A Guide To Understanding Dog Body Language

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A Guide To Understanding Dog Body Language

By Crystal Willson

Dog lovers do everything to make their pets feel comfortable and give them a healthy lifestyle. Canines convey their mental status and intentions to the people around them by their body language. Identifying and understanding a dog’s behavior will help in better managing them and keeping yourself safe. Like humans, dogs also have mood changes within seconds, and a calm pooch can instantly get anxious or fearful, which can even make them aggressive. Their verbal and non-verbal emotions are flags and a person must know how to interpret them.

Let’s discuss various behaviors when they are in different moods.

1. Comfortable or happy

The most natural body language to observe is a happy pup. Dogs in a good mood keep their tails high and move them vigorously. When they relax and straighten their ears against their head, it is a signal of them feeling good. A comfortable hound has relaxed muscles and is less stiff. Their shoulders look loose and their eyes are eased, meaning that they feel joyful.

Another sign of your canine friend’s playful mood is when they yield, intimating that it would like to play and bounce around. Dogs in a playful mood sometimes open their jaws and show their teeth, which is also normal playful behavior. The best sign of a happy fur friend is when you make happy gestures to it (i.e. petting, enthusiastic beckoning, snuggles, kisses & etc.), and it leans towards you.

Is there anything better than a smiling furry face? Be sure to learn the difference between a happy smile and when a dog is baring their teeth.
Is there anything better than a smiling furry face? Be sure to learn the difference between a happy smile and when a dog is baring their teeth.

2. A sad dog

It is pretty easy to recognize a stressed, troubled or annoyed canine from their body gestures such as the following:

  • Drooped tail: Like a high, wiggly wagging tail signifies a happy dog, the reverse is true for an unhappy dog. A tail tucked between the legs indicates that they are suffering from insecurity and fear.
  • Posture: A worried pooch shows a tensed posture, drooping head and shoulders, lack of eye contact and shirks away from the owner.
  • Troubled: Your furever friend might keep its ears tight and flat against its head. This is a common sign when a dog is agitated, uneasy and uncomfortable. It can happen because of many reasons. It might be uncomfortable due to hunger, illness or weather conditions. Make sure to keep your dog comfortable in cold weather with warm Jackets for Dogs.
  • Dissatisfaction: Sometimes, your pup will yawn, roll on its back, or even frequently lick its lips. These signs indicate that they are not satisfied and are looking for you to pamper it.
Knowing when your fur friend needs a pick-me-up is just as important as recognizing when they're happy.
Knowing when your fur friend needs a pick-me-up is just as important as recognizing when they’re happy.

3. Aggression

Sometimes our fur friends feel vulnerable and terrified due to distinct conditions and situations. This makes them show their aggressive behavior as they think that is the only solution to get out of the state and defend themselves. Sometimes aggression can be an indicator of pain. A pup in pain might get anxious, instigating an aggressive behavior in them.

In these situations, it’s crucial to understand their body language to identify what they are struggling with and keep yourself safe. Aggression in dogs can be both verbal and non-verbal. The most common verbal signs given are growling, barking and air snapping. Non-verbal signs involve:

  • Displaying teeth
  • Ears stuck back
  • Dense stare
  • Low head stance
  • Stiffened body
  • Curled lips
  • Tail upright and not wagging
  • Widened eyes with excessive white showing

4. A calm pup

Calming signals, also known as stress signals in canines, decrease the possibility of attack and disagreement among other dogs and humans. The signs are similar to the postures of conflict situations. So their interpretation depends on what the situation is.

The most common calming signs are rolling, yawning, staring away, sniffing the ground and strolling.

A dog at ease is a great sign of a full and happy life.
A dog at ease is a great sign of a full and happy life.

How can I ensure safety?

Sometimes we misinterpret the dog’s postures and behavior, which might worsen the situation and their behavior. A canine gives a lot of other signals which you might not notice. By the time he growls and bites someone as his last resort, it might be too late.

This can happen if you have young kids at home who don’t interpret an animal’s body language accurately. One should understand the dog’s behavior and attitudes to ensure that everyone in the house is safe, including the kids and the pet. Be sure to teach young children what the warning signs in a stressed or angered animal look like.

In summary, understanding a dog’s behavioral patterns and body postures gives us an indication of their mental and emotional state. When a dog is happy, try to indulge them in fun activities. When they are sad, don’t force it into an activity and give them some space. This will ensure a strong bond with your fur baby by creating a comfortable space and build trust between you and your dog. If your canine friend shows anxious and stressed signs consistently, it is most beneficial to take them to a veterinarian to address a possibly underlying situation. The vet can advise on the right medications and exercise to support the dog’s comfort and happiness.

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