Animal Behavior: What is My Dog Saying?
by C. Bailey-Lloyd
Dogs are quite amiable creatures. Much like our human counterparts, their speech is often amplified by their body movements and facial expressions. If you haven't done so yet, carefully study your dog's eyes. Watch his eyebrow motions. Often times, we don't hear them speaking because we're too busy not paying attention to their eye motions. When your dog is facing you and his eyes shift suddenly back and forth, he's telling you that he wants something. Whether it's, "...hey, Mom - let's play,", "...come follow me, I want to show you something," or "...I need to go pee;" well - that's up to the individual animal himself.
Sometimes, dogs will look at you from the corner of their eye, will loudly yawn and fall to the ground. This is an obvious sign that they're bored and they want attention. Your attention.
Some dogs are rather bold with their sign language and will literally come up to you and place their paw on your leg, arm or hand. She'll either gently tap you or downright pounce on you. When she taps you - again - watch her eye movements. Are her eyes focused in one particular direction? Maybe the door, the empty water bowel or the dog food bag? Or after she taps you, does she press the side of her body against you? If she does, she wants to be stroked and loved. If she pounces on you with her paws, this is usually a sense of urgency. This usually means she wants to play rough or she needs to go outside and inspect the premises.
One of my favorite communication signals from dogs is when they lie on their backs, usually with forearms bent at the joints. This is the common "white flag" signal. What does "white flag" signal mean? Well, when dogs play with other dogs, this is their way of saying to one another, "...okay, I give up - you win, you're the leader..." But when they lie on their backs for you, it's even more telling. This means that they are submitting. You are the master and they willingly acknoweldge this to you. In general, when dogs lie with their backs toward you, this means that they are quite content and totally comfortable in their surroundings.
Don't be fooled by the wagging tail. Generally, dogs will wag their tails when excitable. But it's how they wag their tails that tells us exactly what they're feeling. When a dog wags his tail, along with his entire body, he's usually happy and excited. When a dog wags only his tail with short, fast strokes, this can sometimes show a sign of aggression or fear. When dogs meet other dogs for the first time, you will notice this short, fast-stroke tail wag as well. This can either mean that they are unsure of the other animal, or that they're going to become aggressive. Either way, be watchful of this "tail-tell" sign.
Another body language sign to look for is in the ears. When a dog's ears are back and flat against their skull, this can mean one of two things: 1) If accompanied by a full-body tail wag, they're happy to see you, or 2) if coupled with their tail between their legs, they're afraid.
One animal behavior that many folks despise is the chewing and destruction of personal belongings. This, too is animal speech. What most humans don't know is that aside from the destruction of personal property, dogs tend to chew things from their people owners, whom they like the most. Yes, I said, "whom they like the most." Dogs are fairly picky when it comes to chewing shoes, clothing, etc. When there are more persons in a household, dogs will specifically seek out personal items of people that they consider to be their master. Although this is not the nicest trait of animals, just remember that when you're scolding Rex that he only did it because he loves you.
In closing, dogs are the most telepathic lifeforms on earth. When you feel sad, they feel sad with you. When you are angry, they try to disolve the situation with their loving and pawing. When you're happy, they feel your happiness with you. Observe your animals, they are picking up on your emotions more than you may think. And always, love your animals - they're here only a little while...perhaps to teach us the most vital communication skill in the world - the ability to listen.
Animal Behavior: What is My Dog Saying?
© 2004 - All Rights Reserved
C. Bailey-Lloyd/Lady Camelot Public Relations' Director
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