Understanding Dog’s Body Language
Dogs have a way to speak to us. Dogs are great communicators. Their body language is strong. A certain look, posture or movement tells us what they want, need or about to do. You just need to know how to read their signs. So here are some guidelines to read and understand your dog’s body language.
A happy dog’s mouth is usually open and relaxed. The corners can be slightly upward so it looks like the dog is smiling. Stressed or fearful dogs tend to have their mouths closed. This can also mean that a dog is being alert and ready for action! If a dog is displaying a warning he usually wrinkles the top of his muzzle and may bare his teeth. Often you can hear a growl coming from deep inside the dog’s body. Nipping is a clear sign to back away. The dog that is snapping or nipping is feeling threatened.
Excessive panting (when there was no exercise) or drooling when there is no food indicates that dog is experiencing extreme fear or stress. Yawning means that dog is tired, but it can also mean that he is stressed. By yawning, dog is trying to get rid of some of the stress he’s feeling.
Depending on an ear type, you can read your dog’s feeling by looking at the base of dog's ears. When a dog moves his ears forward it means that he is interested in what’s happening. The dog’s ears will be pointing toward a subject of interest. Moving them back shows fear, or stress.
Dog’s tail is the easiest to read but keep in mind that tail wagging is not always a sign of happiness. A relaxed dog holds his tail in a neutral position. When a tail is tucked between the dog’s legs, the dog is stressed, fearful or anxious. If a dog is excited he will wag his tail more rapidly. Aroused or aggressive dog will raise his tail above spine level. This way a dog shows dominance and confidence. It is believed that this way dogs make themselves look bigger and more dangerous. If a dog is feeling scared or submissive, he will probably make himself look smaller. Often a fearful dog will lie down, exposing his stomach and throat to another (dominant) dog. This way they want to avoid confrontation and are hoping that the dominant dog will leave them alone.
You can read your dog’s emotions with the help of their hair. An aggressive or very aroused dog will have hackles along his back. This is called piloerection. Hackles can also be seen when the dog is upset. When the dog is stressed or frightened, he may also shed more than usual.
If a dog moves away when you pet his head, try petting him differently. Putting your hand on a dog’s head from above is a signal of dominance. You should try petting him on the chin or on the side of his cheek.