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…

Ears

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.

Tail

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
comfortable.

Verbal

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.

 

 

Kim - Oakview Vet Plover Stevens Point WI

Kim joined us in 2016. She earned her associates degree in 2018 and passed her veterinary technician certification exam.
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.

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