Woof woof bow wow!
Have you ever wondered what Fluffy would tell you if he could speak?
Perhaps he would ask for a belly rub, playtime or a walk in the park. Maybe Fluffy would tell you how he really hates the mailman and how the neighbor’s dog bullies him. If he could speak, your canine bff would tell you so many wonderful things. But did you know that even though your dog may not be able to speak, he communicates all these things through body language?
There are many subtle and not so subtle ways in which your dog communicates stress, nervousness, fear, aggression, curiosity, and happiness. The most common of them all is tail wagging, but wrongfully many believe that tail wagging always means happiness. A dog’s tail is one of their primary communication tools and depending on how it is being wagged and the dog’s posture, it could mean a number of things. For instance, when a wagging tail is paired with defensive posture and a tense face, the dog is signaling frustration and should not be approached. Alternatively, a dog with a low tail wag usually signals lack of confidence or fear. A slow and steady wag usually means the dog is assessing a situation and is preparing to react. The tail can also signal arousal, playfulness, and curiosity.
There are also many subtle ways a dog will communicate with their humans and with other dogs. Dogs that are experiencing stress, discomfort or nervousness may yawn, lick their lips, furrow their brows, turn their heads without looking away from the perceived threat, lower their tail and have a tense jaw amongst others. When dogs perceive something as a threat, their behavior might also be submissive in order to appease the threat. These subtle exchanges include bobbing or lowering their heads, averting their eyes, tucking their tail between their legs, curving or lowering their bodies or flashing their belly. All these behaviors are meant to communicate to the perceived threat that they are standing down and submitting.
Curiosity might be communicated by cocking their head to the side, raising the front paw or a closed mouth but the jaw will not be tense. When your dog sneezes, sniffs, spins or paces it is possible that he has perceived another dog as a threat and is trying to displace the attention of that dog. When your dog is being defensive he will lean his body forward, snap at the air, growl and perhaps nip or give a warning bite.
Just like humans, dogs also have a tendency to carry a lot of communicative information in their face. They might wrinkle their forehead to show confusion, or his eyes brighten when he’s happy. Their ears also signal a few different things such as paying attention, submission, and aggression. Just like with human relationships, the better we know our furry friends and all their little quirks the easier it becomes to read into all their signals and understand what they’re telling us.
Dogs are also great at communicating with one another. Bowing to another dog is your dog’s way of inviting his friend to play. A paw slap means your dog is comfortable and confident around his four legged buddy and if they do a little dance on their hind legs, they are actually just showing affection towards each other. Being social animals, dogs are great at reading body language and communicating with one another.
It seems man’s best friend might just be their own best friend too!