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Dog Body Language
by Lex Fredricks
Understanding basic canine behavior is our passport into mutually terrific relationships with our dogs. Knowing how to identify basic canine body language, is step one in removing the hindrance of misunderstanding. Different breeds have different body language. For example, Akitas hold their tails high and always look confident, Greyhounds tuck their tail between their legs and always look fearful and Boxers have no tails!
The same goes for ears and how they can differ in each breed. This why it’s important to learn to identify all indicators of canine emotion and try to get a general idea of overall body language and not be thwarted by your Malamute’s high tail or you’re the fact that you can’t see your Sheepdog’s eyes or ears!RELAXED:
A relaxed dog has his mouth slightly open and his tongue lolling. His ears are not pushed forward or flattened back, they are in a neutral position The tail is also held at a neutral position and his body is relaxed and not bristling, stiff or recoiling in any way. This is your dog’s standard position and you know it better then me!
An alert dog Holds his ears are forward and they may twitch a little. The mouth is pursed and the rest of the face are smooth. The tail is held horizontally but is not stiff or bristling and may wag slowly from side to side. The eyes are wide and focused on the interesting thing.
A confidently aggressive dog Is stiff and his whole body is shifted forwards. The tail is stiff, bristled and held high and may quiver or vibrate slightly. His hackles are raised, ears are pushed forward and his eyes are dilated and staring. Forehead and nose are wrinkled and lips are curled to form a tall snarl. The mouth is C-shaped and the corners of the mouth are forward displaying his teeth.
A fearfully aggressive dog lowers his body, raises his hackles and tucks in his tail, holding it stiff and still. His ears are flattened and the eyes are dilated. The nose is wrinkled and the teeth may be bared, But the corners of the mouth are pulled back into a grimace.
FEARFUL AND/OR SUBMISSIVE:
A fearful and/or submissive dog has his body lowered and may have a paw raised. His tail is down and may wag slightly, his ears are back and forehead is smooth. Eye contact is short and indirect and dog may lick at air or the perceived threat. If fear or submission escalate, the dog may roll into his back and expose his throat and belly. Submission can occur without fear and a submissive dog is not always fearful.
A playful dog has his bum up in the air and front paws on the ground! This is called a play bow and is unmistakable. The tail is up and wagging broadly, the ears are up and the mouth is relaxed and possibly opened wide and smiling. Many dogs bark or growl in this position and all vocalizations made whilst in a play bow are friendly and an invitation to play.
In the case of different breeds having different attributes, We can piece together the dogs message by learning their visual signals Independently and piecing them together.
BASIC ELEMENTS OF DOG BODY LANGUAGE:
Full body language:
Calming signals are a dog’s way of saying “I’m sensing some disarray here, but I don’t want any trouble. Let’s just be peaceful.” Calming signals include yawning, turning away, blinking, sniffing the ground, grooming, sitting, urinating, licking, sniffing air, lifting a paw, scratching, Play bow, stretching, sneezing or other casual behaviors. If your dog exhibits calming signals while you’re training her, she’s saying she’s had enough and wants you to relent.
Barking, growling, nipping, chasing, stalking, grabbing around the neck, jaw wrestling, body slamming, grabbing ears and tails, falling and rolling, somersaults, “keep away” are all normal play/mock-fighting behaviors for dogs. While play occurs, dogs temporarily become equals and even dominant dogs will sometimes lie belly up over and allow submissive dogs to shoulder them, nibble them, wrestle them and behave in a way that wouldn’t typically be tolerated in an alpha/beta relationship.
Sometimes the dominant dog will get fed up a disagreement may ensue. If playing stops and dogs becomes stiff and circle each other, freeze or “face off”, play may have stopped and there may be conflict until the breech of etiquette is resolved. Dog play is mock-fighting and hunting. Keep that in mind and do not assume dogs are fighting when they are only playing.
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Last Modified: 24 March 2020
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