Unlike humans, dogs are not vocal species. They do not chatter away to tell their pet parents what they need. Rather, they try to get their message across through their body language. Unfortunately, many pet parents are not adept in understanding their buddies by simply reading their body signs. This leads to confusion and misunderstanding, which may ultimately weaken that strong canine-human bond.
For dog lovers like you, it would help a lot to understand some body language your dog is evidently using to get his point across:
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His head held up, ears pointing sharply upright, a teeth-revealing lip curl
The dog is trying to warn everyone about their need to back off. This warning can be especially serious when the dog makes a direct and hard eye contact. This means that the dog feels he or his guardian is being threatened, and he is in the point of biting and attacking the threat. During this moment, it is important for you to intervene to avoid any untoward incident.
Ears pointing upright, head held up, eyes focused
The dog is trying to pay his attention to what he is seeing, smelling, or hearing. Oftentimes, dogs naturally focus all his attention on something that is interesting or unknown to detect any possible threat for him and his guardian. You can also sense that your dog tries to point his ears up and tilt his head whenever you are talking. Steven Lindsay, a dog behavior consultant who wrote the Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior, says dogs tilt their head and point their ears upward in order to hear and understand better. He is also trying to search for familiar cues that prompt for rewards, such as a brief walk in the park, or a tasty treat.
Barking with soft face, drooping ears, and closed eyes
It means that your dog senses something of interest and wants to tell you about it, but without any real threat or seriousness. The dog’s soft facial features and relaxed ears mean he does not feel threatened or anxious, and might be trying to tell you that he’s ready for a leisure walk or a fetching game in the park.
Tucked tail, wrinkled nose, slightly curled lips, eyes wide open, hackles raised
This is the dog’s frightened look. It means that the he is under intense threat and is feeling anxious. However, being frightened does not mean being submissive, as he is ready to attack the individual or animal who is threatening him. His slightly curled lips and the commissures (corners of the mouth) slightly pulled back mean he is ready to bark and bite anytime.
Lowered tail that may slightly wag, lowered body, commissures pulled back, quick glances, ears pulled back, smooth face
The dog is trying to communicate that he is in complete surrender with a higher ranking individual (or animal). His fearful and submissive look tells that he is trying to appease the individual of higher status to avoid possible confrontation and challenge. His body is leaning slightly backward to make way for a fast retreat.
Tail wagging up high, ears up, mouth open, eyes wide open, bent forepaws, front body lowered
This is an invitation to play. Oftentimes, dog maintains such position before running towards the individual or in some random direction. This dog’s happy mood may also be accompanied with random barks, and teasing gestures such as playfully jumping at you.
There are many ways to understand your dog, and reading their body language is one of them. By knowing how your dog reacts when they are stressed, frightened, annoyed, threatened, or ready to play, you will know how to react appropriately and intervene with any possible unpleasant situation. After all, knowing how your dog reacts naturally to different circumstances would provide you a sophisticated way in understanding how your buddy prefers to be loved and cared for.