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Canine Body Language


Learning to read your dogs body language can help you understand how he/she is feeling. This will enable you to make the best choices for both you and your pet.

What’s this look all about?

What his/her eyes are saying:

Larger pupils and direct eye contact with you, another person, or another dog is a warning sign your pet is feeling aggressive and possibly gearing for an attack. If aimed at you, back away slowly, avoid running or making direct eye contact. If directed at another dog, try removing one or both animals to calm the situation.

Refusing to make eye contact or avoiding your eyes is a submissive or frightened response. This signals that the dog is unsure of you or trying to avoid an unpleasant exchange.

Squinty eyes can mean a couple things. If they are squinty, sad and the sclera (the white part) is red or yellow, this can mean your dog is not feeling well. Squinty eyes, on their own can also be a sign of pleasure, like when you scratching his/her belly or behind their ears.

What his/her tail is saying:

Tail between his/her legs and crouched low to the ground is a submissive tail. This usually means he/she is shy/unsure or frightened. It could be your pet is just timid by nature, or your pet could just be letting another dog know he/she acknowledges their dominance and does not wish to fight.

A high stiff tail means your pet is uncomfortable and taking caution. The higher and stiffer the tail, the more tense your pet is. Try comforting your dog as a tense animal may become an aggressive animal if they feel threatened.

A fast wagging tail is usually an indication of a happy pet. A circular wagging tail signifies excitement and the need for attention. Keep in mind, a tense animal with a straight, slowly wagging tail can also signify aggression and/or dominance.

Reading his/her ears:

Ears and head both erect with small movements is a sign of a relaxed pet. Playful/friendly ears are similar but with a slight head tilt and wagging tail.

Ears that are perked up, facing forward, with a stiff tail and possibly raised back fur can signal aggression. This is usually from your pet exerting dominance and means he/she could be preparing to lunge.

Ears pressed down on the head are signaling fear and means your dog is frightened or unsure of his/her surroundings. This may be accompanied by the submissive tail and eyes.

Hopefully reading this body language tells and putting them together can help you better understand what your pet is feeling. Best of luck!

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