Dogs communicate quite differently from humans since they actually have no language that we know of the majority of the communication occurs through various body movements. These movements make up the bulk of how dogs relate to one another and also how they relate to their owners. Since dogs are pack animals, these movements are part of their overall social behavior.
Using the tail, eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and head a dog can express a variety of emotions. As well through a variety of barks and growls a dog can either express fear or anger. The other vocalizations that a dog can express are howls, whimpers, and whines. Through these vocalizations, a dog can express exactly how it is feeling to the pack or to its owners.
Taking the time to understand how your dog communicates will save you a lot of time in training your dog. Without the proper understanding of how your dog is feeling or how it is reacting to a particular situation you will not be able to give the right corrective action.
When a dog is using its tail it can be expressing a variety of feelings. The tail of any dog would certainly be dependent upon the breed. Some dogs have large bushy tails that can express a lot of emotions while some breeds have short and practically unnoticeable tails.
A tail between the legs response typically means that the dog is expressing fear and does not quite understand what is going on. However, the opposite of this would be when the dog has a tail that is upright and alert, this also could mean that the dog is in a jolly mood and is approachable.
Small tail wagging could mean that your dog is expressing uncertainty of what is going on. You can also see this when your dog is always looking around at the people around it, basically it is looking to see who is the pack leader and whom to obey. Usually you have nothing to fear with a small tail wagging it is other forms of wagging that should get your attention.
For instance if your dog is barking and wagging its tail quite a lot then this could be a form of aggression and is ready to attack. Vigorous dog wagging also means that it could be excited and happy. You can typically tell the difference when your dog’s fur is smooth or is bristling. If your dog’s fur is bristling, then it means that it is angry and is getting ready to attack.
A happy dog is pretty easy to spot. When your dog bounces around and makes happy yelping sounds and is licking people around it, then there is nothing to fear. The movements through can be remarkably similar to each other, so it is understandable that many people confuse them. Getting to know your dog’s moods will help you give the right guidance and help establish yourself as a trusted pack leader.
Dogs can also express a lot of emotion through their teeth. When a dog bears its teeth it is typically an aggressive gesture. Although a dog can bear its teeth without expressing anger, many times this is just a purely reflexive movement.
For instance if your dog is going for some food you are giving it then it will naturally bear its teeth in order to grab the food from your hand, this is not to be interpreted as an aggressive movement it is just natural.
On some occasions, a dog will express a submissive form of a grin. That essentially means it knows it did something wrong and bearing its teeth in a submissive manner. Most often this can be seen when your dog is cowering or laying low and is also whimpering or expressing some other forms of submissiveness.
Snarling and barking are undoubtedly forms of aggressiveness and will lead to biting and fighting if not controlled. You must establish dominance quickly when this occurs as your dog will lash out and attack anything around it in anger and fear.
Your dog’s ears express how attentive it is in the moment. Dogs use their ears to listen to the sounds surrounding it. Dogs that have floppy ears are harder to understand as they cannot use their ears as their wolves’ ancestors used them. Wolves have pointed ears that can be used to express exactly what they are feeling at any time.
For instance if a dog with pointed ears, like a wolf, point their ears forward it means that they are attentive to whatever they are watching. This could mean a variety of things if you also notice how the dog’s body movements are reacting at the same time. When combined with a growling stance and fully bared teeth you should expect an attack at any time.
A dog can “smile” in a manner of sorts by holding their ears horizontal but still facing forward. Now dogs don’t actually smile, but they can express feelings of being happy by the general demeanor. Once you start to truly understand your pet you will be able to see when your dog is happy or upset.
There are times when your dog may want to be left alone. For many breeds, this may be when your dog chooses to yawn. Yawning can also mean that your dog is just tired or bored. If your dog is panting and appears to be smiling then it could be in a happy state, dogs don’t smile but can express some forms of happiness through their mouth.
Dogs lick people when they are greeting them or expressing affection. Sometimes this can be misinterpreted though as some breeds will snarl their teeth when licking others they are affectionate towards. Misunderstandings can lead to your pet becoming less affectionate or just not respecting you as a pack leader.
Our human skin is something dogs love to lick that is because of salt and sweat we produce that many dogs find appealing. Clearly if, a dog is licking your hands or your face then it is friendly towards you and means you no harm.
Eyebrows are just not existent on dogs, but they do have the ability to raise their brows to express the same feelings we can. For instance raised eyebrows mean that your dog is interested and attentive to what you are saying or showing it. A lowered brow means that it is either confused, angry, or about to attack.
When combined with other body movements such as a snarling mouth, growling, a lowered brow would indicate that a dog is ready to pounce. Further indications of this are seen in how the feet and legs are poised for attack.
Legs and feet can also be used to express emotion. For many breeds you will see a dog pounding the ground from one side to another, this is meant to get your attention in a friendly manner. Essentially this means your dog wants you to play with it.
Stalking movements can indicate that your dog is hunting or about to jump on someone or something. This is when your dog’s head is lowered, and its movements are slower and more deliberate than before as this can indicate both a playful stance and an attacking stance the context of the interaction should be considered.
Finally if, your dogs head is lowered this means it is being submissive to you and want you to take the lead. A lowered head is typically nothing to fear, especially if combined with lying low on the ground and whimpering.
As well when your dog turns its head from side to side it could mean it does not understand something or it is curious what is going on. Typically odd noises will cause this type of reaction, or if you are playing or eating with something it is curious about then you may get this expression.
Dogs can clearly express their emotions through a variety of expressions and through various parts of their body. Understanding how your dog is communicating to you will go a long way to training your dog in the proper manner and gaining your dog’s respect and love in the future.
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