Every pet parent wants to speak with their dog - and the key to becoming a dog whisperer is understanding dog language.
Just like humans, dogs “talk” - just not so much with their mouths. Instead, a combination of tail, body and ear movements help a dog communicate how they are feeling. But it can be tough reading dog body language. Understanding this canine body language is therefore key to understanding what your dog wants, whether their needs are being cared for and most of all, help you train your dog better.
Here are 3 ways you too can start learning to read certain dog body language meanings to aid you on your quest of being a dog whisperer.
1. Looking for Happiness
The most important part of being a dog parent is knowing when your pet is happy.
Do they need more food? Are they getting enough attention? Are they feeling ill? Learning the signs of happiness in your pooch will help you navigate through a lot of big questions - so how exactly do you tell if your pup is in a good mood?
For one, a dog that’s comfortable and relaxed in their environment is one with a relaxed tail and ears standing up and not forward. They have their head held high and often have their mouth slightly open to expose their tongue. Their body posture will generally be pretty balanced, with their weight spread out on all feet.
If you’re just approaching a new dog - don’t let your guard down. Relaxed mannerisms doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fine with you approaching! Most importantly, make sure to always ask for permission from a dog’s owner before approaching it - they will be much better equipped to gauge how their dog is feeling.
Of course, if you see their tail up and wagging, pupils dilated and front end lowered on the ground, it’s a pretty clear sign that it’s time to play. You’ll want to give your dog plenty of attention when they show these signs - it means they have a lot of energy and would like to play, perhaps with something like KONG’s Interactive Dog Toy, perfect for high energy dogs.
Best of all - if you catch your puppy rolled over, tongue sticking out of their mouth and generally relaxed body language, it means you’re doing a great job as a pet parent! Your pup trusts that they’re safe and in a comfortable environment.
2. Understanding Negative Emotions
But let’s face it - your dog isn’t going to be well behaved all the time. And they certainly won’t always be feeling happy, especially if they’re in an environment they’re not comfortable in.
If you see your dog with alert ears pointing forward, lips pursed baring teeth and tail up in the air, you may want to get your dog out of there pronto. There’s a good chance your dog considers something in the area a threat, especially if their hackles are raised and ready to pounce!
Likewise, if you see the opposite behavior - mouth and eyes closed, ears flat and tails tucked between their legs as they lay on the ground, sometimes with their stomach exposed, make sure you survey the environment. Another aggressive dog could be threatening and therefore stressing your dog out.
If they’re not interacting with another animal or person that is threatening it, your dog may also exhibit signs of fear similar to the above. They’ll have their tails down, a generally lowered center of gravity with their ears back. They’ll be looking away from the source of their anxiety and have their paws raised, ready to back away from any stressor.
In this case, take care to get your dog to a safe and comfortable environment. Be careful approaching a fearful or aggressive dog though, as a scared dog is a dangerous one.
3. Replacing Bad Habits and Encouraging Good Ones
The point of reading dog language all boils down to this - training your dog to exhibit fewer negative behaviours and emotions, and instead encouraging them to be more willing to play and enjoy themselves.
This is especially important for dogs that are more timid by nature. They’ll need some help getting out of their shell - but with a little bit of encouragement, they’ll be having the time of their life.
You might be asking yourself - how can I train my dog to be happier, not angrier?
For dogs that go out often for walks, especially to places with other dogs, it’s important to get them properly socialised. Make sure they know how to play nice with other dogs before letting them loose at a dog park - you never know how your dog or how other dogs will behave outside of your home.
Even an experienced dog, however, will need some watching over - learn to read your dog’s signs and get a handle on them before things turn ugly.
It might be tough to rein your pup in when all they want to do is go out and play, so make their on-leash walks more comfortable with DOG Copenhagen Urban Trail Leash - their walks will be more enjoyable and you can rest easy knowing they’re alright being on leash.
At home, take note of when your dog is exhibiting aggression. Are they getting aggressive over territory? Over their toys or their food such as with resource guarding? Or perhaps they’re just in defense mode?
There are a lot of reasons for a dog to get aggressive and it’s important to understand the root cause of it to determine how you can manage their hostility. Be calm with your pup and spend the time to be consistent about how you treat each of their negative behaviours.
Most importantly, don’t punish aggressive behaviour with more anger - screaming or yelling at your dog only makes the environment they’re in more hostile. This breeds even more aggression and in a bad situation, it could cause serious injury to those around your dog. In serious cases, it’s recommended that you go to a professional instead.
Outside of that, when your dog is exhibiting happy behaviour, give them attention and love. In fact, offering them toys and high value snacks such as Freeze Dry Australia Salmon Bellies Freeze Dried Dog Treats are a great way to keep them pumped and feeling loved.
Your dog has many emotions but may find it difficult conveying them to you. Try and be patient with your pet and learn what makes up their body language so you can help them in any way you can to feel safe and comfortable.
Tammi writes articles about anything from data analytics to animal health, and loves doing the occasional craft. But most importantly, she loves hanging out and doing photo-shoots with her dog.