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How and when a dog barks tells us a lot about how they might be feeling. An aggressive, loud bark, for example, is a signal that someone or something strange is approaching our “territory” while a playful bark is a “Hello!” While it’s easy to decipher a dog’s verbal language, it’s more difficult to read their body language. When we understand what our dog is saying we gain knowledge as to how he is feeling. We can easily tell when our dog is stressed or ill or when he is happy and he wants to play. Here are a few things to look for that will help you determine the mood of your dog:
Ears up but not forward is positive because it means your dog is content and relaxed. This is a good time to play and interact with him.
Ears up and forward means he has detected a noise and is paying attention to a possible threat. Proceed with caution.
Ears in the shape of a V it means your dog is best left alone. He is not afraid to be aggressive if challenged.
Ears back means one of three things: He is stressed, he is worried or he is very afraid of something. In all three situations, it’s best to leave your dog alone until he is once again calm and relaxed.
A tail that is pointing down is a good sign that your dog is content and approachable. He senses no threats within his “territory.” If he wags his tail, he is happy and wants to play. He is also saying “Hello!”
A tail that is horizontal or moving from side to side means that he has detected a noise or a threat within his “territory.” He will determine whether or not to take action against the threat.
If his tail is still says “I’m not afraid to become aggressive if I am challenged.”
A tail that is tucked between his legs it means he is afraid of something.
If his tail is down he is stressed, upset or worried.
If his tail is down and he rolls on his back, he is extremely scared. He might also be acting in a submissive manner.
When your dog has his mouth open and his tongue is hanging out, it means he is relaxed and content. He is in a playful mood and may bark in an excited manor.
When your dogs’ mouth is closed, it means he is alert and checking out a possible threat. He’s not quite ready to spring into action just yet.
When his lips are curled and his nose is wrinkled he is letting you know that he will act if he is threatened or challenged.
When his lips are curled and his teeth are visible he is ready to act. He has sensed danger and is not afraid to defend his territory at this time. His nose might also be wrinkled.
When you see your dog panting and his pupils are dilated it means your dog is stressed. He’s stressed because of the circumstances going around him, he doesn’t feel threatened by a person or another animal.
When he licks the air he is fearful and worried about dominance. He might also lick the face of another dog in order to pacify a dog that might have a higher social status.
When your dog is lying on his back with his mouth closed, it means he has given in to that of a dominant dog. He is trying to avoid confrontation with that dog.
While the ears, tail and mouth say a lot about your dogs’ body language you can also interpret a lot by paying attention to his forehead, his legs, and his paws. To read more about dog body language, go to http://www.moderndogmagazine.com.
Another good resource for dog body language is dog trainer Victoria Stillwell. Stillwell has her own site, http://www.positively.com. On her site she has a three-hour course entitled “Inside Your Dog’s Mind.” She also has a blog, articles, and the latest in dog news.
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