Understanding a Dog’s Body Language

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Dogs may not be able to talk but their body language speaks volumes.  Understanding their body language means knowing the difference between a scared dog or an aggressive one and a happy dog or a submissive one.  Some behaviors are very easy to recognize but others can be a bit confusing as they may be interpreted differently depending on the context and other body postures displayed.  

Have you ever stared directly at your dog? Do they stare back or tend to look to the left or right?  Most dogs will tend to avert their gaze so as to signal that he or she is not a threat and to disengage from an interaction.  If you see two dogs staring directly at each other with no aversion, this behavior will most likely end in an altercation.

Dogs use their ears to signal different behaviors but the most common is pulling them back and close to their head.  When they do this it is a clear signal they are frightened. However, context along with other body postures displayed by the individual dog must be noted.  For example, if the dog has a ball in his or her mouth and is exhibiting play behavior, pulled back ears would signal he or she is excited rather than scared.  

If you have a dog who rolls onto his or her back this is called an inguinal presentation. Depending on the context and other body postures exhibited, this behavior can signal fear and submission, play, need for attention such as a belly rub, or relaxation as in the case where the dog sleeps on his or her back.  

Next week we will go over a few more common behaviors to help you better understand what your dog is trying to tell you.

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