When you bring a new dog into your home, there is always a learning curve in training your dog and trying to understand them. As with any pet, there is an inherent body language that dogs embody that will tell you what they are thinking or how to handle them. Of course, there are no stead-fast rules; however, below are some basic guidelines to help you understand what they are ‘saying’.
Watch your Dog’s Tail
Many of us have been taught that a wagging tail means that a dog is happy, but this is not always true. A relaxed wag in a level position tells you that a dog is in a calm and happy state of mind. A tucked wagging tail indicates that the dog is trying to please you but is overly submissive or scared. However, when your dog’s tail is straight above the dogs back and twitching back and forth, this is the tail position of a dog that is guarding a person or place.
Do you understand me???
You can also take note of your dog’s face or head
Another place to watch a dog when trying to evaluate his posture is his head. The mouth of a dog can tell you a lot. When the mouth is open and the lips are loose and not pushed forward, the dog is in a relaxed state. When the mouth shuts and becomes tight the dog is becoming more tense and focused (of course not every time the mouth shuts means anything).
The eyes can also be a good source of information. When a dog is very alert and intent, it is natural for him to use a direct stare at the person or animal in question. It is also common for a dog to widen his eyes and turn slightly away from the person or animal and look out the side of his eyes when he is nervous or aroused (this can also happen when your dog is playing).
The torso of your dog tells us a thing or two
The strip of fur down the center of a dogs back will rise when the dog is feeling aroused (this can indicate fear, aggression, or excitement). You can also watch your dog’s movement. Loose means his hips and head are moving back and forth, his shoulders are relaxed, and his neck isn’t stiff. Dogs with loose body language are telling you that they are in a good state of mind (not scared or aggressive). Conversely, if your dog is still, he or she is usually ‘on alert’. Tight body language is typically one of the best indicators of a dog’s state of mind. It is easier for someone to misread a tail or mouth than an entire body.
Look at your dog as a whole taking into account all of the above
One action or reaction of your dog is not necessarily a bad thing; you need to take into account the entire body. If a dog’s tail is straight up and twitching, his fur is raise, mouth is shut and the body is tight, you have something to worry about. Yet, if his tail is up, but the mouth and body are relaxed then there probably isn’t an issue. Further, keep in mind that different body language is acceptable in different situations. If your dog is staring at his favorite toy in the yard and his body language is tight and dominant before he chases it, there isn’t a problem.
The more time you spend with your dog, the more you will understand his or her body language. Each dog is different, but the above can help you determine the basics of what your dog is ‘saying’.
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