As a dog owner, it’s important that you understand your pet’s body language. Even though dogs can learn to understand some words and phrases, they are never able to learn how to speak. Instead, your dog talks to you through its body language.
Pay particular attention to your dog’s ears. Ears that are held upright and forward indicate excitement or interest. Ears that are held close to the head and aimed towards the tail indicate fear or anxiety. If you notice that your dog is holding its ears flat against its head while you are out in public, it is a good idea to not let people approach it.
It’s important to know that a wagging tail does not always signify a happy animal. A slow, exaggerated wag tells you that your dog is concerned, afraid or even angry. A tail held stiff and erect should alert you to a possible bite. A tail that is pinned between the legs and held close to the body indicated extreme fear and anxiety. When your dog is happy, its tail will be held close to even with its back and wag from side to side or in circles.
Pay close attention to your dog’s eyes. If your dog’s pupils are enlarged in normal light, it is silently telling you that it is afraid or anxious. You should rarely see the whites of your dog’s eyes; if you do, a bite may be imminent. When you meet a strange dog, do not make eye contact. Instead, look at the top of the dog’s head or at the side of its body. Eye contact is threatening to a dog and could encourage an attack from a fearful or aggressive animal.
Your dog’s body says it all. A happy dog is a relaxed dog. A dog that is at ease has a relaxed body. A stiff posture is something to pay attention to. If you notice that your dog is holding its entire body like a tightly-wound watch, something is wrong. Do not let any person or animal approach your dog if it becomes stiff and still.
You should understand that raised hackles do not always indicate an aggressive animal. Think of hackles like human goose bumps. Raised hackles can signal aggression, but they can also signal excitement, nervousness or anxiety. Your dog has no more control over raising its hackles than you have control over breaking out in goose bumps.
When you bring a dog into your home, it’s important to research canine body language. While each part of your dog’s body can tell you something, its overall positioning speaks volumes. Pay close attention to the position of your dog’s ears, the movement of its tail, and the stance of its body. Like humans, dogs display several signals at one time. When you learn more about canine body language, you understand what your dog is trying to tell you.