Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Body Language - The Mouth

A dog's mouth can tell you everything from "I'm happy" to "Back off"!

A happy and relaxed dog will have the mouth loosely open. The tongue hangs free and may even drape over the side of bottom teeth.

A playful dog will have a slightly opened and relaxed mouth. The tongue and teeth are visible.

A dog will communicate stress or being anxious by panting. The difference between that and a relaxed dog panting is that the tongue hangs down wide in the front and there are no teeth showing like the doggie smile we see in the first picture.

A dog will yawn to either boost his energy or calm himself down. If you notice your dog feeling stressed you can use this calming signal as well.

A dog that licks its lips when there is no food involved can be telling you she is stressed, anxious or unsure of the situation.

An alert or dominant dog will have a closed or just slightly opened mouth with no teeth showing.

A dog that is guarding someone or something will have a slightly opened mouth with a little teeth showing.

An aggressive or fearful dog will have teeth bared in a snarl.

Start making a habit to watch your dog's mouth and how it changes depending on the situation. It takes time and practice but you can learn this wonderful language.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Body Language

Can you tell when your dog is?

  • Relaxed
  • Bored
  • Curious
  • Playful
  • Excited
  • Unsure
  • Fearful
  • Anxious
  • Nervous
  • Aggressive
  • Confident

Dogs use body language to communicate to those around them. Dogs know exactly what other dogs are saying but this is where most humans have trouble. Sometimes a gesture happens so fast, it can be easy to miss. When people say that a dog has bitten them "out of the blue", it usually means that they didn't notice all the warning signs that came before the bite. The lowered head, the flattened ears, the slight lift of the lip, the low growl are all warnings to stay away. If you ignore them, a dog may feel no other choice but to bite.

(c) Graphic created by http://dfdk9.wordpress.com/

The picture above gives you several examples to illustrate how a dog is feeling. Notice that generally, the smaller a dog looks the more anxious, frightened or submissive he is. The bigger the dog looks, the calmer, more alert or dominant he is. Each state of mind has a distinct body posture but there is more going on. A dog's head, mouth, ears, eyes, paws and tail also hold a lot of information. 

The next several articles will look at dog body language in more detail. Each article will focus on one body part of a dog to help give you a better understanding of all the signals that are being communicated to other dogs and to you.

The more we learn our dog's language, the stronger relationship and bond we will have with them.