An Introduction To Canine Body Language: What Is Your Pet Thinking?

Once you learn to recognize certain signals from your dog, determining what he is thinking becomes simple. Canines express themselves clearly through their faces, bodies, and mannerisms. You’ll be able to tell quickly whether your pet is feeling fearful, playful, anxious, or alert. In the event you confront an unfamiliar dog, his body language will help you to decide whether to approach him or stay away.

Below, we’ll highlight several states of mind canines experience. Learning to distinguish between them by noting your dog’s body facial expressions and body language will help to ensure your safety as well as that of your pet.

When Your Dog Feels At Ease

A canine that is relaxed will usually leave his mouth open with his tongue hanging out. His body will appear loose, and his posture will be easy. As he walks, he’ll hold his head high with his ears perked and his tail relaxed.

These are signs that the animal feels secure and safe. He is likely in familiar territory, such as his home or a park he visits frequently. He can be approached by any person who is not already considered a threat.

Vigilant For Signs Of Trouble

If a dog notices something unfamiliar to him, he’ll likely adopt a vigilant stance. His eyes will be open widely (though not from fear), and his mouth will be closed. His ears may be held slightly forward, and he’ll have a focused look. He may distribute his weight evenly across all four legs, or lean forward slightly.

The animal is deciding what he should do in light of the unfamiliar activity. He may do nothing, investigate, or retreat.

A Canine With Confidence

When a dog is confident to the point of expressing dominance, his tail will be raised and stiff; it might also waver from side to side. His mouth will normally be closed, though he might show teeth if he feels challenged. The hair on the animal’s shoulders and back will be raised, and he’ll stand tall, upright, and slightly forward to convey his dominant attitude. The ears on a confident canine will be positioned forward, and he’ll look directly at the animal or person who holds his interest.

When Your Pet Is Anxious And Agitated

Dogs that become fearful in the presence of other animals or people will tuck their tails between their legs, and flatten their ears. They will stare at the source of their anxiety to determine whether it intends to approach or retreat. The lips will be curled slightly to show teeth, and the nose may be creased.

If the animal or person who has prompted this reaction approaches, the anxious canine may retreat, assuming an escape route exists. If he feels trapped, he will likely bark aggressively, snarl, and lunge.

Signs Your Dog Feels Submissive

If your canine meets an animal that he considers to be higher in status, and he wants to inform the other that he is not a threat, he will assume a submissive posture. He may crouch close to the ground with his tail tucked. Or, he might roll over onto his back to expose his underside. If your dog remains on his feet, he’ll turn his nose upward toward the other animal, and dart his tongue in and out. He will, however, turn his gaze away to avoid direct eye contact.

The Playful Canine

If your dog wants to play, he’ll display several easily-recognized signs. Many canines perform a “play bow,” where they kneel on their front paws, and stick their rears in the air. Your pet may use his paws to gently bat at another animal’s face or body, and then dash off to encourage the other to chase him. He may also bounce on his paws, and perform quick jumps, turning his body while doing so. Throughout this activity, your dog’s mouth will be open, and his tongue will be sticking out the front.

Although most canines have predictable temperaments, they can experience a variety of moods. Learn to identify the signs of each in your pet as well as other dogs.

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