I have mentioned the Whole Dog Journal (WDJ)* in several posts, and I have also written a fair amount about stress signals and learning to understand when your dog is asking for your help to manage a situation. I get the WDJ’s “Tip of the Week” and this week’s was an excerpt from the book, Decoding Your Dog from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Edited by Debra F. Horwitz, DVM, DACVB and John Ciribassi DVM, DACVB, with Steve Dale.** The excerpt suggests six steps to better understand and communicate with your dog.
Here is the excerpt. The parts that I wish to emphasize are in italics. I have also added photos of mine to better illustrate the body language listed.
These six steps and the following guide will help you to “speak dog” and understand your dog’s body language.
1. Learn their language.
2. Listen with our eyes.
3. Use cues that work for dogs.
4. Avoid miscommunication traps.
5. Teach a common language.
6. Have realistic expectations.
The goal is not to learn our dogs’ language so that we can “speak dog” back to them; that just won’t work. But we can use a knowledge of canine language to better understand our dogs’ emotional states and predict what they might do next.
• Remember to look at the entire dog, not just one body part or a single vocalization, and to also look at the situation to get an accurate read of the dog’s emotional state.
• Dogs understand some words, but they can’t understand a full conversation. Gestures and body language are clearer ways to communicate with dogs. Clear communication takes attention and effort, but is well worth it!
• Not every dog can succeed in every situation. Watch your dog for signs of anxiety or aggression and change the circumstances so that the dog doesn’t get overwhelmed.
• If something seems like it’s about to happen, step in. Either remove the dog from the situation or change what’s happening.
Canine Body Language
-Unwavering, fixed stare: challenge, threat, confident
-Casual gaze: calm
-Averted gaze: deference
-Pupils dilated (big, wide): fear
-Wide-eyed (whites of the eyes are visible): fear
-Quick, darting eyes: fear
-Relaxed, neutral position: calm
-Forward, pricked: alert, attentive, or aggressive
-Ears pinned back: fear, defensive
-Panting: Hot, anxious or excited
-Lip Licking, tongue flicking: anxious
-Yawn: tired or anxious
-Snarl (lip curled, showing teeth): aggressive
-Growl: aggressive, or playful
-Bark: reactive, excited, playful, aggressive, or anxious
-Up, still: alert
-Up with fast wag: excited
-Neutral, relaxed position: calm
-Down, tucked: fear, anxious, or submissive
-Stiff-wagging or still and high: agitated, excited, and perhaps unfriendly
-Soft, relaxed: calm
-Tense, stiff: alert or aggressive
-Hackles up: alert or aggressive
-Rolling over: submissive
Decoding Your Dog can be purchased at Whole Dog Journal, Dogwise, or Amazon (where it is also available in Kindle format). Learning to better communicate with your dog will not only improve the training and management of your pup, but will dramatically enhance the relationship with your canine best friend.
*To see the posts that I mention the WDJ go to: http://apositiveconnection.com/?s=whole+dog+journal
**Dr. Meghan Herron, veterinary animal behaviorist at OSU has a chapter in the book. I mention Dr. Herron in several of my blogs. To find these posts go to: http://apositiveconnection.com/?s=Herron
Blog Posts by Category
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- Behavior or “What the heck?”
- Informational or Doggie Demographics
- Care and management or living together in harmony
- Philosophy of training or “Why be positive?”
- Toy Box or stuff that doesn’t fit neatly elsewhere