Dog Fear, Anxiety & Agression Body Language Signs
The Ultimate Guide to Dog Body Language
What Is Your Dog Trying To Tell You?
How to React to Dog's Body Language?
How to Interpret Your Dog's Body Language
Dog's Body Language Guide with Pictures
Understand Dog Facial Expressions
Understanding Dog Body & Gestures Language
How to Read Dog Body Language?
Dog Communication & Body Language
Dog Body Language Chart & Information
Dog Body Language Diagrams & Translation
Dogs Body Language Infogram & Infographics
Dog Body Language Meanings
Dog Body Language Ears
How to Speak Dog Language?
Dog vs Cat Body Language
Dog Body Signs
Learn, Read and Understand your Dog's Body Language
Communicate with Your Dog
What Dog Tells You?
Why Dog is Looking in your Eyes?
Dog Body Language In-Depth Guide
Canine Body Language
Fear Signs in Dogs
The Meaning of Dog's Wagging Tail
Why Dog is Wagging a Tail?
Puppy Body Language
DOG BODY LANGUAGE
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DOGGIE DRAWINGS (By Lili Chin)
Behaviour Company JEZ ROSE
It's important to understand what dogs are saying with their bodies, not only to know your own dog but to better predict what other dogs are doing. To really read dog body language takes experience.
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DOG BODY LANGUAGE VIDEO GUIDE:
INTERPRETATION & UNDERSTANDING
DOG BODY LANGUAGE VIDEO GUIDE:
INTERPRETATION & UNDERSTANDING
What is your dog trying to tell you? Dogs have a language that allows them to communicate their emotional state and their intentions to others around them. Although dogs do use sounds and signals, much of the information that they send is through their body language, specifically their facial expressions and body postures.
Dogs Tell Us When They Don't Understand - When a dog does not understand something you are doing, there are many ways for them to show this misunderstanding. They may duck or cower, bark at you, even try to get between you and another person. These are all signs of a lack of communication and evidence that your dog is trying to figure out what is going on.
Understanding what your dog is saying can give you a lot of useful information, such as when your dog is spooked and nervous about what is going on, or when your dog is edgy and might be ready to snap at someone. You do have to look at the dog's face and his whole body. To help you, I have created a sort of visual version of a Berlitz phrase book to allow you to interpret the eight most important messages your dog is sending to you.
1. Relaxed Approachable
This dog is relaxed and reasonably content. Such a dog is unconcerned and unthreatened by any activities going on in his immediate environment and is usually approachable.
Checking Things Out
If the dog has detected something of interest, or something unknown, these signals communicate that he is now alert and paying attention while he is assessing the situation to determine if there is any threat or if any action should be taken.
3. Dominant Aggressive
This is a very dominant and confident animal. Here he is not only expressing his social dominance, but is also threatening that he will act aggressively if he is challenged.
4. Fearful and Aggressive
This dog is frightened but is not submissive and may attack if pressed. A dog will generally give these signals when he is directly facing the individual who is threatening him.
5. Stressed and Distressed
This dog is under either social or environmental stress. These signals, however, are a general "broadcast" of his state of mind and are not being specifically addressed to any other individual.
6. Fearful and Worried
This dog is somewhat fearful and is offering signs of submission. These signals are designed to pacify the individual who is of higher social status or whom the dog sees as potentially threatening, in order to avoid any further challenges and prevent conflict.
7. Extreme Fear Total Submission
This dog is indicating total surrender and submission. He is trying to say that he accepts his lower status by groveling before a higher ranking or threatening individual in the hopes of avoiding a physical confrontation.
Here we have the basic invitation to play. It may be accompanied by excited barking or playful attacks and retreats. This set of signals may be used as a sort of "punctuation mark" to indicate that any previous rough behaviour was not meant as a threat or challenge.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR DOG BOOK
by STANLEY COREN
PUPPY BODY LANGUAGE
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Even puppies use dog body language to "talk" to each other and their owners. Dogs are most highly attuned to puppy body language, and this silent communication is given the greatest weight. Your pup's dedicated observation can make him appear psychic - he always hides when a bath is imminent, when in fact, he is simply reacting to non-verbal cues you may be unaware you are broadcasting. That's why when you smile as you reprimand Junior for stealing your socks, the puppy reads amusement rather than reproach, and acts accordingly. Canine language serves to smooth relationships, offering a way for dogs to get along with each other and the people who make up their families. Silent canine communication makes use of the dog's body from nose to tail. The position and movement of his tail, his facial expression, even his posture is telling.
Eyes communicate volumes. Droopy eyelids indicate pleasure, and your pup may squint and moan with delight when his ears are rubbed. Alert pups keep their eyes open wide. An unblinking stare is a challenge and shows dominance while averting the eyes shows canine submission. The pupils of a dog's eyes indicate aggression and imminent attack when they suddenly dilate wide. Avoid locking eyes with a strange dog. That's a challenge and may prompt him to challenge you back with aggression.
