Have you ever wondered what your pooch would say to you if they could talk? While they may not be able to put their thoughts and feelings into words, there are plenty of ways they communicate with you. Here are the messages behind some common canine behaviours and body language.
A wagging tail is often a sign of a happy dog, but it has to be the right kind of wag. Look for a tail that’s wagging loosely, not too high (which can signal aggression) or too low (which signals nervousness). The wag might be slow and relaxed or so enthusiastic it causes “wiggle butt,” but whatever the speed, studies have shown that happy tails tend to wag to the right of a dog’s body.
Other signs of a pleased pooch include ears in a neutral position (not raised high or pressed back); bright, soft eyes; and loose tongue and lips.
A low, fast-wagging tail — especially if it’s wagging to the left — is a sign of a dog who’s nervous or fearful. So is the classic “tail between the legs.” Scared dogs tend to cower, with their bodies tense and their ears laid back against their heads. Also, look for wide, dilated pupils or “side eye” that shows the whites of your pooch’s eye (also known as “whale eye”). Yawning can also be a sign of fear as it’s a way for your pooch to release some tension.
Dogs need mental and physical stimulation to stay healthy and happy. If they don’t get enough of either, they may start acting out. Signs of a bored pooch include:
- Destructive behaviour (like chewing your shoes, digging through your trash, or de-fluffing your pillows)
- Excessive barking or whining
- “Velcro dog syndrome” (following you around like a clingy shadow)
- Overly enthusiastic greetings when you get home
- Chewing on their paws, tail, or a hot spot
If you suspect your pooch is suffering from boredom, find ways to keep them amused when you’re away from home or otherwise occupied. Leave a food-stuffed treat like a Kong filled with peanut butter and then frozen to make it last longer. Take your pooch for a nice long walk to wear them out before you go. Leave the TV or radio on to calm them down and cover up any outside noises that might excite them.
“I May Attack”
A raised, stiff tail tells you your pooch is on guard. Growling, snarling, and staring are some other signs of aggression, as are ears that are held stiffly forward or back. Raised hackles — when the fur stands up your dog’s neck or back — aren’t necessarily a sign of aggression; they can also occur when your pooch is excited or startled. But if you see raised hackles along with the other behaviours on this list, watch out.
If your pooch is staring down another dog or a person, it’s time to redirect their attention and possibly remove them from the situation. If they’re staring you down, it could mean they have resource guarding issues, you’ve done something that triggered their fear response, or they’re sick and in pain. A vet and/or pet trainer can help you get to the root of the problem.
“Let’s Play! This Is So Much Fun! Woo!”
Your pooch is getting a little rambunctious at the dog park, biting and maybe even growling at other dogs. Are they just being playful, or should you give them a time-out? Look for the following, which show that they’re having a good time: play bowing, sneezing, rolling over onto their back, a “rocking” gait (galloping or swaying back and forth while they’re running), slapping one paw on another dog’s back, and rearing back on their hind legs.
Also, be sure to look for similar behaviour in the dog your pooch is playing with; if that dog is showing signs of fear or aggression, it may be time to find your pooch a different playmate.
“I Love You SO MUCH”
You tell your pooch you love them with cuddles, pets, and yummy, healthy treats. How can you tell if they love you back or if you’re just a food-dispensing, poop-cleaning machine to them?
Canine “I love yous” look like:
- Leaning against you
- Licking you
- Bringing you their favourite toy
- Looking at you with “puppy dog eyes”
- Greeting you with the happy doggie dance when you come home
- Sleeping next to you
- Curling up with you when you’re not feeling well
- Raising their eyebrows (especially the left one)
- Yawning when you yawn (a sign of connection and empathy)
Think of how many times your pooch has done any of these things today alone, and you’ll realize just how much they really love you!