Have you ever heard of the expression “to wear one’s heart on their sleeve”? It means that someone lets their emotions be known without actually having to tell anybody how they feel. Dogs are in a constant state of wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They are great because of how simple they can be and they don’t need to speak to clue you in. They have a very instinctual language and as we learn to recognize how they communicate, we begin to understand better what our furry friend is telling us through dog body language. Veterinary behaviorists say if you learn to read your dog’s actions, it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on in his head.
How often do you watch your dog and read him just as well? Dogs have a rich body language that they use to great effect. We can eavesdrop on what a dog is telling you by knowing a little bit about how dogs behave when they are relaxed, happy, nervous, frustrated or angry. Life would be a lot easier if we could just talk to our canine companions. Sure, you know they’re happy when they wag their tails, and they’re clearly upset when they whimper, but that’s about it.
The eyes have it
It is said that you can read the soul through the eyes. In fact, a group of Japanese researchers found a link between this eye contact and increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone that affects how we express attachment and nurturing qualities. There is nothing as special as looking at the eyes of someone close to you – you can achieve an instant connection. You can also read a lot about a dog’s state of mind in the shape and look of his eyes. Now, this one depends a lot on how the dog is looking at you. But if his expression is normal and he’s staring into your eyes, it’s a pretty powerful way of showing affection.
A tense tail means he is in a state of unrest. While a tense tail that is wagging might mean playful behavior, rigid and high tail positions means steer clear. A relaxed tail shows he is passive and relaxed. A cowering tail is a sign of fear or shame. If he is uncomfortable, he will try to make itself seem as small as possible which includes curling his tail in between his legs.
Bringing things to you
You might think that he wants to play fetch, especially if he’s bringing you a toy. What your dog may be doing instead is giving you a gift. It’s apparently a leftover of the dog’s hunting instincts, only he’s bringing you things he thinks you’ll like or need instead of dead prey. So If your dog brings you a ball or a toy, he might not want you to throw it. In fact, that might hurt his feelings — dogs bring you their favorite things so that you can enjoy them!
Do you hear what I hear
Aside from the body tells listed above, there is a lot you can read from what a dog is feeling by the sounds that it makes. Growls, yips, barking, moaning and even no sound at all each mean something very specific and very different. Once your ear is able to recognize what a certain sound means, you will be able to discern what your dog is telling you and have a happier and healthier relationship.
- Groan/yawn – Not to be confused with discontent, a groan or yawn can happen as he relaxes his body.
- Growl – Aggressive dogs will growl with exposed teeth to warn or intimidate. If his teeth are not exposed, a growl could just be a form of aggressive playfulness.
- Barking – Barking can mean any number of things. Look for secondary clues to hone in on what he is trying to tell you. Generally, one bark is meant to alert. Multiple barks mean he is trying to tell you something, which could be anything from he is hungry to there is another dog outside the window that needs your attention.
- Yipping – A pup usually yips when he is uncomfortable or lonely. You will probably notice yipping as you leave or when you put him in his cage.
There are plenty of other cues your dog uses to communicate with you. When you learn just how your dog is talking to you, you’ll be ready to understand your furry friend better than ever.