The dog's mouth is also quite expressive. Your pup uses his lips, teeth and even his tongue to communicate. In general, when the lips lift vertically to show the long dagger-shaped canines, the dog is showing aggression or fear. Lips pull back horizontally to show more teeth in a canine grin of submission, which is often used as an appeasement gesture toward a dominant individual. But grabbing the other dog's muzzle or neck with his mouth with inhibited bite shows dominance. A flicking tongue signals intent to lick, which when aimed at the face or hands is also an appeasement gesture. The relaxed, happy pup may sit with his mouth half-open and tongue lolling out as he pants.
The ears are barometers of puppy mood. The shape of the dog's ears, whether erect and termed "prick ears" or floppy and pendulous also influence how easy ear language is to understand. For the sake of this discussion, the ear conformation of the German Shepherd Dog will be used. When erect and facing forward, the dog is interested and possibly aggressive. The ears flatten against the head by degrees depending on how fearful or submissive the dog feels.
Tail talk is perhaps the dog's most obvious signal to people. Again, the conformation of the dog's tail - from long to docked, corkscrew or curled will determine the extent of your dog's tail semaphore. In most cases, a wagging tail is a distance-reducing signal that declares the dog to be friendly. However, what the tail says depends, to a great degree, on what the rest of the body is doing. Is the dog's tail relaxed and moving back and forth? Is his body moving along with the wagging? If a dog is wagging his tail and the rest of his body seems relaxed or is moving along with the wagging, you are probably dealing with a happy, comfortable dog. Happy, relaxed tail wagging is usually accompanied by a happy facial expression. A happy dog usually has bright eyes, a relaxed open mouth, and possibly a gentle pant. Is the dog's tail high and moving in back and forth motion while the dog's body remains fairly erect and rigid? If a dog is holding his body erect and rigid while wagging his tail, he may be telling you that he's feeling territorial or uncomfortable with something that is going on around him. The tail may be low and wagging slowly, usually because the dog is hesitant about something. Or, the dog's tail may be held high and moving back and forth narrowly but rapidly. This discomfort can be a precursor to aggression. This is one reason people sometimes report that a dog was wagging his tail right before he bit someone. So, if you encounter a dog you don't know who is wagging his tail, check out what the rest of his body language is telling you before you approach. It's better to be safe than to get bitten by a dog. Does it matter which direction a dog's tail wags? One study shows it might matter when it comes to dog-to-dog communication. Researchers found that dogs had different emotional responses depending on whether another dog's tail was wagging to the left or right. Dogs observing another dog wag to the right seemed to become relaxed. Dogs watching another dog with a left tail wag exhibited signs of nervousness, stress, or anxiety. This study shines some light on the way dogs interact with one another.
DOG FEAR, AGRESSION & ANXIETY
BODY LANGUAGE SIGNS
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So... what are the Dog Body Language signs for us to interpret as before-a-bite? Dogs can become aggressive for any number of reasons - fear, dominance, guarding possessions. No matter the reason for the dog aggression, the body language of a dog can let you know if he is about to bite. Knowing what to look for can help you prevent dog bites.
1. Growling and Snapping
Growling and snapping are probably the most obvious signs that a dog is about to bite. Dogs growl or snap to let you know they are unhappy or uncomfortable. If a dog growls or snaps at you when you approach him, it's time to give him some space. Growling and snapping can be helpful, too. Pay attention to the times your dog growls or snaps. Does it happen when you approach him when he's eating, when strangers approach, or when you touch him while he's asleep? Knowing what elicits the growling and snapping allows you to manage the problem and work on changing the behavior.
2. Wagging Tail
This is one of the signs that many people find surprising. Dog trainers often hear dog owners comment that their dog was wagging his tail right up until the moment he bit someone. But pay attention to the way your dog wags his tail. A happy dog may wag his tail and get his whole body involved. A dog who is about to bite is usually fairly rigid, and his tail will be pointed high and moving more quickly back and forth. This may be a sign of an impending dog bite.
3. Raised Fur
When dogs are afraid or overly stimulated, you may see the hair on their backs stand up. In some dogs, just the hair on the back of the neck between the shoulders stands up. Other dogs have it at the neck and also near their tails. Still other dogs may have a ridge of hair that stands up down the entire length of their backs. If you notice a dog has his hackles raised, it's a signal that he needs you to back off.
4. Rigid Body Posture
Often when a dog is about to become aggressive, his body language is a dead giveaway - no pun intended. A comfortable, happy dog usually has a relaxed body with his ears low and a happy, wagging tail. An aggressive dog is just the opposite. His entire body may go stiff, and his ears and tail are raised high. If you reach out to pet a dog, and his entire body freezes rather than wiggling to get closer, he is not happy with being touched. It's time to move away to make him more comfortable.
