How do I understand my dog better? That’s a question that we come across a lot on the internet – and even from some of our readers. So we thought it would be best to address the question with a comprehensive guide on all the ways your dog will try and communicate with you.
Behaviour is something that can be easy to learn and tricky at the same time. You definitely don’t have to be a dog expert to notice the difference between growling and a wagging tail.
If you’re looking for ways to better understand your dog, it all begins with understanding their different states as this is how they can display mood, emotion and temper. Communication plays just about the biggest part of understanding your dog and covers the majority of methods that involve reading your dog.
To kick off it’s important to note the 4 key states of your dog, these are; Aggressive, Anxious, Excited and Submissive. It is possible for some of these states to merge together in certain circumstances (i.e. excited-submissive would be when your dog is excessively wagging their tailing in anticipation of a treat.
Let’s start with aggression as this can be one of the most damaging states for your dog and tends to have a negative impact on the rest of the household.
- Raised Hair | Certain dogs may like to play aggressively. The most effective way to differentiate genuine anger from playful anger is to check the back of their neck. If their hair is raised and stiff this is a clear sign of anger and aggression.
- Tense Tail | A tense tail that is wagging can actually be showing playful behaviour. However, a tall and rigid tail can potentially suggest a bad temper and you may want to leave your dog alone for a while.
- Closed Mouth | This shows that something is holding your dog’s attention. This could mean general discomfort but if the distraction happens to be another dog, it could result in aggressive behaviour.
It’s always nice to see our pooch in a good mood, so we reckon this is one of the best attitudes for your dog! And here are the signs to help you detect it.
- Full-Body Shake | Extremely hard to miss. Your dog will be wagging from left to right along with their tail. This is a very clear sign of excitement and enjoyment and is definitely one of the more noticeable signs of excitement.
- Bowing | Typically used a signal to initiate play between dogs, your dog will put their chest to the ground while keeping their back legs up. They will use this signal to play for both dogs and humans.
- Happy Barking | Whether your dog regularly barks or not you can tell the difference between a happy bark and an aggressive bark simply by the pitch of the bark. If they’re happy this will be a high pitch compared to the low pitch of an aggressive bark. Lastly, it shouldn’t last too long and just be a short expression of happiness.
Dog’s will be submissive to their owners most of the time, but more so when there’s a treat involved!
- Licks Lips or Nose | Dog’s lick their nose to keep their nose moist which enhances their smell. They can’t really stop themselves from doing this when you’re waving a treat in front of them!
- Relaxed Tail | A dog that is feeling submissive won’t show too much emotion with their tail and it will be nothing more than passive and relaxed.
- Good Behaviour | If you associate treats with good behaviour (i.e. sitting, lying down, jumping) your dog will learn that with good behaviour comes rewards and will begin resorting to a default reaction to something like a toy or a treat.
No-one wants to see their dog struggling with anxiety, and if you haven’t got the time to read our guide to detecting anxiety in dogs, then we’ve included some of the key telltale signs below.
- Tail between legs | This would suggest your dog is in shame or is fearful. If they’re feeling uncomfortable they will resort to this as they want to feel as small as possible, which happens to include curling their tail between their legs.
- Shivering | Shivering and shaking can vary from your dog being excited to ill to full-on terrified. What you need to do is work out if it’s a common occurrence or if it’s only triggered by certain situations. Trembling around certain people, objects or animals may show that your dog is suffering from some past trauma.
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- Ears pinned to head | If your dog is feeling scared or anxious – similar to them putting their tail between their legs, this is another emotion they will display if they are feeling anxious.
Some other visible actions.
- Jumping up | Dogs will jump up to you when you come home as a sign of affection and excitement.
- Climbing up on furniture | You may just think your pooch is trying to get comfortable, but don’t get mistaken! This can be a sign that your dog is trying to show authority or dominance and should be addressed before it escalates.
- Chewing | Your dog will chew on many things as a puppy and will eventually settle down as they grow older. If you notice they chew a lot as an adult this may be a sign of anxiety, as dogs chew on parts like their feet for comfort.
Whoa, there dog expert! How does it feel to be a master at reading your dog? Feels pretty good, eh?
You can now confidently understand your dog’s emotions and feelings and then address the situation accordingly. Whether the little guy is just feeling a bit anxious or he’s just super excited to see you, you’ll be able to tell the difference between the separate moods!
Let us know over on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if we helped you get one step closer to becoming a master of the dogs!