The Ruff Guide to Dog Body Language

In the veterinary field, we encounter patients who cannot tell us in words what they are thinking or feeling. We must learn the different ways that they communicate in order to understand. So, we look at the whole dog and not just certain parts . Although they can give verbal cues, it’s the body language that is they key to what they are really feeling.

When we are back in the kennels of our boarding area, in an appointment, or even at
home we need to know what to look for. Some identifying factors…


When a dog has their ears up or upright they are alert and focused. This can also mean
that the dog is relaxed and just listening to what is around them. Ears that are pinned
back can mean back off! I am scared or uncomfortable. Ears are an excellent indicator of mood.

Slugger - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
Slugger has his tail tucked and his ears back. He is nervous and unsure of the situation.


The message that the tail gives can send mixed signals. Most people think that
a wagging tail always means happy, but that is not always the case. It depends on the
height of the tail. If the tail is high the dog can be feeling alert, dominate, or it can
be a warning. If the tail is hanging slightly and relaxed that means that the dog is
relaxed and comfortable. Tail tucked means I am scared, nervous, submissive, or not


Verbal communication with dogs is very important. Growling is something that you should never deter your dog from doing, as this is the way they communicate a warning. Pay attention to this warning or a bite may follow! Barking can be an alert and a warning. It can also be playful. Some breeds are more prone to talking, like Huskies, and that is another way of them expressing themselves.

Whole body

Looking at the body as a whole, when a dog is feeling playful they might go into a play
bow tail wagging ears upright. When a dog is becoming aggressive the ears would be
pinned back and hair standing up on neck and back. Also bearing teeth, growling, and in
the, if pushed, biting. Submissive behavior can be shown by showing their belly. Dominate behavior is mounting, marking, and tail held high. A nervous dog shows
signs of pacing, not making direct eye contact, ears back, not taking treats anymore,
yawing, lip licking, tucking the tail, growling, and freezing.

Slugger Blooper Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
Blooper and Slugger have their ears up and are attentive. (yes, there are treats coming!)

So, take some time to observe your own dog. Once you get used to the clues, communication is much easier! This is just a “ruff” guide. For more details, to go this guide.

written by Kim Craig

Kim - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

Kim joined the Oakview family in 2016. She recently passed her veterinary technician certification test!

Kim was raised in Florida, but moved here in 2012. She shares a home with her fiance, a guinea pig named Gizmo, and two rescue dogs, Blooper and Slugger.

Kim enjoys softball, reading, and music.



Cat Body Language

Some days, we think we know exactly what our feline friend is thinking but other days it’s more like “What?!?!” The truth is our cats communicate with us all the time, we just need to listen. And not with our ears but with our eyes! Cats are constantly communicating with us through their body signals. I always tell our staff at Oakview, “Read the whole cat, not just one body signal. And Respect what they are telling you!”

Here are some clues:

EyesCat Eyes - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point Wi

When your cat has a nice steady gaze, constricted pupils, and soft, slow blinks she’s pretty content. When her pupils are large (and it’s not dark out!), this could mean they are feeling playful or defensive. Be mindful of this focused stare from our cats, most cat owners know what I’m talking about! This means they are up for a challenge. You may see this between family cats right before a fight breaks out.

TailHappy Tail

Sometimes just looking at the tail can be confusing, so remember to look at your cat’s WHOLE body to help determine how your cat is feeling. A tail that is straight up can mean he is happy or interested. Down or tucked underneath can mean he is scared or nervous. The fast twitching tail means your kitty is not happy. A nice, slow moving loose tail usually means they are content. And we’ve all seen that puffed up tail–Back away as this cat is warning you to stay away.


Your cat’s body posture is one more way to see what she is telling you. When she is agitated her body appears tense or she may suddenly freeze. She may walk slow and stiff. A frightened cat will usually slink low to the ground and move very slow (she may also do this if she is ready to pounce on something). A relaxed cat usually has a comfortable body position, and breathing is slow and deep. A stressed cat will have a fast and shallow breathing pattern. Some medical conditions such as asthma and heart problems can affect breathing so it is important to monitor your cat’s breathing when she is relaxed and content at home.


The “Rub my Belly” Posture

Watch for the kitty who ever so cutely rolls over to show her belly. While she may be doing this to trust you, it can also mean she is becoming defensive or wants to play! We all know the cat who seems to say “Rub my belly!” then bites when you do! Assess the whole situation before deciding to love up on that kitty!


