WHAT IS YOUR DOG SAYING?
Dogs are always giving us signals to let us know how they are feeling, such as being frightened, tired or happy etc.
Do you realise your dog is communicating with you all the time? They are constantly giving us signals both vocally and physically, letting us know many things. As well as letting us know the emotions they are experiencing they can also let us know other information such as if they are in pain or discomfort.
If we do not learn these signs or misinterpret them, it can lead to problems. From your dog’s point of view, if they are telling us something but we respond incorrectly, this can then frustrate them causing them to act in a way which we may see as undesirable.
When we have a dog we expect them to learn some human communications through verbal words but it is also our responsibility, as their owner, to learn some of their own language. Unless you specifically study dog’s body language and vocal expressions it is impossible to 100% understand everything they are telling us. You can however take the time to educate yourself with the basics.
This will help you in many ways and will increase the bond you have with your dog through understanding and mutual respect of each other’s differences.
For example, a slightly fearful, anxious dog would have their ears back and their tail between their legs. Some other signs of stress are yawning, licking their lips and panting. A dog growling is giving out a warning sign, but as well as this they would be showing other signs such as raised hackles (the hairs running along their backbone) and a stiff tail whilst leaning forward. A confident dog will walk tall, head held high and tail wagging side to side. A dog that is highly excited and happy may have a tail that spins round in circles.
There are slight variations of body language dependant on breed and body shape. Some have floppy ears whilst others erect, and tails also vary between breeds. In general, once you know the various signs to look out for you can generally determine the emotions your dog is experiencing, therefore deal with appropriately.
Dogs also communicate vocally. Through barking, whining, crying and even howling, each noise will have a reason behind it. Many owners constantly ask me how to stop their dog barking. To do this you need to find out the underlying reason it is happening. Then, once you work on that, the barking will decrease. If you listen carefully to your dog barking in different situations, you will begin to realise that there are different kinds used. Some can be higher pitched, some very quick yet all have a different meaning.
Dogs also constantly watching our body language and can respond to this, sometimes better than responding to us vocally. Small body movements or even the way we give them eye contact can result in them knowing what we are about to do.
Watch your dog and how they interact with people and other dogs using their communication skills. Take note of different parts of their body, such as their tail - is it wagging and if so, how fast and how high, their ears- are they pushing them up, backwards or flat against their head, the shape of their body- are they standing tall, leaning forward or perhaps low to the ground?
Once you become aware of these movements you can then learn what they mean.
After a while you will understand so much more and you will then respond to them in a more positive, appropriate manner which they will appreciate.