Learning how to understand your dog’s language is something that will take a lot of observation. As you read through this post, I encourage you to watch your dog and notice how quickly they change their expressions.
Many people wait until a dog bites, barks, growls, or shows its teeth to realize the dog is telling them something, even though these are actually most dogs’ last resort. They will tell you several things with the way they hold themselves, the movements of their ears, tail, eyes, and every part of their body.
Now be aware that one signal on its own does not determine what your dog is saying, it is the combination of signals.
Since your dog communicates with so many parts of their body, we will just go over the three easiest for you to see in this post. The eyes, ears, and tail.
- When a dog avoids eye contact, he is being submissive.
- Dog’s don’t stare at each other because this is a very challenging behavior and could mean a threat. If a dog is staring at you with a tense body, this could be dangerous.
- Many trainers (including myself) encourage eye contact from the dog, this is not threatening because the dog is not tense when he is looking at you.
- Anytime you see the whites of the dogs eye, this can be a warning from the dog. He may be scared or irritated.
- A dog will squint his eyes when he is submissive.
- Pay attention to their eyebrows to see if there is tension or not.
- Ears erect and forward are very alert. Alertness can quickly change into charging.
- Any time the ears are tight against the head, this is a sign that can turn into an attack.
- If the ears are laying back but not tight, this is very submissive and the dog is showing you ultimate respect.
- When the ears are relaxed but towards the side, the dog is comfortable and very relaxed.
- Ears pointing straight forward when intensely focused is a sure sign that your dog is going to charge.
- When one ear is to the side and the other is forward, your dog is listening to several things and being calm about it.
One of the BIGGEST myths about a dog is that a wagging tail means a friendly dog. This is FALSE, I cannot stress that enough. You can easily be attacked by a dog while his tail is wagging.
When your dog’s tail wags, it simply means that they are excited, pumped up, have adrenaline, or simply a responder to being with someone else. The meaning of the wagging tail relies on the position of the tail itself.
- As most people know, a tail tightly curled under a dog’s belly is a very fearful dog and can even lead to a bite.
- A tail slightly underneath the dog’s belly is scared but also submissive.
- A low wagging tail is my favorite tail! This is a submissive gesture and a very relaxed and content dog.
- A tense straight tail is never a good sign, it tells you that the dog is either being very dominant or feels very uncomfortable in the situation. It can be an indicator to an attack.
- A tail that stays within the middle, (around the line of their back) is a content dog but can be easily excited.
- A high tail is a sure sign of a dominant dog. Two dogs approaching each other with very high tails need to be very closely supervised.
Now many of these signs by themselves won’t have much meaning so watch for when they are combined together. I will be making more posts about dog body language as I think it is essential for every dog owner to know.
Just remember, a loose bodied/ wiggly dog is a happy guy, a tense and stiff dog is a bad sign.
Hope this helps! If you have any questions on certain signs your dog is showing or how to really understand what your dog is saying, please write me a post at Facebook.com/apassionforpaws Good luck!