to me.”
Dogs that are fearful or unsure may use "calming signals" to reduce stress for themselves or others with whom they're interacting. Some of these signals include yawning, barking, intentionally becoming distracted, lip-licking, circling, sniffing the ground, or just sitting or lying down.

Certain breeds are hard to read - their tails are naturally curled up, and their ears are always perked up. Some dogs don't ever give any indication that they are going to bite so watch the dog's muzzle. A muzzle will twitch before a bite.
Other signs of aggression include stiff legs and body with the tail straight out, ears "pinned" back close to the head, a lowered head with eyes fixed intently at you. The lips are sometimes drawn back in a snarl and a low growl is heard.
Many people mistakenly believe that hackled hair on a dog's back means they are aggressive. However, these are usually dogs who aren't at all confident - they're apprehensive so hackled hair makes them look bigger.

You win!
Play bows are an invitation to play. The rear end is up, the front part of his body is down, and the tail is wagging. Rolling over onto his back with his belly up is a classic sign of submission (or a request for a belly rub). A dog that raises a paw with a bent foreleg is showing submission.

And more ?
Of course, dog language goes far beyond these few examples. Individual pets develop their own techniques for communicating with us when they want to eat, go out, or be left alone.
And there are the dogs that have either never learned or have mis-learned their own language. The company they keep is important. Dogs learn from other dogs, both the good and the bad. An isolated pup is like an isolated child, and the sad thing is he's not fluent in caninus. The puppy that gives all the calming signs in his repertoire and still has the stuffing knocked out of him by an unruly larger playmate may eventually resort to meeting newcomers with signs of aggression rather than calming ones.
It takes some observation to understand what your pet is "saying", but it's well worth the effort: the more you understand what your pet is trying to tell you, the better your relationship can be.

And remember to praise your dog abundantly when he does the right thing!

You Can Do It! Kum Chee A Happy Dog Lover and Owner

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