While dogs can understand an amazing number of human words when given enough time and encouragement to learn, it can be frustrating that they will never be able to communicate back in your language. Thankfully, there are other ways to understand how your dog is feeling and these come from their body language. Their ears, tail and eyes can tell us enough to know when your best friend is fearful, stressed or excited.
Let's start with the basics:
Straight up: your dog is reacting to and listening to what is going on around them. Dogs have amazing hearing and will open and direct them to sounds you may not be able to hear.
Down and back: your dog is unsure or nervous. This can be a common reaction to getting in trouble or when they are around someone or something they are not sure about. It is best to give your dog some reassurance or space, if needed.
Yawning: this can signal frustration. Have you ever spent time teaching your dog a new trick over and over again? This will often be followed by a yawn from your dog. It is best to give them a break and come back to the trick later on.
Licking their lips: similar to, and sometimes accompanied by, yawning but with some added nervousness.
Showing their teeth: this can be their way of saying "back off". You will often see them doing this while protecting food or their favorite toys.
High in the air: this is the sign of a confident, happy dog. You will most likely see this when a dog is at ease on a walk or playing in the yard.
Low tail, slow movement: your dog is thinking or trying to figure something out. They may also be waiting for a command from you.
Down between the legs: the dog is nervous and fearful but can also alert you to pain. It is often accompanied by a hunched back and can be similar to a human in the fetal position. If you can't figure out why the dog is acting in this manner, it might be time for a trip to the vet.
Direct eye contact: usually means that the dog is waiting for a response from you. If you are trying to teach your dog that you are the dominate one in your relationship then we suggest not breaking eye contact first. As long as the dog is not acting aggressively, wait for them to look away first as it can be a good way to show that you are the alpha in the relationship.
Squinting and front legs bowed forward: your dog is encouraging you to play. Whether they want you to chase them or throw a toy, they are telling you it is time for some fun!
On their back or facing their back to you: these are signs of trust. Your dog feels comfortable enough that they are willing to sit with their back facing you or show you they stomach and neck.
Shaking off: your dog will do a big shake to release energy and signify that they are moving on from that feeling. This will often come right after meeting another dog for the first time. This behavior should be encouraged and you can even teach your dog to "shake off" on command so that you can tell them when to move on from something.
Head on your knee: this signals love and affection. Your best buddy wants to show you that they care!
While you will never be able to have a conversation with your pooch, we hope these basics will help you understand their body language better. It is amazing how much information you can gain from how they move and look.
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