Body Language

8 Nov


I see a lot of pictures on Facebook where a young child or baby is laying on top of a dog, or around the dog’s food dish, and so many people post how cute the photo is.  I see the photo and cringe as I am not looking at the “cuteness” but rather the body language of the dog.  I see a worried dog, ears pinned back, eyes big where you can see the whites, also known as whale eye,  he is not laying in a relaxed state, his body weight is mostly in the front and it looks as if he is wanting to dart off.  That is scary to me because dog’s are fight or flight creatures.  I do not want harm to come to an innocent child because people are not paying attention to the body language of their pet.

How about going for a walk with your dog who is well trained on the lead, your walking with a nice heal, your dog is on your left side, loose lead, and coming down the road is the person who has the happiest 80 pound dog pulling them towards you.  Their dog is happy, happy, happy and your dog stands still, with their fur up in between their shoulders, tail is erect and head is held high.  Clearly your dog is posturing – making themselves look bigger for the “enemy”, but the other person does not see these clues and continues to let their dog drag them over to you.  While your dog may be friendly with other dogs, in this situation your dog may be thinking this dog is running over to harm you, and is reacting.

Animals communicate to us and to other animals 90 percent of the time by using body language.  Here are some examples of reading body language:

“It’s OK to approach me” – your dog’s head is held high, but not too high, their ears are forward and alert looking, their tail is down and relaxed and could be wagging, their mouth could be slightly open.

A scared dog will lower their body down, their hair will be raised on their back and in between the shoulder blades, ears are back and some will wag their tail very quickly. It is not like an approachable dog who will do a big tail wag which can include the hips.  stock-photo-11673683-black-fearful-puppy-with-hangdog-expression

A dominant aggressive dog will stand tall, their tail will be held high or even curl over their back, the hair on their back and in between their shoulders will be raised, their ears will be erect and their head will be held as high as possible.  Their lips will be raised up and you could even start seeing teeth, their nose will be wrinkled and they could be doing a low growl.

A submissive dog will lay down and expose their belly.

A worried and fearful dog will crouch down, tail held tightly between their legs which may wag slightly, ears pinned back, eyes squint, they may piddle a little bit as they circle. stock-photo-18888954-scared-dog

A playful dog will bow down – their rear is in the air while their front feet are stretched out before them.  Their tail may be wagging as well as their whole back end.  Their eyes are open and bright.  Their mouth may be open and they could even do a playful bark.

Start to recognize what your dog is trying to communicate to you through their body language and it will expand your relationship.

Written by:  Brenda M. Tobin-Flood, Cert. C.N.

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With a background in Animal Science, Animal Nutrition, and Natural Health, I can help you to create a holistic wellness plan for your animal companions.  Does your pet have an acute or chronic disease? I use natural curative treatments such as homeopathy, herbs and essential oils.  Have any questions, or to schedule an appointment,  email


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