Canine Body Language: What You Need to Know
Unfortunately, people misinterpret, don’t understand, or just plain ignore the things our dogs are trying to tell us. And when that happens people and other animals are at risk of being bitten. Dogs can’t use our language to tell us when they are uncomfortable, scared, or angry. Instead, they use an intricate system of body language.
The problem is that the majority of people don’t take the time to learn it. We expect our dogs to learn our language, but we don’t take the time to learn theirs. But learning their language, and teaching our children their language, can prevent bites! You don’t know how many times people have explained getting bitten, but then added “but his tail was wagging”.
The truth is that most dogs wag their tails as they bite. What is more important is where the tail is carried (the height of the tail at the base) and what the face and eyes are telling you.
Combining all that information will help you.
Here are some examples of canine body language and what they mean:
This 12 week old puppy is giving a very serious warning to stay away from his pillow. His ears are erect, his brow is furrowed, and his eye is very hard. If you touch him or his pillow, he will bite you, HARD.
This is the same dog but with soft eyes, and relaxed ears and brow. This is the look of a friendly and comfortable dog.
My dog Fury is famous for giving stinky eye and correcting her younger “brother” Jo. Here is her warning that he is doing something she doesn’t approve of. Again, notice how hard her eyes are and what her face and even her tongue are communicating. He has a fraction of a second to change his behavior before she corrects him.
This is them a few seconds later. Don’t worry, she didn’t actually hurt him but this is a clear picture of how dogs communicate with each other.
What is interesting to note is that dogs often communicate with us the same way.
If we don’t notice the stink eye, like in the first couple of pictures, the dog will likely follow through and bite us, or our children too.
That is why it is so crucial to learn about dog body language
Hard eyes. Do NOT touch her toy.
Soft eyes, this is the face of a friendly dog.
Combining your knowledge of your dog’s body language along with improving his impulse control will help avoid a possible bite or other serious potential behavior problems. It’s important that you incorporate both into your dog training routine.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.