What Is Your Dog Trying to Tell You?

Aug 11, 2018     |      Sophie's Circle

As a dog owner, you’re well aware that your dog has moods and emotions just like you. Since your dog can’t use words to articulate how they feel, you must pay attention to their body language. Dogs communicate in many different ways. Once you learn to read and interpret their body language, you’ll be able to react appropriately. In this article, we’ll offer some clues as to what your dog is really trying to tell you.

Eyes
When you look into your dog’s eye, you may feel more connected than any other time. Of course, most dogs don’t really enjoy a staring contest with their owners. In fact, if you notice that your dog’s eyes are wide open, that means they’re afraid or uncomfortable. The best thing you can do is to get your dog out of the situation they’re in. If the dog is unfamiliar to you, it’s best to give them space. If your dog is wagging his tail and jumping up and down, his wide eyes probably just indicate excitement over the upcoming game of fetch.

Your dog may also look to you if they’re not sure what to do or how to react. Since you’re their alpha dog, they’re looking to you for guidance when they don’t know how to proceed. If a dog seeks eye contact with you, they definitely want your attention. On the other hand, if your dog is avoiding looking at someone or something, they’re probably afraid. They may look to the ground or pointedly avoid that person or object.

Body Posture
It’s often easier to observe what your dog is doing than what they’re looking at. Some body positions are a big indicator of what’s going on. For example, if your dog is rolling onto their back, they may be asking you for a belly rub. Alternatively, it’s possibly that they’re nervous or need comforting. If their body is rather stiff, nervousness is the more likely cause. A wagging tail is a similar indicator. Generally, tail wagging indicates happiness, but it can also mean that your dog is nervous.

A dog that’s suddenly sitting down without being asked to do so may also be nervous or unsure of what to do next. Your dog may also freeze or stare straight ahead. Of course, if you’ve trained your dog to sit in anticipation of being fed, dinnertime may be nearer than you think.

Anger & Fear
As you get to know your dog, you’ll know when they’re afraid or anger. Typically, anger cues are direct and involve bristled fur, growling, and aggressive barking. An angry dog will show their teeth and stiffen their tail. If your dog is truly angry, you won’t be able to mistake their signals for long.

Fear is different. A scared dog may appear the same to you, at least if you don’t know them well.

When a dog is afraid, they may also pull back their ears and exhibit raised fur. Their tail may be tugged underneath their body when they’re afraid. A nervous dog could whimper, growl, or bark nervously. But instead of wanting to jump or attack, a scared dog is more likely to flinch or dart around. They may also cower.

Illness
Most dogs hide any pain or discomfort they’re feeling, because it makes them look vulnerable. Nevertheless, they will communicate that something is wrong through vocalizing. This can happen when an injured area is touched, but they may also groan when they’re lying down. If your dog is limping or not using one of their limbs, it’s important to investigate further.

An injured dog can get defensive if they’re disturbed, and they may even act disinterested in activities they normally enjoy. If you notice heavy panting, abnormal posture, or unusual behavior or appetite, you should probably take your dog to the vet. A dog that is normally friendly but is suddenly displaying aggressiveness may be injured or ill.

Every Dog Is Unique
While many of these visual cues apply to almost every dog, you can’t always generalize. In fact, every dog is unique, and the only way to truly understand them is to get to know them better. And that’s precisely why you should never pet a dog you don’t know without checking with the owner first. Additionally, you should take time to understand your dog by watching how he reacts to everyday occurrences.