Dog Behavior: How to Read Body Language & Respond Correctly
Dr. Dolittle could talk to the animals - why can't I?
Well, you can!
Don’t you wish you knew what your dog was saying? Especially when they are feeling anxious, scared, ill, or just having a bad day. You could then talk back to them and enjoy a better relationship and help the best you can or even be able to improve bad dog behavior - how great that would be!
To fix dog behavior issues, or to make your dog feel better and healthier, target the problem. Dog communication is the answer!
This blog teaches you:
- to know what normal dog behavior is like
- how to observe and analyze canine behavior
- how to react to that dog behavior and deal with dog’s needs
Learning about dog behavior will help you to spot aggressive dog behavior or dominant dog behavior or submissive dog behavior and can help you learn how to stop aggressive behavior in dogs.
Read on to learn those dog warning signs and useful dog behavior tips for improving strange dog behavior. Once you understand dog language and typical dog behaviors, you will notice behavior changes and can then communicate with your dog.
About Us - Our Experiences With Dog Behavior in Dog Grooming
We love dogs. We have been sharing our lives with our family's dogs from when we could not even walk or talk ourselves! Let us start by explaining a little about ourselves, the owners of Relievet, Chris and Monica:
“We have been working with dogs for many years now, so we are aware of their actions and their meanings. I trained as a veterinary technician and have worked with all kinds of animals, from horses to dogs and cats to rescued raccoons.” - Monica
3 Steps to Easily Understand Dog Language and TalkBack
To better communicate with your dog, we have broken it down into three steps for interacting with your dog appropriately. It all starts with understanding your dog.
- Know what normal dog behavior is like for your dog
- Look and listen for changes in your dog.
- Talkback to your dog.
1. Know what normal dog behavior is like for your dog
Each part of your dog talks to you, so if you can learn how to understand dog behavior and read them from the tip of their furry ears to the end of their wagging tail, as well as their eyes, mouth, and whole-body posture you'll be a master.
It can be the sound of their bark or whine that tells you how the dog is feeling - happy and well or hurt and in pain? It could be the way the dog is standing - low down and timid or standing tall and ready to attack?
All dogs are different! Look at your particular pampered puppy, faithful old hound or super cute teenage Schnoodle (Poodle-Schnauzer cross - adorable!), observe and note what is normal for them. If you know what typical dog body language looks like, then you will easily be able to tell when something isn't right.
Dogs at different ages do act differently - for example, it’s not unusual for a young dog to run around crazy with excitement, but if an old dog does that, it could mean that he’s hurt.
Dog behavior Information - observe the dog's body language in eyes, ears, mouth, and tail.
Do you think you know what normal looks like? Normal dog behavior explained below under headings related to overall dog body posture as well as eyes, ears, mouth, and dog tail that give clear indications of all being ok with your pet.
Clear indications of all being ok with your pet
Dog body language posture - A balanced posture where weight is evenly distributed across all feet shows normal emotion. The dog body language tends to be relaxed under normal circumstances.
Eyes language - Your dog's eyes will tell you a lot about how they are feeling. Usually, the whites of their eyes will not be visible. The pupils will be an average size, not too big and not too small.
Dog Ears - As dog ears vary in shape size and position depending on the breed, some point upwards, others flop down, so if ears are in their usual place, that would be considered normal.
Mouth language - Look for loose lips, with a slightly open mouth and light breathing, possibly a slight pant, shows a relaxed dog. Some dogs do look as if they are smiling! All dogs bark or growl for various reasons. It is one of the ways that they communicate with other dogs and with their human companions. Try to get to know their usual sounds vs. aggressive sounds.
Tail language - Tails are tricky to read as they are quite different in different breeds, with some curled up over their back like a little Lhasa Apso tail and others hang down relaxed near their hind legs like Collies’ tails. Generally, if the tail is in its usual position for the particular breed, then all is well.
2. Look and listen for changes in your dog
Observe the overall body and all it's parts together for the most accurate understanding of your dog's emotional state and what he/she is trying to tell you. Look out for strange dog behavior.
Dog behavior changes to watch for:
Body Posture - Fear can be shown by rocking backward as if trying to lean away from the scary thing that they have just seen. They may turn their head away, acting as if the frightening thing is not there or so they no longer see it - after all, if it's not there, it can't hurt him/her - right! Or they may lean forward, shifting their weight to their front paws when threatened as on the offensive to make themselves ready to defend themselves and spring ahead to make the first move. Limping would signal pain and a health concern to be checked out.
Dog Body Language Eyes - The pupils (black middle part) of your dog's eyes can dilate (enlarge) and look glassy when they are excited or afraid. Fear can also cause the eyes to open widely so you can see the white part all around the colored part (iris). Furrowed eyebrows can signal a nervous dog.