5. Lip Licking, Yawning and Averting Gaze
If you notice a dog is licking his lips - when food is not involved, yawning repeatedly, or turning his head to avoid meeting your gaze, he is trying to tell you something. Dogs engage in these behaviors to let you know they are uncomfortable with something going on around them. For instance, a dog who has never been around children may lick his lips or yawn when a child comes over to pet him. It does not necessarily mean that he is about to bite, but it is a warning that he is not comfortable. A dog who is uncomfortable, afraid, or stressed is more likely to bite. Your best bet when a dog uses one of these appeasement gestures is to try to alleviate his discomfort.
6. Cowering and Tail Tucking
Cowering and tail tucking are more overt signs than lip licking or yawning that you are dealing with a fearful dog. While fearful dogs don't always bite, fear does increase the likelihood. If you encounter a dog who cowers away from you with his tail tucked between his legs, back off. Let him approach you in his own time, and he'll be less likely to feel the need to bite to defend himself.
7. Seeing the Whites of the Eyes
Many dog trainers refer to this as whale eye. You'll see the whites of a dog's eye when he moves his head slightly but doesn't move his eyes. A half moon of white will show around the dog's eyes. Whale eye is a sign of anxiety in dogs. It's an expression many animal shelter workers are familiar with. Again, this doesn't necessarily mean that a dog is about to bite. It means that a dog is feeling anxious, and anxious dogs are more likely to bite. If you see a dog showing the whites of his eyes, it's a good idea to give him some space until he feels more relaxed.
HOW KID SHOULD
INTERACT WITH DOG
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WITH YOUR DOG
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1. Observe your dog.
Learning your dog's habits, mannerisms, and movements through observation will allow the process of understanding its communication behavior to feel more natural. There will be plenty of things it does that will make sense to you without explanation. Just as every person is unique, so is your dog. Be aware that much of a dog's language or communication techniques are subtle.
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By learning canine communication, you will be able to respond to any problems your dog expresses before a situation escalates. Not noticing small signs of stress or unhappiness can soon lean to more aggressive or distressed behaviors.
Remember that this is a two-way learning process. Dogs have to learn our behavioral cues as well, and you should be careful about your own gestures and posture. Dogs also do not understand English. It is important that you teach your dog what you mean by "no" or "sit". Just saying "sit" over and over again won't make him learn it, and will make him think it's just part of the random nonsense you say during the day. Luring your dog into a sit position and then rewarding them heavily for doing that task will make him eager to sit, and then saying the word as he sits will make him connect the dots that the word "sit" means "putt your butt on the floor".
Note that a dog's ability to signal may be hampered by the breed in question. For example, if your dog has squat ears or a docked tail, some of the signals may not apply to him/her.
2. Know your dog's response to eye contact.
Consider how you feel when someone stares at you directly rather than using normal eye contact. Just as you find it confronting, dogs also feel confused and threatened by direct head-on staring because it is a threat stance for them. A dog that looks away in this situation is actually being polite and is seeking to avoid confrontation. Alternately, training your dog to make eye contact to communicate is extremely helpful for keeping his focus on you.
The most effective form of dog training is called "Positive reinforcement" or "clicker training". It is the most consistently proven type of training shown by scientists, veterinarians and animal behaviorists. Punishment is frowned upon because it is proven that dogs have very short memories, and likely do not connect situations like them pooping on the floor to your dissatisfaction. In fact, dogs do not feel guilt. Their owners simply stop being as mad when they "look guilty" and it becomes rewarding for both the owner and dog for the dog to offer signs of "guilt". The dog learns you dislike it when poop is on the floor and when you come home, they "act guilty" in order to appease you. They do not in fact relate their action of pooping to you being mad.
Clicker training is the idea is to lure your dog into a position and indicate instantly they have done the right thing, and reward them for that behavior. Dog behavior is driven by the most rewarding or least punishing option they have in every situation. If the most rewarding option is to chew on your shoes, they will do so. If you reward them for not chewing on your shoes, they will choose to do that even when you are not around. In contrast, punishment or dominance suggests showing the dog who is boss, which simply results in the behavior being done when you are not around. Dogs are highly reward based and the dominance theory has been disproven. Dogs act in ways that are most rewarding, not based on trying to "dominate" you or another dog. Be the most rewarding thing in your dogs life and he will be eager to do whatever you say.
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Rolling over and exposing the belly is a gesture to appease you, and giving a belly rub serves as excellent reinforcement for this behavior. An exposed belly can also indicate passive resistance to a perceived threat.
