Understanding Your Dog: The Key To Developing A Better Bond

happy dogs doing things

Getting a clear read on your dog’s body language is key to forming a solid, empathetic connection. Dogs primarily speak to us through body movements and facial expressions. By getting good at reading these cues, it can help strengthen your relationship, making it easy for you to meet their needs and understand their emotions.

Take tail wagging: It’s not just about being happy. The tail’s position, movement and speed can tell you a lot — from excitement to nervousness or even aggression. A quick wag high up could mean your dog is alerted or worked up, while a slow wag usually means they’re chilled out and happy. If their tail is tucked away, your dog is likely scared or feeling submissive.

Hackles — the hair on a canine’s back and shoulders — also tell a story. Raised hackles can mean your dog is excited, stressed or feeling aggressive. This reaction, known as piloerection, is similar to the goosebumps we get and is a handy clue about what your dog is feeling.

Dogs’ faces give us hints as well. They might not use facial expressions as much as we do, but certain behaviors are telling. A yawn might seem like they’re tired, but it can actually mean they’re stressed and trying to calm down. Lip licking or showing the whites of their eyes are signs of anxiety or nervousness.

Body posture is another clear indicator. A scared or submissive dog might crouch or hunch, while a dog standing stiffly or leaning forward might be showing dominance or gearing up for a confrontation.

Don’t forget about their ears and eyes. Having their ears perked up generally means curiosity or alertness, while flattened ears suggest fear or aggression. Eye contact can vary. For instance, a direct gaze might indicate a challenging mindset, whereas avoiding eye contact usually shows submission or discomfort.

Their vocalizations, such as growling, barking, whining and howling, also carry tons of information. A growl doesn’t always mean aggression; it might just be your dog indicating discomfort. The reasons behind a bark can range from alerting you about something to just being bored or excited depending on the situation and how they bark.

Knowing these signals can help you avoid misunderstandings and enhance your pet’s safety. For example, spotting a stress signal early might let you steer your dog clear of a tense situation before it worsens. Plus, it helps enrich your shared experiences, making time together more enjoyable. By being in tune with these body language cues, owners could better understand and meet their pets’ needs, fostering a more peaceful and empathetic relationship.

For deeper insights into dog body language and behavior, please see the accompanying resource. 

Infographic provided by https://www.gallivantlabradors.com/