Crack Your Dog’s Body Language Code

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Have you ever felt like your pup is trying to tell you something when it is wagging its tail or it is straightening its ears? 

Besides barking, howling, and other noises, dogs communicate their intentions or emotional state through various body movements. 

If you are preparing for owning a dog, it would be really valuable for you, and your new furry friend, to know how to decipher its expressions.

The content below is a practical guide that will help you with cracking your dog’s body language code.

What is it trying to tell you with its tail?

You probably think that when a dog is wagging its tail, it always means that it is happy. I had the same misconception. There is more to the tail wagging than what we initially see. Take into consideration the position of the tail, the speed, and the direction of the wag.

If your doggie’s tail is high and it moves it quickly from side to side and its posture is relaxed, then it is excited and happy. But, if the tail is up and it moves slower, your pup is nervous or maybe cautious.  Also, if it moves more to the right it means they see someone they like, and if it moves more to the left, it signifies that they see someone unfamiliar.

Look at the position of the tail is it high or is it down towards the ground? Maybe it is even tucked between its legs? The higher the tail, the more attentive it is. When they are stressed or afraid their tail will be pointing towards the ground. If the dog is extremely afraid it will be rolled onto its back and the tail will be tucked between its legs. 

Look into its eyes, and you will find…

They say if you look into a person’s eyes and you will see their soul. It is more or less the same as for dogs. Their eyes can say a great deal about how they feel. 

 If your pup’s eyes are soft with relaxed eyelids, it indicates that it is happy or calm. Whereas, if the dog is staring directly, it can mean that it is trying to assert dominance or that it feels threatened. 

You may feel like your doggie is ignoring you when it is averting its gaze. However, that means that it is trying to calm a situation and is showing submission. 

Dilated, large pupils are a sign of aggression or fear. Try to pat your dog on its head and notice if you can see the whites on the corners of its eyes. This is known as “whale eye”.  In this way, they manifest their feeling of anxiety, stress, or anger. 

What about your pup’s face?

When they are confused or determined, they will wrinkle or straighten their foreheads. 

You see your dog yawning, and you immediately assume that it is sleepy. Actually, dogs yawn to calm themselves in stressful situations and lower their blood pressure. 

Licking their lips can have several meanings. Your furry friend can lick its lip after a yummy meal or when it feels anxious. Furthermore, when the tongue flicks quickly it might not mean that it wants to “kiss” you, but rather that it feels uncomfortable or uneasy in a certain situation. 

An open mouth and a slightly exposed tongue mean that the dog is relaxed, content, and approachable. Although, if you approach a new dog, do it with caution regardless of their relaxed posture. 

Is that a smile?

Do dogs really smile and what does it mean when they doSome dogs do smile, and they look extremely cute and funny. However, if you can see their front teeth and at the same time they are growling, this is aggressive behavior and not a friendly smile. 

When dogs smile peacefully, you can also see their front teeth, but their posture is relaxed and wiggly. This smile is also known as a submissive grin and it signifies that they want to play or that they are happy. 

Is it listening to you?

Different dog breeds have ears in various shapes and sizes. In a way, with some dogs, this makes it easier for them to communicate their intentions.

Dogs which are calm and relaxed, keep their ears in their own natural, neutral position. But, when they raise their ears it means that they are alert, listening. Sometimes, they will raise and direct their ears towards the person or noise that is taking their attention. 

If a dog raises its ears, points them forward, and slightly spreads them, it might mean that is trying to assert dominance and it is in an aggressive mood.

In contrast, ears pulled back and down signify that the pup is submissive or afraid. However, if this is accompanied by raised hackles, tucked tail, and wrinkled nose, it is a sign of aggression.  

Read its body language

Observe its whole body, and you will discover many signs. All signs above don’t convey messages alone. So, when you are trying to understand your dog, pay attention to every movement.

Dog’s muscles tense when it is scared or aggressive, especially muscles of the head and shoulders. 

A relaxed dog will have its tail down and relaxed, ears are up but not forward, loose stance, and slightly open mouth.  

On the other hand, dominant and aggressive behavior is expressed with a raised, stiff tail with slight vibration from side to side, ears up and forward, wrinkled nose, visible teeth and gums, and a stiff-legged stance. 

In conclusion

Just as you want your dog to understand you and obey your orders, it wants to communicate to you its feelings as well. Understanding your pup’s language will help you deepen your relationship. You can comprehend its needs if you just listen, and not only with your ears, but also with your eyes and your heart. 

Moreover, being able to decipher some dog signals can be especially handy when dealing with other doggies, because, as we have seen, wagging a tail doesn’t always mean that a dog is happy and friendly. 

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