Mounting or humping can be a sign of stress in a dog, especially where a low confidence dog is trying to establish allegiance with a higher confidence animal. Dogs use a variety of gestures and postures to express discomfort, including excessive/misplaced sneezing or yawning, licking of the lips, avoiding eye contact, cowering, whale eye, seeing the whites or their eye and a stiff body.
When a dog is showing discomfort, the best thing to do is to stop what you are doing and not do it in the future. If you need your dog to be comfortable with something, make it very rewarding by giving them tons of treats and introducing them to the uncomfortable thing slowly. Soon your pooch will be offering to do those things for a treat! A dog can show many emotions with his tail. A wagging tail and wiggly butt mean pure joy. A slowly wagging tail means a cautious nature. A stiff tail held high is a sign of alertness, a low tail is a sign of content. A tucked tail means they are scared.
Learn to interpret your dog's posture.
The ways in which a dog holds its body can tell you a great deal about its mood and emotions. Many of the signals will be subtle and it can take some time to learn all of its expressions but it is well worth the effort.
Identify playful and affectionate behavior. Dogs communicate easy confidence and a desire to play through posture and body signals.
Confident stance: A dog that is feeling confident will stand tall, have its tail up and probably wagging slowly, its ears will either be pricked up or relaxed, and it will generally look relaxed. Its eyes will have smaller pupils as they are also relaxed.
Bowing: Facing you and with head and chest dipped low to the ground, front legs splayed out, and with rear end and tail up is a clear invitation to play. This is known as the "play bow". It can be mistaken by owners as an attack stance but it clearly denotes playtime.
Hip swings: Hip swings or nudges are another sign of play.This involves the dog swinging around another dog and knocking them to the ground using the backside - the end of the dog without teeth! When the dog's rear is presented to you, it is an indication of trust and depending on your dog, it might mean your dog wants a scratch. Wiggling its rear end is a sign of excitement and friendliness.
If a dog is stretching with his butt in the air, front legs and paws stretched out in front, and head close to the ground, he is probably feeling playful. If your dog raises his/her paw to touch your knee or another part of your body, the dog wants to get attention, make a request or ask for something, or indicate a wish to play. The gesture begins as a puppy with kneading associated with obtaining mother's milk but becomes similar to that of offering a hand for a handshake - it's about connecting and friendship.
Repeatedly pawing at the air is often used by puppies as an invitation to play.
If a dog's tail is in a neutral - level with body or slightly lower, he is most likely feeling secure and friendly.
If your dog's tail is fiercely wagging and his/her tail up, he/she is feeling mischievous and inclined to bother and annoy you or a fellow canine! It could also signal swatting away another animal.
If your dog is slowly or slightly wagging his/her tail and watching you, he/she is relaxed but alert and is anticipating, ready to play.
Interpret discomfort or unease.
Knowing when your dog is uncomfortable or feeling insecure can help you meet the animal's needs and provide comfort and reassurance when necessary.
A dog who is frightened or insecure may cower or crouch down. A slight crouch can denote submissiveness or nervousness. A similar stance can be an arched back, slightly bent legs, and the tail down (but not tucked under), and looking at what is concerning it.
Pacing can be a sign of nervousness, but it can also be a sign of excitement or boredom. If your dog gets plenty of exercise and entertainment, watch for other signs of nervousness that may accompany the pacing.
A slow tail wag with the tail slightly lowered can indicate that the dog is confused and is asking for an explanation, or is investigating a non-threatening new object.
Recognize warning signs of aggression.
Aggression may lead to unwanted dog fighting or attacks. Recognizing early warning signs of aggression can help your deescalate a situation before it gets worse.
A dog whose tail is lowered or tucked between its legs is showing anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Wagging can still occur in this situation, which can lead to the misunderstanding that the dog is happy. This position can also indicate a need for reassurance or protection.
A dog that suddenly freezes in the middle of an action is feeling unsure of itself and would rather be left alone, or is preparing for an attack. This is commonplace when a dog is holding a bone - don't get between the dog and its bone!
If your dog leans forward and appears very rigid, he most likely feels aggressive or threatened. This occurs in response to what the dog perceives as a threat or a challenge. The tail will usually be tucked down or under, or wagging in a quick and frantic manner.
When a dog is considering an attack or feels threatened, the whites of his/her eyes will likely show as the dog looks at the perceived threat.
A dog that was showing signs of aggression but who then shakes the head and shoulders may be signaling the end of a certain level of tension, such as being alert to a threat or an anticipated event that doesn't occur.
Watch your dog's face.
Dogs often show how they are feeling with facial expressions. Understanding facial expressions can help you interpret your dog's feelings and communicate with your canine companion.
Smiling: believe it or not, dogs can smile. While it can be difficult to differentiate a smile from a snarl, checking other body language for signs of play or aggression can help you determine whether your dog is happy or feeling aggressive. If everything else adds up to a happy dog, then your dog is smiling, and this means it's happy and relaxed.
