How To Read Dog Body Language: The Basics

by Catherine Tucker / Pet Owner Advice / 14 Sep 2017

How to read dog body language, The Basics to dog body language, 8 common messages, Dog lovers, pet sitters, pet owners

It is a common misconception that if a dog’s tail is wagging it is happy, today we explore how to understand a dogs’ body language better.
 

Decoding a dogs' body language will allow you to understand how they are feeling and what their intentions are with the human and other pets around them.

Dogs also use sounds and other signals to express emotion, understanding their body language will assist you to keep your own pet or a visiting pooch happy, comfortable and safe.

Dog trainer and behaviour counsellor Jolanta Benal says if we decode our dogs’ body language we can bail them out before they get overwhelmed.

“When we recognise our dogs’ stress signals and take action to help them out, we’re taking care both of the dog and of ourselves,” Benal said.

Even the gentlest animal in a threatening or scary situation might get snappy, so being able to recognise this behaviour and removing or distracting from the cause is helpful.

Find a pet sitter, pet sitting, loving pet sitter, dog lover, cat lover,

To help you, here is a guide to eight of the most common messages your dog is sending you, sourced from Modern Dog Magazine.
 

RELAXED AND APPROACHABLE

Relaxed and reasonably content, this dog is unconcerned and not feeling threatened by its immediate environment and is usually approachable.

If you are approaching someone else dog, it is always important to ask for permission before approaching and petting even if the dog is relaxed.

Dog Behaviour Basic, How to read Dog Behaviour, Relaxed, Approachable, Dog Lover, Dog Trainer
Illustration by: Emma Trithart

 

PLAYFULNESS

Basic invitation to play, may be accompanied by excited barking or playful attacks and retreats. An indication that any previous rough behaviour was not meant as a threat or challenge.

Dog Behaviour Basic, How to read Dog Behaviour, Playful, Dog Lover, Dog Trainer
Illustration by: Emma Trithart

 

ALERT – CHECKING THINGS OUT

Alert and paying attention to something they have detected, something of interest or unknown. Assessing the situation to determine if there is a threat or any action required.

Dog Behaviour Basic, How to read Dog Behaviour, Alert, Checking things out, Dog Lover, Dog Trainer
Illustration by: Emma Trithart

 

DOMINANT AND AGGRESSIVE

Highly dominant and confident animal. Expressing social dominance and threatening aggression if challenged.

If you have a dominant dog and are introducing a new dog the first meeting should be in a neutral location away from the distraction of territorial protection and make sure to watch diligently.

Dog Behaviour Basic, How to read Dog Behaviour, Aggressive, Dominant, Dog Lover, Dog Trainer
Illustration by: Emma Trithart

 

FEARFUL AND AGGRESSIVE

Frightened and not submission, may attack if pressed. Generally a dog will give these signals when he is directly facing the threatening individual.

Dog Behaviour Basic, How to read Dog Behaviour, Aggressive, Fearful, Dog Lover, Dog Trainer
Illustration by: Emma Trithart

 

STRESSED AND DISTRESSED

Under social or environmental stress. A general “broadcast” of the dogs feeling, not addressed to a particular individual.

Your dog may also be distressed if they are in pain. Read more: "Top 5 Signs Your Dog or Cat Is in Pain"

Dog Behaviour Basic, How to read Dog Behaviour, Stressed, Distressed, Dog Lover, Dog Trainer
Illustration by: Emma Trithart

 

FEARFUL AND WORRIED

Somewhat fearful, offering signs of submission designed to pacify the individual of higher social status or whom the dog sees as a potential threat. Dogs show these signals to avoid any further challenge and prevent conflict

Dog Behaviour Basic, How to read Dog Behaviour, Fearful, Worried, Dog Lover, Dog Trainer
Illustration by: Emma Trithart

 

EXTREME FEAR – TOTAL SUBMISSION

Total submission and surrender, acceptance of their lower status by grovelling before higher ranking or threatening individual in the aim to avoid physical confrontation.

Dog Behaviour Basic, How to read Dog Behaviour, Extreme Fear, Total Submisson, Dog Lover, Dog Trainer
Illustration by: Emma Trithart

 

 

 

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