“Dogs that bark don’t bite”. You’ve probably heard this saying before, but is that really true? Of course, dogs that bark also bite. Not every dog that wags its tail is happy. There are a number of errors and misunderstandings about dog communication. In order to be able to deal with your four-legged friend appropriately, it is important to understand him.
In this post, you’ll learn about the ways dogs express themselves and how they can help you learn more about their mood.
Read and understand dog language
Oh, how nice it would be if your dog could express what’s on his mind and how many misunderstandings could be avoided in this way. Biting incidents often occur because dog’s language was not understood or misinterpreted. The same goes for any other canine communication.
It is important to understand their language, whether they are aggressive or soft dogs. It happens when people put their dog in situations that it cannot cope with and which cause him great stress. How dogs behave in such a situation differ from one to another. For example, One dog involved in the conflict wants to escape a stressful situation as quickly as possible while the other becomes aggressive.
When you’re playing with your dog, how do you know what was initially fun has suddenly turned serious for him and his mood changes? Even when romping around with fellows, the funny race can suddenly turn into a hunting behavior that is no longer fun for the hunted.
These situations require that you perceive your dog’s behavior and interpret them correctly. But how does your dog talk to you? On the one hand via his body language and on the other via sounds.
Dog’s body language
Your dog’s overall posture or body behavior is one factor that can tell you about his mood. For example, if your dog licks its nose, this can be a sign of appeasement, but it can also simply mean that he licks something away. So the meaning of your dog body language depends on the context.
Dogs are totally different in their appearance. Some have prick ears, others have floppy ears. Some have a long curling tail, others only a very short one or none at all. Some dogs have thick, long fur on their faces so that their facial expressions are hardly recognizable, while others show them clearly.
The following descriptions can only serve as a guide and depend heavily on the respective external appearance of the dogs.
Basically it can be said that:
- an anxious dog will be more backward and downward in their body language. He wants to appease and escape what scares him.
- an aggressive dog tends to have an upward and forward posture. He is ready to attack and expel whatever threatens him.
To spot these differences, you first need to know what your dog looks like when he’s relaxed. What is the position of his ears? What is his posture like?
The more precisely you know this, the better you recognize deviations from this relaxed state.
To read dog body language, you can watch various videos and examine them in detail. Watch movies of dogs playing, fighting, scared, or aggressive. The advantage is that you can watch the videos over and over again without being involved. At the beginning you start filming your own dog, later you can also film and watch other dogs.
Bent ears, prick ears, floppy ears, they all look completely different and yet the subtleties in the posture can be seen on closer inspection. A dog with long lop ears may point them forward or backward less clearly than one with prick ears. Here you have to pay more attention to the root of the ear to see changes.
Depending on where the ears are pointed – backwards or forwards – they indicate that your dog has noticed something from that direction. Back-facing ears can be a sign of fear, insecurity, or submission, while forward-facing ears can signal superiority or aggressiveness.
The lips can also change quite a bit, from hanging loosely to being curled or pulled back. Lips that pulls back can indicate fear and insecurity. If your dog shows his teeth, he may want to threaten you, but it can also be a kind of “soothing smile”.
Does your dog avert his gaze and do his eyes appear smaller? Or is he staring at something and knitting his eyebrows ? The former is more indicative of insecurity or fear, and the later- aggression. In order not to provoke a confrontation, you should therefore avoid prolonged direct eye contact with unfamiliar dogs.
“A wagging tail means the dog is happy.” This is clearly a mistake. If the dog is wagging, it just means it is excited. However, excitement can be positive as well as negative.
Does a dog come running towards you completely stiffly, fix you with his gaze and make small wagging movements? Then you probably have to be more careful here. However, if the wagging is loose and excessive, then it looks better.
Here are a few more pointers for you:
- A stiff tail pointing upwards can express provocation, but also attention.
- A pinched tail indicates fear or insecurity.
- A rigid tail placed horizontally to the ground can be understood as threatening behavior. In this case, the dog is under a lot of tension.
- If a dog holds its tail between his legs up to the belly, it is expressing strong defensive behavior.
The dog’s speech
In addition to physical behavior, a dog can also express itself through sounds. Sounds don’t just mean barking, but also the many other noises that a dog can make. You may have heard a dog scream in fear or squeak in joy.
A dog that is aggressive will bark differently than one that is happy. Nevertheless, in both cases it is barking. You can tell the difference in pitch. An aggressive dog will have a deeper bark, while a high-pitched bark is more indicative of a friendly mood.
beeping or squeaking
a squeaking puppy may be trying to appease you. Excitement or stress can also be the reason why an adult dog whines.
Some dogs do it when they see another dog they really want to meet or even when they discover something to hunt. Others squeak when tense. Sometimes your dog squeaks because it really needs to go outside for a pee.
It would be nice if the whine had a clear meaning, wouldn’t it? But here, too, it is the same as with the other sounds: it depends on the context. Maybe your dog is frustrated because he can’t reach his favorite toy, or he’s excited because he’s about to go for a walk, or something hurts him so he’s nervous or he’s scared. Whining can also occur in old, senile dogs because they can no longer orient themselves and are unsettled as a result. Whining in dogs can also escalate to howling.
It’s not a real bark, more like a short, muffled bark. Dogs woof when they hear or perceive something and wants to draw attention to it. They seems attentive and always take a short break between woofs and sometimes looks around at you. Oftentimes, dogs will woof as a form of warning to indicate a possible threat or danger.
Dogs growl to express that they feels threatened and want the trigger to keep its distance. However, some dogs also growl when playing, for example when tugging. Whether it is an aggressive growl or a play growl, you’ll need to pay attention to his other behavior. The higher and steeper his tail is pointed, the more likely he is in an aggressive mood.
Our dogs are masters at reading our body language. They usually know what we want from them before we even say it.
In order to live together harmoniously and trustingly and to avoid misunderstandings, it is necessary to learn to understand the language of your beloved dog. The better you can do this, the better you can help him to find his way in our world and avoid problems.
Do you understand your dog’s language? What have been your biggest misunderstandings? As always, we look forward to every comment!