Body language is a dog’s main form of communication, so it’s really important that we learn how to understand them.
Many people know that if a dog’s ears are flat against their head, it means they’re not comfortable or happy. However, there are many different ear positions that, in conjunction with the tail position and movement, will tell you how your dog is feeling. Staring directly into a dog’s eyes can be threatening – brief eye contact is fine, but staring is to be avoided.
The other parts of the body to check in with are the tail, mouth, face and general body stance. When you have learnt to interpret all of the different body parts individually, you can start to combine them. The overall picture of the dog will reveal a great deal about how they are feeling. This will make life better for both you and your dog.
Common signs of stress or fear include:
- Frequent blinking
- Lip licking
- Turning their head away
- Showing the white part of their eye
If you see these signs, your dog is asking for space and it’s time to take a break.
Be careful regarding interactions with other people, especially children. Your dog may need time to get used to strangers and children, but also, children must be taught how to behave safely around dogs. As a general rule, children should never be left unsupervised around dogs.
Some important lessons from your dog for children to understand include:
- Please don’t hug or cuddle me, especially around the neck
- Please don’t kiss me or nuzzle your face near mine (this also avoids being licked on the face or mouth which can transfer worms)
- Please don’t pat me on the head or touch or pat me whilst I am laying down and especially when I am sleeping
- Please don’t approach me when I am eating
- Please don’t tease me or play roughly
Never punish your dog when they growl, as this is intended as a warning. If it is suppressed due to punishment, then no warning may be given next time, i.e. your dog may bite.