Yawning: the meaning of a dog's yawning is dependent on the context, just as it is with humans (humans yawn because we're tired, need more oxygen, we're feeling stressed or embarrassed, or we notice someone else yawning). For dogs, yawning appears to be contagious just as it is with humans. Indeed, if you yawn in front of your dog, it may interpret it either as you being stressed in which case, it will likely turn away from you to give you some space, or it will respond in kind and yawn too. Dogs also yawn as a way to ease tension, to show confusion or when they feel slightly threatened especially when meeting new situations or new dogs or animals.
Mouth position: a dog that has its mouth stretched back, closed or just slightly open, is showing that it is very stressed, in fear, or in pain. This may be accompanied by rapid panting. If its mouth is stretched back and open, it is a neutral or submissive sign. A dog that is alert and content will have its mouth closed or slightly open, with the teeth covered.
Lip licking: if your dog licks its lips in combination with a yawn, this can be a clear indication that it is feeling stressed, under pressure, or facing a threat. It's a commonplace gesture shown by puppies around adults, but the behavior should not continue into adulthood. In mature dogs, licking can also be part of the dog's sexual behavior as it finds chemical signals on grass, carpet, and the genitals of other dogs. A dog that is licking another dog's lips is showing deferring behavior.
Bared teeth: a dog whose lips are curled out and his teeth bared is signaling aggression and an intention to use the teeth for biting. This doesn't mean that every flash of teeth means aggression though, and you must take care to note the other elements. If the teeth are bared and there is no wrinkling of the muzzle, this is a warning and a sign of dominance and territorial defensiveness. If the lips are curled, the teeth are bared, the muzzle is wrinkled, and the dog is snarling, this indicates that the dog is angry and ready to fight, and there is every chance that it will bite.
DOG BODY LANGUAGE SIGNS
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These signs indicate that your dog is uncomfortable with the current situation and there is a need for intervention to prevent pushing the dog to the point of biting, and to make sure your canine friend is happy and not feeling anxious.
One Paw Raised
This is very cute but the dog is not happy and does not want to be petted or bothered. She is worried.
Half Moon Eye
The dog just wants to be left alone. Watch for this one when kids are mauling the dog. This is a common expression in dogs that being hugged. If you see the half moon eye when the kids approach the dog or are interacting with the dog, it's time to intervene and give them all something else to do.
Sometimes dogs are more overt when they feel anxious and want to remove themselves from a situation. Please don't force a dog to stay in situation in which he feels anxious, especially if children are the source of his anxiety. Here are some examples:
the dog gets up and leaves an uncomfortable situation, he may bite rather than leaving one of these days
turning head away
hiding behind person or object
barking and retreating
the dog rolls over on back in submissive way, please don't hurt me!
Other Body Language Signs of Anxiety
tail between legs
tail low and only the end is wagging
tail between legs and wagging
tail down or straight for curly-tailed dog (husky, malamute, pug, chow chow, spitz-type dogs etc.
ears sideways for erect eared dog
ears back and very rapid panting
dog goes into another room away from you and urinates or defecates Please find a professional behavior consultant for help with this.
Signs of Arousal
These signs indicate that your dog is interested in something, or trying to decide on a course of action and is not receptive to attention, such as petting from a child and include:
body rolled forward
tail high may or may not be wagging
slow deliberate tail wag
Signs of a Happy Dog
Signs that indicate that the dog is receptive to attention or wants to play:
panting, relaxed, happy expression
body position relaxed
lying with one paw tucked under
enthusiastic tail wag
tail thumping on floor play bow - front end down, rear end up, tail wagging.
Signs of Imminent Bite
If these signs occur, cease all interaction with dog, look away and give dog the opportunity to leave, do not approach, do not make eye contact, do not talk to the dog. If you are touching the dog, stop and move your hands slowly away. If you are taking something from the dog, let go of it. It is better for him to keep it than for you or a child to get bitten. If you are bending over the dog, slowly straighten up and look away.
dog freezes - becomes suddenly stiff
dog stands with front legs splayed, head low, looking at you
dog curls lip to show teeth
Signs of Aggression
If your dog shows signs of aggression then you should get help from a behavior consultant right away. Signs directed toward you or another person that indicate the need for professional help include the following:
guarding dog's own possessions or resting area, favorite human's possessions against family members or guests - this is a very dangerous situation - children are in immediate danger since they could inadvertently come between dog and a guarded area or object dog may be continually expanding his guarded area or repertoire of guarded objects unbeknownst to you
snap and miss - the miss was intentional and the dog may not miss the next time
aggressive barking which is not stopped by your request for quiet
lunging on or off the leash, with barking or growling
bite other than playful puppy nipping by a puppy, or accident during rough play
dog raises tail when you or child approach may not apply to breeds with naturally raised or curled tails - e.g. pug, husky, spitz-type breeds etc. dog urinates intentionally in the house or on your possessions in your presence or in the presence of children or guests and shows other signs of pushy or aggressive behavior
When dogs are stressed and nervous they exhibit many different kinds of behavior that either help relieve the stress they are feeling or appease a perceived threat. While dogs like humans, yawn when they are tired, they are also much more likely to yawn when they are nervous. Lip licking does not always mean a dog is hungry or has just eaten either, but is a very clear stress signal that is performed when a dog is nervous or experiencing fear.
