Dog Body Language 101
I really wish my dog could talk to me – or maybe it’s a good thing she doesn’t. I’d never hear the end of how she’s hungry again or how there MIGHT be someone at the door but she’s not sure. Even though she doesn’t talk, she definitely does communicate with me! All dogs communicate using their body language and as humans, we can interpret how our dogs are feeling based on the signals or dogs are giving us. Below are a few signals you may see your own dog give you or other dogs:
Circle Tail Wag or “Helicopter Tail”
This behaviour is when your dog wags their tail by rotating at the base causing the tip to draw big circles, much like a helicopter! This means your dog is super happy and is usually given when playing or when the see someone they haven’t seen in a long time!
Lip Licking and Yawning
These two behaviours can usually be seen displayed at a similar sign. Most dogs will lick their lips when there is food around, however if there isn’t food around and your dog is licking his lips, this is his way of telling everyone he is uncomfortable with his the situation. This is the same as yawning. Of course, if you’re sitting at home watching tv and your pooch yawns, hes probably just tired, but if you’re sitting in the waiting room at the vet and he yawns, it is more likely to be because he is a bit nervous. If you see either of these behaviours in your dog, have a look around and see if you can spot anything that may be making your dog uncomfortable.
Hackles Up or Piloerection
Hackles is the term for the hair that stands up from time to time on the back of our dogs from the shoulders to the base of the tail. For a long time, we thought that a dog having his Hackles Up means that he is or will be aggressive however this is not always the case. A dogs hackles are an involuntary reflex, just like we can’t control when we get goosebumps, and it just shows that your dog is in an alert state. If you see your dog with his hackles up, see if you can spot what he is interested in.
I love this one! Play bows are usually dispayed when dogs are trying to initiate play with each other. It is when they will drop their front legs down as if they are going to lie down, but their rears will stay in the air, usually with a tail wagging flat out! If you haven’t seen a play bow, check out our CCC Logo, that’s what a play bow looks like! This is usually seen in puppies that are trying to get another dog to play with them!
Yip, even your dog looking away is a signal! This usually means that they are uncomfortable with the situation and by looking away, they are trying to ignore it. For example, when our dogs think they are in trouble, the will not make eye contact with us, they will usually move away and look away from us. This is them saying “Please, I don’t want any trouble!” but as humans, we sometimes interpret this as guilt.
Fun fact: No studies have confirmed that dogs have the mental or emotional capacity to feel guilt. So for example, you come home and find your favourite shoes torn up on the floor and you know who did it – “FIDO!” You find Fido sitting in a corner and won’t look at you. To humans, this seems super guilty, but to Fido, he is just trying to stay out of your way so he doesn’t get punished while you’re angry. He is reacting to your behaviour now, rather than feeling guilty for what he did hours ago.
For dog body language, this is just the tip of the ice berg! There are so many other parts of the body to look at for signals but these few are some great ones to start with! For more information on dog body language, or if you would like to discuss behaviours that your dog displays, feel free to get in contact with our knowledgeable team members at CCC!