Dog Communication Body language

Dogs rely to a great extent on body language to communicate with each other and with us. Whereas we use words to make out intentions and emotions clear, dogs resort to body posture and you can learn a lot about your dog by watching him closely.

Reading the signs:
By regular observation of your dog’s body language, postures and facial expressions, you will be able to find out more about his behavior and character and learn to recognize what he is trying to communicate to you. There are some universal postures that most dogs adopt, as outlined below.

Happy posture:
A happy dog appears relaxed and calm and wags his tail, and sometimes his rear end, too, in greeting when he sees you. He may even press back his ears and pull back the corners of his mouth in a smile.

Fearful posture:
A fearful dog will look defensive with his head high, ears drawn back and his tail down. He may pant or yawn excessively and show the whites of his eyes. The pupils may be wide open with a reddish tinge. In some dogs, the hackles along the spine are raised.

Confident posture:
A confident dog has an erect posture, holding his head and tail high. He will be friendly, self – assured and popular with other dogs and people. He does not need to use aggression to get what he wants.

Submissive posture:
A submissive posture dog will often curl up small or roll over on to his back in the presence of a dog or person whom he perceives as superior within the pack.

Aggressive posture:
An aggressive dog often adopts a still, rigid posture before he attacks. He may stare hard at the object of his anger, his pupils may dilate and his hackles rise.

Playful posture:
A playful dog will often drop down into a ‘play bow’ with his front legs flat on the floor and his rear end raised and tail wagging frantically.

Dogs need tails:
It has been customary for some dogs to have their tails docked as puppies; either for reasons of fashion and appearance or because they are working breeds whose tails may get damaged. However, thankfully, this practice is now being outlawed and fewer dogs are having their tails docked. A dog with a full tail, as nature intended, possesses a very valuable means of communicating with humans as well as other dogs.

Tail positions:
A tail can be wagged in pleasure, particularly when greeting someone, but if it is held out stiffly behind a dog it usually denotes an aggressive posture. When a dog with a tail that is normally ‘teapot handle style’ is truly happily relaxed, the tail will straighten out, all except for the last tiny curl.