Yawning can be a sign that a dog is tired, but it also signals stress
Lip licking or tongue flicking. Dogs lick their lips when nervous
Brief body freezing - the dog is still for a few seconds before reacting
Body freezing - the dog freezes until the threat goes away or he decides to use fight or flight
'Whale Eye' - the dog turns his head away but keeps looking at the perceived threat, showing the whites of his eyes
Head turn - the dog will turn his head away from a fear source as a gesture of appeasement
Furrowed brow, curved eyebrows - caused by facial tension
Tense jaw - the mouth is closed, and the dog is preparing for action
Hugging - a dog will gain comfort by holding onto his owner
Low tail carriage - indicates discomfort and uncertainty
Curved tongue - the tongue is curved at the edges from tension
Raspy, dry-sounding panting - nervousness reduces saliva production
Twitching whiskers - caused by facial tension
Shaking - caused by adrenaline release
Drooling - stress can also cause excessive salivation
Lack of focus - an anxious dog finds learning difficult
Sweaty paws - dogs sweat through their foot pads
Piloerection - the hair on a dog's neck and spine stands on end like human goose bumps, making the dog appear bigger while releasing odor from the glands contained in the dog's hair follicles
Deference language is designed to appease a perceived threat, avoid injury and is crucial for survival. If the dog engages in non-threatening behavior this helps deescalate the negative intentions of another animal or human. Most appeasement behavior is extremely submissive with the dog lowering the body, making it appear smaller and less threatening. Socially appropriate dogs will respond positively to this deference while others often take advantage of what they perceive as weakness.
Head bobbing or lowering
Low tail carriage
Tail tucked between the legs
Curved and lowered body
Stomach flip – the dog flips over quickly, exposing his stomach; he is not asking for a belly rub, but signaling that he is withdrawing from interaction
Dogs are naturally curious animals and the more confident they are, the more they can deal with novelty and change. All dogs will size up any situation to ensure safety using the following language:
Head cocked to one side or the other
Front paw lifted - anticipating what will happen and what the dog should do next
Mouth closed - sizing up the situation in preparation for action
Displacement language helps the dog to self-calm and refocus attention away from them and onto something else. If a perceived or actual threat approaches and the dog is nervous or uncomfortable she will often indulge in behaviors that take the threat's focus away from what could be a negative intention. The threat's attention is diverted onto the behavior the dog is doing, like sniffing the ground or scratching and not actually the dog herself. These behaviors are often performed when the dog needs an outlet for their pent up energy or frustration, but can become compulsive if the outlets are not given. Displacement behaviors can result in compulsive behaviors including excessive spinning or licking.
Shake off - dog will release stress and tension by shaking their bodies as if trying to get water off their backs.
Defensive and Offensive Language
When a dog has to defend herself from an actual or perceived threat she will demonstrate defensive or offensive language in order to keep herself safe. This language manifests itself in behaviors that encourage a threat to keep their distance. If the threat does not back away and the dog has nowhere to go, defensive behavior will turn offensive and the dog will bite. These behaviors are usually easy to recognize and understand.
Body leaning forward
Lips pushed forward and vibrating as the dog growls
Air snapping - the dog snaps in the air to warn something to back away
Snapping with skin contact - also a warning to back away
Fast nip - an immediate bite and release with bruising or slight wound, telling a threat to back off
Deeper bite - a dog that bites with more intensity is intending to harm
Bite and hold - intent to harm
Bite, hold, and shake - intent to harm and potentially to kill. Some dogs will bite, hold, shake, and disembowel stuffed toys, simulating the killing of prey; while this is prevalent among dogs with high prey drive, even dogs with low drive can indulge in behavior of this type. If your dog likes to disembowel stuffed toys, this doesn't mean he wants to do the same with people or other animals. Sadie loves to disembowel toys, but she is incredibly gentle with people, especially children. Wagging tail - again, a wagging tail does not always mean a happy dog
Hard, staring eyes.
There is nothing better than being with a happy dog. The body is fluid and relaxed, the mouth is slightly open with tongue hanging to the side and all the signals a dog gives off communicate joy, confidence and a desire to invite play and attention.
