How To Understand What Your Dog Is Saying – Part 2

Alan | July 19th, 2008
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When your dog is talking, do you listen? Are you paying attention?

Barking is not the topic here, but rather, the way our dogs communicate to us and the world around them with the use of their body language, specifically the tail.

There are lots of different wags. Plain, ordinary, enthusiastic wagging means I’m a friendly fella! A slow wag is the nervous laugh of a dog who is embarrassed about something. A tail held high and wagged widely, instead of only slightly, means he wants to play. If he wiggles up to you after you have disciplined him, wagging his tail between his hind legs, he is saying he wants to make up and is sorry.

Most of a dog’s nosing around is done for identification purposes. When he approaches another dog, the first thing he does is sniff him out to discover whether he is friend or foe. First he smells the rear; then he smells the face.

When your dog props his paws on your chest or shoulders, he is trying to get in position to smell your breath. He can tell whether it’s you for sure, and what you’ve been eating that he might get some of!

You can often tell immediately whether a dog cares for your company by noticing the position of his lips. When he draws the corners of his lips forward, he is feeling distinctly antisocial. He may become aggressive and could attack, especially if he has drawn his lips open to show his teeth. However, when he pulls back horizontally so that he appears to be grinning, he is expressing his friendliness or submissiveness.

When he feels very submissive, he will smile like a simpleton. He looks like he’s feeling silly and has lots of waggle. A few dogs are capable of the mimic grin, something they have learned from humans and display only to humans. They retract their lips to show their front teeth in a wide toothpaste smile.

A dog that uses those teeth to chew up your slippers may be telling you that he is unhappy. A chewing dog is a fretting dog. A pet that gets a lot of attention otherwise, but is left shut in the house alone all day will fret in this manner. When he is lonely and unhappy, and he wants something done now then he becomes like a hyperactive child. He’s liable to chew up everything in the house eventually.

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4 | Read Part 5

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