25 Feb 2010
The key to understanding your dog is to also learn how to read your dog’s body language. In this way, you can assess her attitude thus you predict your dog’s next move. Dogs are non-verbal so body language is the best way you can talk to them. Vocalization in forms of barking, howling and whining, takes second place to a canine body language. You are sure to spend some time observing dog once you learn these basic types of dog body language. The advantages of understanding dog language will protect you and your dog form dangerous situations. It will also aid in training or determining common behavior problems.
This is shown when your dog stands straight and tall with her head held high, ears perked up, and eyes bright. You can see its mouth slightly open but relaxed. Her tail may sway gently, curl loosely or hang in a relaxed position. Your dog is friendly, at ease and non-threatening with her surroundings.
A happy dog is basically the same as a confident dog. The dog will usually wag its tail rapidly. Expect your dog to jump and run around with glee. A playful dog will show the “play bow” where its front legs are stretched forward, head straight ahead, rear end up in the air and wiggling. Take this as a positive sign to play.
The anxious dog may act similarly submissive. It often holds its ears partially back with its neck stretched out. It stands in a very tense posture and sometimes shudders. Often, an anxious dog slightly whimpers or moans. See its tail set low and may be tucked. An anxious dog may overreact to stimulus and can become fearful or even aggressive. If you are familiar with your dog, try to divert its attention to something more pleasant. However, be cautious when you try to soothe your dog. Do not provoke her or try to soothe it.
A submissive dog is meek, gentle and non-threatening. Your dog holds its head down, ears down flat and averts its eyes. Its tail is not tucked but is low and may sway slightly. Your pet may roll on its back and expose its belly. You might see your dog doing the submissive pose when you just got home. A submissive dog may also nuzzle or lick the other dog or person to manifest passive intent. Sometimes, your dog will sniff the ground or otherwise divert her attention to show that it does not want to cause any trouble.
The fearful dog combines submissive and anxious attitudes but with more extreme signals. Your dog stands tense, yet very low to the ground. Its ears are flat back while its eyes are narrowed and averted. The tail is between her legs. A fearful dog typically trembles and often whines or growls. Your dog might even bear its teeth in defense. Just like scared man who feels very threatened, your dog may also urinate or defecate. A fearful dog can become aggressive at the moment it senses a threat. Do not try to reassure the anxious dog. Instead, remove yourself from the situation calmly. Be confident and strong when you do steer your dog away. Do not comfort or punish your dog. Dogs are territorial so move her to a less threatening, more familiar location.
The anxious dog may act somewhat submissive, but often holds her ears partially back and her neck stretched out. She stands in a very tense posture and sometimes shudders. Often, an anxious dog slightly whimpers or moans. Her tail is low and may be tucked. An anxious dog may overreact to stimulus and can become fearful or even aggressive. If you are familiar with the dog, you may try to divert her attention to something more pleasant. However, be cautious – do not provoke her or try to soothe her.
An aggressive dog goes far beyond the word “dominant”. All feet are firmly planted on the ground in a territorial manner. When an unwelcomed visitor advances to its territory, your dog may lunge forward. The ears of the dog are pinned back, head is straight ahead, eyes are narrowed but piercing, tail is straight and full. Your dog bears her teeth, snaps her jaw and growls or barks threateningly. The hairs along her back stand on edge. Instincts will tell you to get away carefully when you see a dog showing these signs. Do not run. Do not make eye contact with the dog. Do not show fear. Slowly back away to your safety. If your own dog becomes aggressive to the point of harming other people, seek the assistance of a professional dog trainer (try Dog Whisperer) to learn the proper way to correct the behavior. Dogs exhibiting aggressive behavior should never be used for breeding.
A dominant dog will try to assert herself over other dogs and sometimes people. Your dog stands tall and confident and may lean a bit forward. Its eyes are wide open and makes direct eye contact with the other dog or person. See its ears up and alert complete with the hair on its back standing on edge. Its demeanor appears less friendly and possibly threatening. You may also hear lowly growl. If the behavior is directed at dog that submits then there is little concern. If the other dog, however, tries to be dominant, a fight may ensue. A dog that directs dominant behavior towards people can pose a serious threat. Do not make eye contact and slowly try to leave. If your dog regularly exhibits this behavior towards people, you need to modify your dog’s behavior.