Mouth slightly open, tongue relaxed and lolling to one side.
Small body freezes during play.
Play bow - this signal invites play and tells others that whatever action comes next is still just play.
Turning over, inviting belly rub - showing trust and enjoying social contact.
Relaxed facial expression.
Squinty or blinking eyes.
Tail wagging fast, either side to side or in a round motion like a helicopter.
What does a wagging tail mean?
Tail wagging is a frequently misinterpreted signal. Most people believe that a wagging tail only means a dog is happy, which of course is often true, but some dogs also wag their tails when aroused, overstimulated and frustrated. You can usually tell the difference by looking at what the rest of the body is doing:
A confident or aroused dog will hold his tail in the air, allowing scent from the anal glands to circulate more freely and advertise his presence.
A dog that is wagging his tail but barking with a defensive body posture, tense face, and hard staring eyes is overly aroused and frustrated, which means that he should not be approached.
A tail that is held low or between the legs signals a lack of confidence, nervousness, or fear
A tail that is held high but wagged more slowly means that the dog is assessing a situation.
A tail that is extended and curved means that the dog is tense and ready to take offensive or defensive action.
A tail that wags around and around like a helicopter and is accompanied by relaxed fluid body movement and a wiggling bottom signals friendliness and a willingness to engage.
Research has shown that when a dog sees someone they like, his tail wags more to the right. When he sees an unfamiliar person, his tail wags more to the left. Subtle body language like this is easy to miss.
EXPRESSING HUMAN COMMUNICATION
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Avoid unintentional signals.
Dogs understand your language to some extent, but it's very important to understand how you appear to your dog and how some of your gestures may be causing your dog distress, fear, or worry, even though you're completely unaware of this. Always be aware that your dog is watching you, learning, and seeking to predict your routine, habits, and preferences.
Withdrawal of your gaze and your arms at the same time informs your dog that you have decided not to touch his/her anymore and he/she may respond negatively. Yawning can indicate to your dog that you're distressed and cause his/her to move away from you. It can be a good idea to cover your yawn around your dog if he/she seems to respond negatively to the action.
Prevent your dog's discomfort.
Some actions that we see as normal or loving do not translate well from "human language" to "dog language." Avoiding activities that make dogs uncomfortable can help strengthen your relationship with your pet.
Staring at your dog can be viewed as a threat. Some trainers used to believe that a dog looking away from a stare was showing disobedience, but it is better understood now as being a sign of politeness or submission.
Punishing or reacting negatively to signs of fear in a dog will serve only to increase the dog's sense of fear and does nothing to instill better behavior from our perspective. Do not interpret signs of discomfort or fear as signs of guilt.
Many dogs do not like being patted directly on the head. However, this is something a dog usually needs to learn to tolerate. You should never pat a strange dog on the head until you are more familiar with it, but if you live in an urban environment where people are likely to want to pet your dog, early training (with treats) to help your dog tolerate head patting is essential.
Hugging and cuddling is often another action that dogs do not like. Nature has programmed the dog to believe that being held in close proximity means one of two things: one, that it is trapped as prey, or two, that it is being mounted. Since neither of these actions brings on happy responses, a dog that is not used to frequent cuddling and hugging may respond by fleeing, wriggling, and snapping. If this is the case with your dog, be patient and take a gradual approach to getting it used to a loving embrace. Ensure that children who hug dogs always keep their faces away from the dog, and monitor the dog's reaction so that you can intervene quickly if needed. Dogs are social animals and need contact, so you should avoid making them feel overly isolated. The first nights of having a puppy in the home are essential. Try to stay near the puppy such as having its crate in your room, then gradually move his/her to where he/she will sleep permanently. This will reassure the dog that all is well. Do not share your bed with a dog unless you want this to become a permanent arrangement. Doing this creates a permanent expectation in your puppy's mind.
Clarify intentional commands.
Being clear, consistent, and concise with your commands and direct communication with your dog can help your dog understand what you want him to do. Most dogs want to please their owners, so they will try to adapt their behavior to your expectations.
Always repeat commands using the same words and tone so that your dog knows his name and understands that he should be listening to you.
Alter your tone when communicating different emotions to your dog. Dogs have instincts that help them discern if we are happy with them or upset with them. If you smile and tell your dog good dog in a happy tone, he will know that he has done something right. Likewise, if you correct him in an angry tone, he will know that he has done something wrong. This is an important thing to take in consideration when training.
Remember that dogs forget things frequently. However, they will remember things that they have been trained about, where certain things and people are, who you are and who their friends are, getting praised, and surprising things (good or bad) that happen.
