By learning to read dogs’ posture and signals, you’ll better be able to predict what they might do.
Dog (or canine) body language is an elaborate and sophisticated system of nonverbal communication. Dogs use their faces and bodies to communicate what they are feeling – happy, sad, nervous, fearful, angry, or aggressive.
Within limits, dogs can vary the shape and size of their eyes and the direction and intensity of their gaze. If a dog is relaxed and happy, the eyes will be their normal shape. However, if a dog feels threatened, stressed, or frightened, eyes will appear larger than normal. Aggressive dogs are also likely to have eyes that look larger than normal.
Dogs in pain or not feeling well often look as though they’re squinting, as do dogs with a submissive grin, who may also squint their eyes.
Even though dogs don’t usually look directly into each other’s eyes because it is considered a challenge, most dogs have learned it is okay to look directly at people. A submissive dog averts its gaze when you look at it.
On the other hand, a dog that stares at you with a tense facial expression is another matter, as the direct stare is likely to be a threat. If you’re in close proximity to such a dog, look slowly away, which is what dogs do to appear less threatening.
When a dog looks at you out of the corners of his eyes, so that you see a good deal of the whites, he is giving you what is known as “whale eyes,” and might be leading up to an aggressive outburst. Whale eyes are often seen when a dog is guarding a chew bone, toy, or favorite spot.
Most people assume a tail-wagging dog is friendly. Not necessarily so. Dogs wag their tails for many reasons, even when they’re feeling aggressive, and dogs that don't wag their tails can still be friendly. When dogs are relaxed, they hold their tails in its natural position. If they are happy, they may wag their tail gently from side to side, and when really happy, they wag their tail more forcefully, from side to side or in a circular pattern.
When dogs are alert or aroused about something, they’ll hold their tail higher than usual. Nervous or submissive dogs hold their tails lower and might even tuck it between their rear legs. They may still wag it from side to side, but at a more rapid pace than when relaxed. If dogs really feel scared or extremely submissive, they’ll hold their tail tucked up tight against the belly.
Dogs standing their ground or threatening someone (person or animal) will “flag” their tails, that is, hold them stiff, without any movement, or hold them stiff and high with a rigid back and forth movement. If everything else about the dog's body tells you this dog is not friendly, then back off. This tail-wagging dog does not want to be friends.
Dogs use their bodies to communicate their intentions, that is they will try to look normal, smaller, or larger, depending on what they feel. If happy and content, they’ll look normal sized—relaxed muscles and weight evenly balanced on all four feet. A scared dog, on the other hand, will be hunched up or lower its body in an attempt to look smaller. It might even cower on the ground. A submissive dog looks similar to a frightened dog because it makes itself look small to convey that it's not a threat.
An alert, aroused, assertive, or dominant dog tries to make itself look larger by tensing muscles, raising its head and neck above the shoulders, and sometimes even standing on tiptoes. Weight will be centered over all four feet or leaning slightly forward on the front legs. An angry, aggressive dog does pretty much the same thing, except that its posture is accompanied by aggressive threats, and typically, weight is centered over the front legs so that it can rapidly charge forward
Recognizing these messages will help you to interact confidently and safely with dogs..
If you are looking for a pet, for the record, adoption is the most loving option. Always consider adoption before buying a dog from a dog breeder or pet store.
Be sure to share this article with your "dog loving" friends.