Friday, April 26, 2013

Happy Dog or Stressed Dog: Do You Know the Difference?



It’s no secret that dogs don’t speak English. So how do we communicate with our pets? Understanding your dog’s body language is key to a good pet-owner relationship. Reading the signals that your dog gives off is important to determine what they are trying to tell you, whether it’s that they are happy, stressed or annoyed.

Dog signals can be complex, but they can be generally broken down into a few categories; “enjoyment,” “stress” and “enough already.” If your dog is exhibiting 3 or 4 behaviors from a category, chances are they are feeling that specific way. Analyzing your dog’s behavior can help you determine whether or not your dog is enjoying a situation or should be removed from it.

German Shorthaired Pointer Jezzabelle is displaying happy &
enjoyment features, including soft eyes and relaxed mouth.

Enjoyment
Your dog is having fun and seems comfortable with the situation.
  • Soft eyes 
  • Relaxed mouth
  • Side to side movement (wiggle)
  • Loose body posture  
  • Engaging

Stress
Slow down, your dog is uncomfortable with something. Be prepared to remove them from the situation.
  •   Lip licking 
  • Yawning 
  •  Ear Flick   
  • Shaking off 
  • Blinking  
  • Avoidance
  • Panting

Border Collie Gabriel is shown here displaying stress signals. 
Which signals can you pick out?

Enough already
Your dog has had enough. Stop the interaction and remove the dog or give them space.
  • Freeze  
  • Whale eyes or half moon eyes
  • Ears pulled back 
  • Trembling  
  • Drooling    
  • Teeth Flash  
  •  Lunge  
  • Pacing
  • Tail Tuck

Dogs speak with their bodies, and it’s the owner’s job to interpret that language accordingly. Remember that if your dog is showing 3 or 4 signals from a given stress level, chances are that is how they are currently feeling. Also keep in mind that all dogs will display different signals, so look out for a broad range; one dog might lip lick when they are stressed and another might shake off.

Once you begin to understand what different dog body signals mean, you will be able to comprehend what your dog is trying to tell you. It is your job to step in and speak up for your dog by responding in the appropriate way.

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