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Dog Body Language

How to understand what your dog is telling you

dog body language

Do You Know What Your Dog Is Telling You?

Click here to find out how to interpret dog body language

Understanding your dog's moods and whether he will be receptive to obedience training can definitely be helped with a basic knowledge of how to interpret dog body language. 

As dogs are unable to communicate with us verbally, they are forced to show us what is on their minds through dog body language and by barking. For example, tension around your dog's muzzle or forehead could be an indication of whether he is tense or relaxed.

If you are looking for more detailed information on how to understand dog body language, I recommend that you take a look at Secrets to Dog Training. It has a great guide to body language and signals, plus it also covers facial expressions and vocals.

The stance, position of the ears, pupil dilation, and how the tail is carried are all ways for dogs to communicate their feelings and thoughts. Body cues such as these will let you know whether a dog is feeling happy, afraid or dominant.

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You will observe a number of things when a dog is relaxed.  The first thing you'll notice is the even distribution of his weight across all four legs. Also, he will probably be panting a little and his mouth will be slightly open. This is sometimes referred to as a doggie smile. His head and ears will be raised and lively and his tail will be wagging and relaxed. If you observe all of these dog body language signs, you have a happy dog.

Completely different dog body language cues will be displayed when a dog is aroused or excited in a non-sexual way. If your dog sees something that pleases him, the hairs along the back of his neck will lie flat. In addition, his tail will be held in a low position and wagging loosely. The muzzle area will be relaxed and his tongue will probably be somewhat in view.

When dogs are excited or wish to show their high ranking in the “pack’s” pecking order, their tails will be slightly raised with the hairs somewhat standing on end. Their weight distribution will appear to be on the front legs. Their upper lip will be curled to show their lovely sharp teeth and their muzzle area will be tense. Their eyes will probably be wide open and focused on the object of their attention.

You should think twice about approaching a dog when his hackles are raised (this is called piloerection) in a dominant or aggressive way. This is an aggressive response and a possible indication that the dog may attack. It should be noted that piloerection is not always a sign of aggression - dogs may use it as a form of intimidation or even when they are aroused or excited.

Other aggressive dog body language cues are bared teeth, growling, and a taut, raised tail with the hair standing on end. He will also stare intently with erect ears. Dogs will act like this when they are protecting their food, toys, or even their owners.

Submissive dog body language is easier to interpret. However, are you aware that there are many different types of submissive behavior? First of all, there is active submission. Your dog's ears will be back and he will probably be wagging his tail in a low position. His mouth will be half closed and he will raise one paw.

This dog body language is displayed when he meets other dogs or when he recognizes that his owner is dominant. A dog that rolls over on his back and exposes his belly is displaying passive submission.

Aggressive yet defensive dog body language is shown with the tail down and raised hackles. The dog may growl and show his teeth, and the muzzle area will be tense. Dilated pupils and pinned back ears are another indicator of dog aggression. 

The dog will crouch with most of his weight being distributed over the hind legs. Be wary of a dog in this position as he is indicating that he does not wish to be approached and will probably bite as a defensive measure.

Training your dog will be easier if you recognize dog body language cues. These cues will help you to understand the best time for a particular type of dog training.  They will also show you when your dog is having a good time and is happy.

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