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Learning to Speak Dog Language

Learning to speak dog language is not that hard, but you need to know a few basic things to be good at it! Speaking dog is all about identifying dog body language. In fact, this is crucial for anyone who may encounter a stray or unfamiliar dog. 

Obviously dogs don't use words to communicate like we do. However, they do have a language and they are able to express how they feel and tell us what they need or want. Learning to speak dog is part of the bonding process. Most behavior problems are based on the fact that we can't understand them, or because we completely misunderstand them. Some people actually expect them to learn how to interact with us but don't feel the need to learn to understand them.  We often misinterpret their language and this can be dangerous. 

Here is a look at basic dog language.

  • Aggression:
    This is one of the easiest things to recognize. An aggressive dog will have it's ears back flat against his head, have the
    hair on it's back raised and his body will be stiff with its  tail straight out or raised slightly. The dog may also verbalize it's intentions by growling and showing it's teeth. 

  • Dominance:
    Dominance is often confused with aggression. Dominant dogs still may growl or bark, but the hair on their back will be down and the ears will be erect or tilted forward. In a dominate state, the dogs eyes will be WIDE open and the tail will be pointed up and slowly wagging. The other main sign will be that the dog's mouth will be closed and the head may be slightly down or level with the shoulder blades.

  • Fearful:
    A fearful dog will cower trying to look smaller. It will avoid eye contact and may even try to move away. It's tall will be pinned between it's legs. When approached, the dog way quiver, show it's teeth and growl.

  • Shy:
    Shy dogs will show hesitation, may cower slightly and will put it's head down and turn away. It will often avoid eye contact the way a fearful dog does. Shy dogs may try to avoid physical contact and may also wine slightly when approached. 

  • Happy:
    Happy dogs are the easiest ones to spot. Their ears are forward, their tails are wagging and
    the mouth is open slightly but teeth are not visible. They may also be panting excitedly, bouncing around, excitedly circling, spinning and even yipping. When they want to play, they will bow down with their front legs extended, and their tail will be wagging quickly or around in circles. 

This is a look at some of the common body language cue's that dogs give. 

Dogs who are acting aggressive of fearful are more likely to bite and should be left alone. If you are approached by an aggressive of fearful it is important that you do NOT panic or show fear. If you show panic or fear you are showing weakness and you increase your chances of being attacked. 

Some dogs can be very covert and subtle in their body language while others can be very transparent.  If you are not sure about how a dog is acting, you should slowly walk away without turning your back to the dog. A child should NEVER approach a strange dog when the owner, parent or guardian is not there. This goes for dogs that are behaving normally as well as those who are not. For the sake of safety, you should always ask the owner if it is OK to approach ANY dog no matter how cute it is.

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