Your puppy doesn't talk, but it’s still possible to understand how they feel!
The body language of your puppy is akin to a complex system of dog communication. This lingo has many subtleties that can go completely unnoticed by humans. However, if we train ourselves to watch out for certain patterns in our dog’s body language, we can effectively understand our dog’s behaviour, as well as their moods.
Dogs communicate with one another using body language. As pet owners, learning to read dog body language is a critical part of understanding your dog. This can go a long way in helping you with your efforts at puppy training.
Dog body language is subtle, but with a little effort and practice, it can be deciphered and understood. Here are the different moods that your dog may be in at any one time, along with the accompanying dog body language that you can use to correctly identify that mood.
When your dog’s mood is neutral/relaxed
They will exude confidence by holding their head high. Their ears will be erect and their mouth will be slightly open. Their tail will be relaxed and may wag slowly. Their weight will be equally distributed between their four paws, and their overall movement will be relatively relaxed. In dog language, they are comfortable.
When your dog is interested in something
They will prick up their ears, and stiffen their tail. You will notice that their eyes are wide open and their lips are slightly raised. If your dog is excited, the hair on their back can stand slightly on end and they may wag their tail.
When your dog is in a playful mood
Their tail will be held high, and their body will be bent forwards. Their tongue will be relaxed, and their eyes will be large and attentive. They will sometimes be ready to jump forwards playfully. This is the dog communication way of asking another dog, or their owner, to play with them, as the only thing on their mind is fun.
When your dog feels like they need to be submissive
As they need to acknowledge the hierarchical status of another dog, or to defuse an aggressive situation, they will engage in a very distinct type of dog behaviour. Your dog may flatten their ears, lower their tail and almost completely close their mouth. They may also slowly raise one of their paws. Often, when playing with other dogs, one dog “gives up” by sliding onto their back. This dog behaviour is also a pacifying gesture.
When your dog is afraid of something
They may crouch or cower with their tail between their legs. They may flatten their ears, lower their head, and arch their back. This is a situation that pet owners must be very watchful of, as a frightened dog can react unpredictably and may resort to aggression in an attempt to defend themselves. Never let children approach an unfamiliar dog, even if they do not look fearful or aggressive.
When your dog is in an aggressive mood
They may bend their body forwards, stare with their eyes wide open, prick their ears forward, carry their stiff tail high, show all of their teeth (front and back), and growl. The hair on their back can stand on end. They engage in this aggressive dog behaviour to try and appear as threatening as possible, showing their opponent that they are “armed”. A dog in this position is likely to attack.
So now that you have learnt to interpret your dog’s body language, start paying closer attention to them, and you will soon find yourself to be an expert in dog communication!