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Listening to Your Dog’s Body Language

Dog body language is as complex as our own and it is important to observe the whole, not just isolated expressions. That is the key to understanding what’s going on inside their heads.

Dogs body language / canine communication skills

The bulk being scent and body language. They predominantly feed off our body language and scent as opposed to our voices. I believe we use far too much food and words in training. Not enough thought or observations in their communications towards us and their environment.

Your dog is speaking to you with his body

It’s a two-way conversation between us and our dogs. We have to meet them halfway. By stopping an unwanted behaviour by  enforcing a man-made command we are not responding in a way the dog naturally and instinctively understands. You are  crushing the dogs’ communication skills and enforcing your own.

When we look at canine communication skills, the body language of the dog, it is not just a case of looking at one part in isolation e.g the tail, to establish if the dog is happy relaxed or stressed. The position of the tail and the lack of movement to manic movement of the tail says a whole host of different things dependant on other factors such as the eyes, the ears, the stance and so on. Observations from tip to toe are paramount in understanding our dogs.

Read your dogs correctly and you’ll have a well balanced canine friend.

Calm relaxed dogs

Will have gentle eyes that look round with interest. Low tail, with a gentle wag, relaxed stance, no tension, shoulders and neck same level as body and a gentle walk or trot. A dog that can sleep when all at home is busy but in the knowledge that he is going to get all he needs and wants, but in your time. A dog; that can play gently with self-control.

Stressed dogs

Will have elevated adrenaline so will pant, pace, jump up, bark ( again many different barks for varying reasons), chase their tail, hump, wide eyes and so on.

Dogs defence mechanism is to flee, freeze and observe or fight. We get to the fight so many times nowadays as we force dogs to confront their fears and overdo socialisation in our time frame and expectations. We need to account for their individuality, personalities, likes, dislikes and learning abilities. In order to educate our puppies and dogs effectively, we must watch and understand how our dogs are coping in any given situation.

Dogs not coping in a situation, give out  signals showing their unease. So if your dog faces away  with a head or body turn, licking, blinking, yawning and stretching, is either trying to diffuse a situation or stop an intense encounter by giving signals to  other dogs, humans that all is either fine, so calm down or please get me out of here. If these signals are ignored the dog will step up to hackles up, a growl and continue to face or turn away. If this again is ignored then this is when accidents happen and people and dogs get bitten.

Watch, learn and understand your dog.

Paws for thought on calming signals and training

How many times when a dog turns his head away do you instruct your dog to “Look at me!” fundamentally you are ignoring a very important message from your dog. He feels uneasy. Stop what you’re doing as it stresses him out.

A dog turning his head is one calming a situation down that he finds stressful. Maybe the lesson is too difficult or he is signalling to a dog next to him to back off and chill out mate.

If your dog can’t sit for any length of time in a class and crawls back to you or potters off sniffing the ground. Please, he’s not naughty, he’s stressed and uneasy. By placing a dog in a sit you have cut off the bulk of his communication. He feels vulnerable with no way to converse. he’s a sitting duck. Why would you sit a dog in the middle of a class anyway? What’s the point for a dog? It’s a trick some are comfortable learning. Many are not.

Ease up on control and guide to self control and a balanced being. Watch and learn from your own dog and what’s best for him.



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