The eyes: the window to our dogs' soulsIn human society, maintaining eye contact means paying attention and showing respect when listening and speaking. However, in the dog world, a dog that holds its gaze without breaking eye contact can indicate aggression, perhaps perceiving you as a potential threat.
- Calm: Softly focused eyes generally indicate a relaxed state of mind. Your dog may look directly into your eyes, hold his gaze, then look away, showing respect.
- Anxiety: Dilated pupils can indicate fear or excitement, two emotional states considered extreme and therefore undesirable.
- Fear: The "whale eye" expression is a classic sign of insecure canine body language. The dog's eyes widen to show the white part of their eyes, indicating fear, stress or anxiety.
The Ears: The symphony of emotionsDogs have 18 muscles controlling their ears, which they can turn 180 degrees, offering a variety of positions and meanings.
- Attention: When a dog's ears are pricked or pointed forward, it indicates attention and interest in what they see or hear.
- Stress: Ears pinned back or flattened against the top of the head are usually signs of fear, worry or aggressive body language.
- Confusion: The change in position of the ears indicates that the dog is unsure of how to react to something.
The Tail: The range of emotions
Most people think that a dog wagging its tail is a happy dog. However, it takes a closer look to interpret the signals correctly.
- Submissive or Uncertain: A slow, s-shaped wag with a low, relaxed tail.
- Excitement: A faster "s"-shaped movement indicates interest and curiosity.
- Hyperactivity: A stiff, high tail that moves like a rudder or snake generally indicates extreme alertness.
- Fear: A tail neatly tucked between the hind legs indicates fear, anxiety or cold.
The Mouth: Silent speech
Observing your dog's mouth can provide tell-tale signs of his emotions.
- Satisfaction: A relaxed jaw tone with a slightly open mouth.
- Aggression: Lips pulled back to reveal teeth may indicate aggression or resourcefulness.
- Discomfort: A yawn, although sometimes indicating fatigue, often suggests that the dog feels uncomfortable and adopts a calming behaviour to avoid confrontation.
- Anxiety: If your dog is panting, he may simply be hot and thirsty. However, excessive panting often suggests increased excitement or distress.
Posture: A language in motion
Understanding the meaning of your dog's different positions and postures can go a long way to decoding his body language.
- Confidence: A dog that stands up straight and relaxed indicates that he feels happy and safe in his environment.
- Fear: A dog that crouches or crouches low may be feeling upset, frightened or even in pain. Dogs tend to crouch to appear less threatening.
- Warning: If your dog appears stiff and tense, this posture indicates caution, potential aggression and readiness to act.
Vocalisation: The concert of meanings
All dogs bark, but not all barks mean the same thing.
- Play: Repeated high-pitched barks.
- Warning: Rapid barking with pauses can indicate a problem.
- Fear: Continuous barking at a lower frequency signals a feeling of danger or a presumed threat.
In conclusion, there is no single part of a dog's body that can give you an accurate reading of its emotions and attitude, just by concentrating on that particular part. Decoding a dog's body language correctly means learning to read its whole body. It's also crucial to take into account the context in which you're reading your dog's body positions and his individual personality. These multiple cues will become easier over time, if you spend more time observing your dog and the dogs around you.
By becoming attentive 'listeners' to canine body language, we can deepen our understanding of our four-legged friends, strengthen our bond with them and create a harmonious relationship based on mutual trust. So put on your "trainer's hat", watch and learn to speak dog for silent but powerful communication with your canine companion.
Gillis, S. (2024, January 20). Speak Dog: How to read dog body language. Pretty Fluffy: The Ultimate Lifestyle Destination for Dog Lovers. https://www.prettyfluffy.com/pet-lifestyle/tips-training/speak-dog-how-to-read-dog-body-language