Watch Tip: Learn Dog Body Language

Posted on August 13th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip Logo Watch Tip for the week of Aug. 14

Learn how to read dog body language to make better decisions when interacting with dogs in daily life. Your dog’s eyes, mouth, lips, ears, hair, tail, posture and vocalizations all offer important clues to your dog’s emotional state, and they work together to provide a complete picture. Be a knowledgeable observer of dog behavior. This line of study is extremely interesting and rewarding to dog lovers and is guaranteed to enrich life with your dog. Start today!

Imagine knowing how to react to these situations safely…

  • You are walking through a busy city neighborhood and a large unfamiliar collarless dog bounces up to you.
  • You visit a neighbor’s home and their crouching dog growls at you in the foyer.
  • Your dog trots up to an unfamiliar dog in the dog park and that dog stares at your dog, one paw raised.

Did you know that a wagging tail does not automatically mean friendliness? That yawning does not mean the dog is sleepy? That raised hackles does not always indicate aggression? Much of the common wisdom we hear about dogs is simply untrue. Dog language is complex; they are a very social species with evolved communication skills. Study dog body language using the publications listed below. Observe dogs and their owners at vet clinics, events, training classes, and try to predict what will happen next. Exchange thoughts of your observances with others; the storytelling will entertain you both for hours!

Get a start online:
View Jean Donaldson’s video series on dog body language. (Click on “All” to see the list of 7.)
Read the ASPCA’s article on canine body language.
Read Best Friend’s Sherry Woodward’s article on Dog Body Language.

Patricia B. McConnell has published the book “For The Love of A Dog; Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend.” This is a must-read for students of dog body language. You’ll enjoy the photos comparing dog expressions with similar human expressions. Her book “The Other End of the Leash” is another treasure.

“The Whole Dog Journal” Vol. 14 No. 8 features an article by Pat Miller, “Listening By Looking.”  An abbreviated version is available online but the complete article is packed with photos. Get a copy or better yet a subscription. This is a publication that no serious dog lover should be without.

You might have heard about “being the pack leader” as a strategy to gain obedience from your dog. Be aware that the dominance model of dog behavior (based on the social hierarchies of wolves) has been called into question. Dogs are very different from wolves. Read more here: Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animal from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.

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