Articles - Dog Language
Caroline Kjall at DogBasics
are so many misunderstandings between dog and human, still today,
despite all the knowledges we have about our dogs history, their
needs and their language. I can only assume that this is because
the knowledge just hasn't spread out far enough. So here is a lesson
in dog language.
of confidence: erect stance (standing tall), tail up,
tail wagging in slow sweeps, ears pricked up or relaxed, pronounced
chest, direct undeterred look, relaxed, smaller pupils. A dog
that is feeling confident will show it by making himself larger,
looking more powerful.
of fear or concern: lowered stance, tail down or tucked
under, tail wagging quickly, looking away or turning head away
to look so that whites of eyes show, dilated pupils. Fearful
or submissive dogs try to appear smaller and more puppy like.
Adult dogs will chastise puppies, but they do not attack them.
The approach to a more dominant individual is likely to be from
the side, crouching low with the tail held low and wagging enthusiastically.
He may also try to lick the face of the dominant dog or the hands
of a person and if this is not sufficiently appeasing, he might
then roll on to his back to expose his groin. In this position,
some dogs may pass a small volume of urine. Barking can be a
sign of fear, an attempt to keep a distance between themselves
and the scary object, especially if they are cornered,
fenced in or on a leash.
of arousal or nervousness: Dogs that are aroused/slightly
nervous will often have their hair stand on end, usually the "hackles,"
the areas over the shoulders and just before the tail. This doesn't
necessarily mean aggression, just that they are on high alert. Some
dogs get "raised hackles" more easily than others.
body postures: Standing over another dog (the dominant
dogs head is over the other dogs neck, also called the T-shape
or squaring up. Sometimes it is a paw that is placed over the
other dogs neck), standing tall and quite stiff, calmly accepting
other dogs licking at their lips, staring. Some confident, dominant
dogs will roll on their backs, exposing their bellies, in an
attempt to reassure a more shy or submissive dog, or to get that
other dog to play. They will be relaxed when they do that, and
usually still look the other dog in the eye. Sometimes mounting
another dog is a sign of dominance, but not always. This gesture
can also be used by a lower-ranking dog to try to demonstrate
his allegiance with a higher-ranking animal.
body postures: lowered head and body, allowing other
dogs to stand over them, licking other dogs' lips and mouth corners,
looking away from the other dog, rolling on back and craning
head away from other dog, while covering their genitalia by tucking
their tail in.
that among dogs, the hierarchies are usually maintained and demonstrated
very casually and almost always by more submissive members of the
pack. Very high-ranking animals very seldom demonstrate their rank,
unless they lack confidence. Most demonstrations and almost all
fights that occur over rank are done by the middle-ranking or unconfident
taken from 'How to Speak Dog' by Stanley Coren: "Forcing
the dog onto its back is the equivalent of an abusive parent
beating a child to force it to say, 'I love you.' Although he
or she may have forced the words out of the child's mouth, they
cannot force the statement to be true.... Forcing a dog into
a submissive position is the dog world equivalent of this scenario.
Even worse, this technique may actually anger the dog enough
to provoke it to attack. "
a dog into an alpha roll, or shaking the dog, both constitute
physical aggression. Physical aggression is not communication.
If there is good communication, then such confrontations need
people would recognise that loose, free tail wagging that is a
typical sign of pleasure and general friendliness. Exaggerated
tail wagging, which extends to the entire rump, may be seen in
submissive and nervous dogs - as well as those dogs with very short
tails (Spaniels for example).
is also an indicator for other emotions. A tail waved slowly and
stiffly, in line with the back, expresses anger. Clamped low over
the dog's hindquarters, it is a sign that the dog is afraid. Anxious
or nervous dogs may stiffly wag their drooping tails as a sign
way for dogs to carry their tails have been modified through breeding
and docking. Some breeds, such as the Whippet and the Italian Greyhound
naturally carry their tail in the clamped down position, but in
general, a tail held at higher than 45 degrees to the spine expresses
interest and alertness.
It is incredible that we are still mutilating dogs this way. It
is like we would cut peoples tongues off… The tongue is one
of the most important tools we have to communicate with and so
is the dogs tail to a dog. I would urge you to be very selective
when you get your next puppy, so that you don't take a puppy with
a docked tail, ears or dew claws. As most modern Vets will tell
you, there is no health reason for docking (unless the dog has
actually injured his tail), just a cosmetic one. Please go to Emma
- the Vet's site and join the petition against docking.
ears are pricked when he is alert or listening intently, but are
held back or flattened onto the head when expressing submission
or fear. To read his mood correctly, you must watch for other body
signals at the same time. Some dogs have stand up ears and some
have floppy ears and you need to learn how to read both.
eyes may be narrowed or half-closed in pleasure or submission,
but are wide open when aggressive. In the wild, the pack leader
can maintain control simply by staring at a subordinate dog. The
two animals will continue to stare at each other until one challenges
the other or until one lowers his head and turns away. If the staring
continues after the submissive dog has looked away, he will feel
confused and may bite out of fear. If eye contact is not broken,
the dominant dog will reinforce his threat by snarling, growling
or even attack. You should not try to outstare your dog if he has
aggressive or nervous tendencies as this could provoke an attack.
Nevertheless, regular, gentle eye contact with his owner is reassuring
for your dog and will reinforce your relationship.
and Play Invitations
Since dog-dog play is very similar to serious things like fighting,
hunting and reproducing, dogs have good ritualistic ways of demonstrating
that their intentions are peaceful and fun-loving. Dog play is often
initiated by a play invitation like a play bow or pawing the air
(especially with puppies), and it seems to say, "None of the
biting, stalking, or humping I'm about to do is serious, this is
just fun, OK?"
play. Even when dogs play very roughly, they are usually
fairly relaxed; their lips usually cover their teeth (not drawn
back in a snarl). Dogs often bark in play; this will usually
be higher-pitched than that same dog's fear-bark or warning-bark.
dogs get too aroused, you might want to intervene. If your dog
is getting overwhelmed or is overwhelming someone else, invite
them to take a short break. No punishment is necessary: it's just
a breather, not a penalty.
dogs will mount each other in play. They are often excited, but
not in a sexual way, and it seems to be a way to bond. It is occasionally
a show of dominance, but not always. Some dogs appear to mount
high-ranking dogs in an attempt to find their place in a group
that is much more complicated than a straight-line hierarchy.
- fact or fiction? by Barry Eaton
Language by Roger Abrantes
to speak Dog by Stanley Coren
other end of the leash by Patricia B. McConnell