Ears Language - Twitching ears can show that your dog is listening carefully and can hear something - maybe a sound that makes him/her scared or alarmed. Some dogs get upset when they hear loud or unfamiliar noises like fireworks or thunder and will appreciate some gentle reassurance from you like a cuddle or some kind words. Fear can cause a dog to hold their ears back and to the side. A dog that is on high alert and feels threatened may have their ears facing forward.
Mouth Language - Signs of a fearful or nervous, tense, and upset dog are a tight mouth, heavy pant, and drooling. A very raised lip, showing teeth and gums, tells us that your dog feels threatened. Whimpering sounds can mean your pet is frightened, stressed, or anxious.
- Barking can be your dog's way of welcoming you home or because she is excited or wants to play or needs exercise. It can also be a danger warning that there is an intruder in their space or home. Excessive barking is also known to cause tracheitis in dogs.
- Growling can be an early warning that something's wrong, but it does not always show that the dog is being aggressive and is going to attack. Growling is your dog trying to tell you that something is upsetting him/her, and you are being given a chance to help him/her out of the situation that is causing the fear or anxiety.
- Growling can be a way to show dominance over another dog, for example, where both dogs want the same bone and don't want to share that delicious food!
- Please don't be tempted to teach your dog not to growl as you will be taking away that communication channel that warns of an emotional state.
Dog Tail Signs - A slow, low wag could mean that a dog is feeling threatened. Usually, a loose tail that is standing up straight is a sign that your dog is ready to go on the offensive. An anxious or fearful dog can have their tail tucked in between and under their back legs showing submissive dog behavior. Fast wagging tends to mean that your dog is happy and excited to see you!
3. Talkback to your dog for good and bad behavior
When you notice unusual or abnormal canine behavior, try to read the signs, and your confidence will grow on how best to respond and talk back to your dog or someone else's dog.
You now know what normal looks like. You can spot changes or odd behavior as well as analyze any strange signs, and that will guide you on how to interact and respond to your dog in the most appropriate way.
Reasons to respond to your dog's behavior.
- to help them if they are ill or in pain
- to restrain them if they are aggressive or overexcited
- to praise them when they are well behaved and excited/ pleased to see you
- to reassure them when they are afraid
- to reward them when they are good
- to reprimand them if they are naughty
Bad dog or cry for help? What, at first, appears to be naughty dog behavior like growling and loud barking, maybe more of “a cry for help,” so try not to jump too quickly to conclusions, or they could be the wrong issue, leading you to take the adverse reaction. Of course, there will be times when dog behavior training will be needed when you’ve seen aggressive dog behavior signs and to correct the dog before someone gets hurt.
You may choose to move your dog to a quiet room to give him time to calm down, for his safety, if he has become over-excited and charging around madly banging into furniture and people!
Dog body language of I love you - It will be visible when you have observed, analyzed, and responded correctly to a dog behavior or health issue as your dog will show his appreciation and love, making you both feel good about life! Your dog knows you care and will show you loving body language like sitting on your lap, foot, and being close to you as well as licking, light moans, etc.
Conclusion - Dog Behavior Tips and Tricks
- A little reassurance can often go a long way to addressing the concern.
- Sometimes distracting your dog from the thing that is causing them to be upset, with a favorite toy or biscuit, can solve the problem.
- Or all that may be needed is for you to pat his head or give him food and a drink of water.
- Address the dog's basic needs - a safe, warm, and clean place to stay, clear boundaries, nourishment, and medical care, exercise, love, companionship, and affection.
- A dog could be having a seizure or fit, caused by epilepsy, perhaps - natural products like CBD for Dogs have the potential to aid in the reduction of seizures. Or a visit to the vet may be required for stronger prescription drugs.
Reward-Based Training Works Best
- Aggressive behavior should not be tolerated and is best dealt with when the dog is still young, so the lesson is learned at the start. Clear commands (verbal or hand signals) are often all that is required. It should not be necessary to raise your voice and speak angrily when you are close to the dog.
- Patience is essential - repeat the commands calmly in a short session one time per day, then do the same again the next day. Try not to make the training session too long as the dog will get tired, and you will not get his best attention.
- Shouting aggressively at your dog to recall him when he has run away will not work - it is better to call with encouragement and affection to show that he will not be punished on returning. You can reward him with a treat and a cuddle or a game with his favorite toy.
- Socialization classes where dogs are encouraged to play with other dogs in a safe environment can be beneficial.
- When a dog is misbehaving, often ignoring the dog can discourage and stop the bad behavior. An anxious or distressed dog can also respond well to food supplements with CBD, such as Relievet, which can have a calming effect, making a happier dog and happier owner.
Follow these three simple steps, listen to your dog, understand his/her emotions, talk to your dog, and make the most of your relationship with your beloved dog, giving your dog a long, healthy, and happy life.
I hope sharing my views has been helpful to you. Enjoy life with your dog!
For more severe pet conditions or dog behavior issues, always check with your vet.