Canine Body Language: What You Need to Know

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canine body language, dog training

Unfortunately, people misinterpret, don’t understand, or just plain ignore the things our dogs are trying to tell us. And when that happens people and other animals are at risk of being bitten. Dogs can’t use our language to tell us when they are uncomfortable, scared, or angry. Instead, they use an intricate system of body language.

The problem is that the majority of people don’t take the time to learn it. We expect our dogs to learn our language, but we don’t take the time to learn theirs. But learning their language, and teaching our children their language, can prevent bites! You don’t know how many times people have explained getting bitten, but then added “but his tail was wagging”.

The truth is that most dogs wag their tails as they bite. What is more important is where the tail is carried (the height of the tail at the base) and what the face and eyes are telling you.

Combining all that information will help you.

Here are some examples of canine body language and what they mean:

canine body language, dog training

This 12 week old puppy is giving a very serious warning to stay away from his pillow. His ears are erect, his brow is furrowed, and his eye is very hard. If you touch him or his pillow, he will bite you, HARD.

canine body language, dog training

This is the same dog but with soft eyes, and relaxed ears and brow. This is the look of a friendly and comfortable dog.

canine body language, dog training

My dog Fury is famous for giving stinky eye and correcting her younger “brother” Jo. Here is her warning that he is doing something she doesn’t approve of. Again, notice how hard her eyes are and what her face and even her tongue are communicating. He has a fraction of a second to change his behavior before she corrects him. canine body language, dog training

This is them a few seconds later. Don’t worry, she didn’t actually hurt him but this is a clear picture of how dogs communicate with each other.

What is interesting to note is that dogs often communicate with us the same way.

If we don’t notice the stink eye, like in the first couple of pictures, the dog will likely follow through and bite us, or our children too.

That is why it is so crucial to learn about dog body language

canine body language, dog training

Hard eyes. Do NOT touch her toy.

canine body language, dog training

Soft eyes, this is the face of a friendly dog.

Combining your knowledge of your dog’s body language along with improving his impulse control will help avoid a possible bite or other serious potential behavior problems. It’s important that you incorporate both into your dog training routine.

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There are 19 Comments

  1. Pat Darwent says:

    Love your tutorials on dogs especially the one on reading dogs body language brilliant looking forward to next weeks news you have thank you for your information you give very helpful

    [Reply]

  2. Very helpful. Thank you !

    Elizabeth Bartz
    Minneapolis, Mn
    eabartz@mail.com

    [Reply]

  3. I really appreciate your emails, don’t always have time to absorb the info right away but I do share ones like this with my dog loving friends!!
    Thank you!

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  4. Rene says:

    pictures were a GREAT help

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  5. Susan Dodd says:

    Very good, have had dogs all my life, did not realize the HARD EYES. Learned a lot.

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  6. Beverly Scott says:

    Helpful article. Thank you. How to work with a dog whose eyes are hard but from whom you need to take away something that shouldn’t be in the dog’s mouth?

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    Minette Reply:

    I would enroll in our ERT program, we work on possession aggression issues. You can email customer service at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com for more information.

    [Reply]

  7. Paula says:

    Very helpful article.
    Thanks for the post.

    [Reply]

  8. Trish says:

    This is very interesting and beneficial!
    Even my Sadie does this.
    But she whines when she wants something. I just have to guess what it is.
    I know when she needs to go out. Sometimes she just wants to go to bed.
    But other times it is a mystery!

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  9. Shaun M Adams says:

    I thought this was supposed to be about the 82 out of 100 people who shouldn’t be hugging their dogs.

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  10. Kat says:

    Maybe she just needs your attention. She may be needing some reassurance.

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  11. Mark says:

    My dog appears to enjoy any show of affection from a pat on the head to picking her up. Should I look more closely for distress signals?

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    Minette Reply:

    All dogs are different. I have had very affectionate dogs and others that don’t like physical attention. Do what your dog is telling you he/she wants.

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  12. Lynda says:

    Stink eye! Yes, I’ve seen this. On my dog, I call it ugly face. Thanks for this article. When visiting people with loose dogs like on farms, I won’t get out of the car unless I can see the dog’s face so I can gauge whether they are friendly or aggressive. The eyes have it.

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  13. aware of the hard eyes when my husband is brushing him & trying to pet him any suggestions.after 4 months he has not warmed up to my husband, 2.5 yrs male havanese I want to take a trip in oct for 10 days husband will be caregiver. he is vry concerned as to how to even catch him for walking & brushing. thanks

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    Minette Reply:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/dog-hates-husband/

    [Reply]

  14. Pam says:

    My dog does this to and I have no idea what he wants then he keeps barking at me. It’s usually to eat or what’s me to play.

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  15. Tom says:

    Nail on the head with the stink eye yeah I called her ugly face to but you hit the nail on the head dude.

    [Reply]

  16. EVA Lacks says:

    Thanks,very interesting.

    [Reply]

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