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Speaking The Same Language As Your Dog

Aug 4, 2008
The great thing about dogs is that they don't hide their emotions. Their emotions and reactions are real, direct and open. It's just us humans that don't understand them. We might understand the classic excited dog play bow as an invitation to have fun but what about the less obvious dog cues? Could your dog be telling you something you are unaware of, or worse, admonishing him for?

No matter how much we treat our dogs like children, they are in fact dogs and they have their own language. Here are some translations from the doggy dictionary.

A confident dog will have an erect, curled tail sometimes in a slow wagging sweep. The head will be up with the ears pricked forward. A confident dog will allow you to put it on its back and still look at you in the eye. This is also an invitation to play and the perfect excuse for a tummy rub.

In contrast to these signals, a dog that is feeling stressed will exhibit behaviors to calm itself, another dog, or you. These behaviors might cause the dog to look guilty for doing something wrong when in fact, it's a form of communication that the dog is feeling stressed. Below are some calming signals to look for.

When a dog is yawning and turning his head away, it might look like he's completely disinterested in the situation at hand. However, those are human cues. We should not project this onto the dog. In his language, it's a calming signal. He might be feeling uncomfortable that a stranger is standing over him patting his head. Or, perhaps the situation around him is charged with lots of noise. You're yelling and he senses you're angry. Your dog might yawn and turn his head in an effort to calm you down and to appease you. This is certainly has a very different meaning than the dog being bored!

Another way we misread dog signals is when dogs meet each other. Observations of proper dog socialization would include dogs giving a wide berth of each other and licking their noses, and sniffing the ground. These are also calming signals towards other dogs that their intentions are peaceful. These signals should be reciprocated. No matter how cute the dog or puppy, breaking these rules of etiquette to say "hi" usually results in the other dog giving a reprimand with a growl or even a bite. Unfortunately, the perfectly well behaved dog is often deemed to be aggressive when he did nothing wrong.

As you can see, trying to understand dogs with the filtered bias of human behavior really mangles the message. Instead, we should delve into what man's best friend is trying to say by learning their language.
About the Author
Mariam Ma is a freelance writer for Pawsitively Inspired. If your dog suffers from pest allergies, visit the site for dog flea treatment and other dog flea tick medication for control and prevention.
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