Cat Belly - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

by Emily Karpinski, CVT

Emily - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

Emily earned her Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology at Madison Area Technical College and joined us as a CVT in 2004. She shares her home with her husband Jaime, daughters Violet and Abigail, a black lab called “Clyde”, “Chloe” the cat, and a quarter horse.


She has a strong interest in animal behavior and animal massage. Emily is certified in Fear Free handling and experienced in low stress techniques.

Working at Oakview Vet: The Front Lines

In our last post, Maureen and I talked about what the job of a veterinary receptionist entails. Now we will tell you how we each got our positions and how we feel about working at Oakview.

Maureen: I came to Oakview with years of customer service experience. I have worked in the corporate travel industry and at HSN (Home Shopping Network). Dealing with people is right up my alley. At a veterinary clinic, however, I had to learn about medical terms and conditions. This has been challenging yet fascinating!

Karen: When I came to Oakview, I had been a veterinary assistant for many years. I thought I knew what I was getting into, though I had never worked in reception. There were a few challenging surprises! I understood the medical aspects, but handling multiple phone lines and scheduling were much harder than I thought. It has been very rewarding to develop those skills.

Karen - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
Karen and Oakview’s clinic cat Meeko

Maureen: My favorite part of my job is puppy love!! We deal with a lot of sick pets and heartbreaking situations, but a cute puppy brings wags and kisses to chase any sadness away.

Maureen - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
Maureen and puppy love

Karen: One of my favorite parts of my job is unusual questions! At first, I was nervous answering the phone, because I didn’t know what questions might come up. The longer I did it, the more I enjoyed being challenged by odd questions. One of my pet peeves (no pun intended!) in customer service is an answer of “I don’t know” unless it is followed by “But I will find out!” So I get pretty determined to help people.

Is our job easy?

Most of the time it is not! Although there are slow days occasionally, most days we are running hard. We see a large variety of healthy and sick pets on any given day. We don’t work directly with them, but we still worry! And we tend to think of our clients as family, so it hurts us to see them worried and sad. We do everything possible to help our clients through these tough times. When we offer snacks or a drink, that is our way of trying to help. We wish we could do more.

Sometimes we feel pressure from the doctors and support staff to do things correctly. We feel that same pressure from clients. This pressure helps keep us on top of it all. It is vital that our job is done well, or no one else can perform theirs. We take pride in being the liaisons between the rest of the staff and our clients.

One of the hard parts is when our appointments are not running on time. We don’t like to make our clients wait, but that is the unpredictable nature of a vet clinic. As a full service clinic, we perform several services for the community: well pet visits, urgent care visits, and emergency care. It can be hard to juggle the vast array of problems we see in any given day. The sick pets who comes in may just need an exam and medication, or they may need a full work up with sedation, x-rays, and labs. The more a pet needs, the longer it takes. We do understand that we are impinging on our client’s time, but most of you would want your sick pet taken care of just as conscientiously. In fact, we are one of the few area clinics who try to take care of every single pet who needs us, regardless of our schedule. We want all our clients who so patiently wait for their appointments to know that if your pet needs us in an urgent situation, we will be there for you, too.

Waiting for the Vet - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI
When are they coming to see me? I want my treats!

Karen: I have lived in a lot of areas around the country, but there is something special about this community. I think our clients are an amazing group of pet owners! I am continuously impressed by their dedication to their pets and their community in general. Our reception team is great, too. We all help each other to have positive attitudes.

Maureen: One of the things I appreciate the most about my job is the people I work with. Our reception team is a positive, friendly group who works hard. They help me stay in good spirits! The doctors, techs, assistants, and kennel attendants all help me do my job well. The whole team at Oakview is a special one!

written by Karen Russell and Maureen Shewmake

Karen - Oakview Vet - Plover Stevens Point WI

Karen moved into our area in 2012, and we are so happy she chose to work at Oakview! She brings with her experience gained at other clinics and a fresh perspective.

Karen shares her life with her fiance Tim.





Maureen - Oakview Vet Stevens Point Plover WI

Maureen joined us in 2016. She was born and raised in Illinois, and after some time in Florida, she moved here in 2011.
Maureen shares her home with her husband, three children, and dog “Buddy.”
In her free time, Maureen enjoys camping, watching sports, and spending time with her family.





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