Happy pets: understanding your dog

Do you know what your dog is thinking? Here’s an insight into the world of canine communication.
understanding your dog

Dogs communicate with each other almost entirely by body posture, scent exchange and infrequently, with noises. Here are some tips to help with understanding your dog.

We humans use words in almost all communication, rarely using body language and scent (most of which is done unconsciously). Is it any wonder then, that we do not always understand each other?

How we ‘talk’ to dogs

Dogs will often watch our body language and then misinterpret what we mean to tell them. They can learn hand or arm signals during training much more easily than words, so it may be worth trying this if you are having difficulties.

They can also use our body language to anticipate what we are going to do next. There is many a proud dog owner who thinks that his dog can tell the time as he is waiting by the door, or is at his bowl at the same time each day. However, they may simply be fooled by a dog who can detect the subtlest unintentional body signals given off by his owner.

With time and much studying, many dogs will learn what their owners language and facial expressions mean, as a dog owner it is up to you to learn the same from your dog.

How dogs ‘talk’ to you

In order to properly understand your dog, you need to know what his body postures mean as he tries to communicate with you. Humans tend to be able to read the obvious signals that show ’emotions’ such as:

  • fear – for example, tail low or tucked in, ears drawn back, eyes wide, hackles may be raised
  • aggression  – for example, stillness and a rigid posture, teeth bared, tail held high
  • happiness – wagging tail in a sweeping side-to-side motion, ears pressed to the side of the head, corners of mouth pulled back in a ‘smile’
  • submission – making himself as small as possible, lip licking
  • playfulness – a drop into the play bow (front legs flat on the ground and posterior in the air, usually with tail wagging and cheeky look on his face!)

Understanding your dog

We often misread the more subtle signs and tend to place our own interpretations on what our dog is trying to say. Tail wagging, for example, can indicate different intent and it helps to know the difference.

Most people would probably think that a dog who is wagging his tail is happy to see them. A frightened dog, however, will often hold his tail low with just the tip wagging and a confident dog will often hold his tail high, wagging stiffly – either of these two dogs are likely to bite if approached, so it is fairly important to take time to learn the differences.

Dogs do not use vocalisations to communicate in the same way as humans. They may bark or whine to express excitement, frustration, boredom, fear, anxiety or because they are guarding. But many dogs will bark simply because they have learned that it will gain the attention of their owner.

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Tags: , Last modified: September 21, 2021

Written by 9:25 am Pets