Shouting at your dog, gesticulating wildly, or shaking "weapons" like a broomstick at your dog will seem like crazy behavior and does nothing to change your dog's behavior. It can, however, upset an already insecure and fearful dog even more. Spare your energy and stay calm. Keep your communication tactics clear and reasoned. Keep this in mind while correcting a dog. If you come home to a destroyed sofa, yelling at the dog will not achieve anything, as the dog will not make the connection between the destroyed sofa and the correction.
Develop mutual communication.
Having a 2-way communication relationship with your dog will help both of you maintain a healthy relationship. Keeping the lines of communication open and showing your dog that you understand his/her will help you know when to step in if something is wrong.
Research how dogs communicate with each other. Modeling your own communication strategy on dog-to-dog communication can lead to more successful communication.
DOG vs CAT BODY LANGUAGE
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Can cats and dogs ever be friends? Some can, while others will fight like — well, like cats and dogs. Why the inconsistency? The problem may be that the two species don't always speak the same language. Cats and dogs communicate with us and with each other, through body language. When using body language to interpret what our pets are saying, it is important to consider both the context and the pet's individual personality. While certain physical cues commonly appear in both cats and dogs, those cues don't always mean the same things, and it's important to know the differences in order to better understand your cat or dog.
BODY LANGUAGE & SIGNS
Here are a few examples of behaviors that may communicate dramatically different things for each species:
Tail Held High:
When a cat holds her tail high, it can signal that she is friendly and relaxed. The higher the cat's tail, the more confident she may be. However, if her tail is raised high with the fur erect and puffed out, it usually indicates alarm or potential aggression. As she becomes more unsure or fearful, her tail is more likely to slink lower.
When a dog holds his tail high, on the other hand, it often signals high arousal and the possibility of aggressive behavior. A dog that is agitated and about to aggress may also flick his tail back and forth vigorously. A dog is more likely to carry his tail in a neutral position, extended out behind him, when he is relaxed.
Friendly dogs wag their tail loosely back and forth at medium height. When a cat's tail begins to wag back and forth, an unfriendly encounter or predatory attack is likely to occur.
Relaxed Cats have closed mouths, Relaxed Dogs may have a closed or partially open mouth. The more tense a dog is, the more tightly closed his mouth becomes, although a very stressed dog may pant heavily or yawn.
Ears Up for Greeting:
A cat who is confident greeting people will normally hold her ears forward and alert. If her ears move backward or twitch, it may indicate uncertainty or that the encounter is not going well. By contrast, one sign of a friendly dog is that his ears move back just slightly. A submissive dog will move his ears back even further as an appeasement gesture. Dogs with erectly pricked ears may be ready to stand their ground against another animal if necessary. but this behavior is specific to the individual dog.
Turning to The Side:
Both dogs and cats turn their bodies to the side when attempting to shut off a potential threat. A dog may do this in order to show that he means no harm, while a cat may be trying to appear larger and more threatening to her opponent.
Lying Belly Ip:
A dog is likely to lie on his back as a submissive greeting behavior or as a way to get his belly rubbed by someone he's close to. A cat, on the other hand, will lie on her back in self-defense; this position allows her to have all four paws, with claws drawn, ready to react to any threat. A cat will sometimes lie on her back for people she's close to, but very few cats actually enjoy having their belly rubbed and may respond aggressively.
BODY LANGUAGE & SIGNS
Sometimes Your Cat and Dog Are Speaking the Same Language. Your cat and dog may not always be on the same page, but they do share some behaviors. Here are a few that they have in common.
Cats and dogs both communicate through their ears. When they are relaxed, their ears usually point forward. When they are really excited or interested in something, their ears are likely to move all the way forward and upright. When the ears move backward and are flattened against the head, there’s often underlying fear or submission.
When cats and dogs are feeling frightened or overstimulated, the hair on their back and tails fluffs out and stands on end. In both dogs and cats, hair standing on end indicates an animal ready to react.
Pupil Dilation and Blinking:
A cat's pupils dilate when she is afraid or is getting ready to attack. Similarly, a dog's pupils will dilate when he is fearful or aggressive. Dilated pupils can also indicate high arousal in both species. Eye blinks in dogs and cats indicate the desire for a peaceful greeting, while direct eye contact, without blinking or looking away, can signal a challenge in both dogs and cats.
When a dog or cat is afraid of something, he will make his body appear as small as possible, usually with the head held low. Similarly, both dogs and cats curl their tails underneath their bodies to indicate extreme fear.
Dogs and cats both have a normal height and structure to their whiskers. When they are stimulated by something and are about to react, their whiskers are more likely to stiffen and extend outward.
Panting can indicate various things in dogs, but in both species it can mean that the animal is highly stressed or frightened. Panting in a cat that is not interacting with another animal or in a fearful situation may indicate a serious health condition, and a veterinarian should be contacted immediately.
While yawning in dogs can indicate stress, both dogs and cats may yawn as a calming behavior in conflict situations.
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