Throughout a dog's life, body language will be the most important way for dog's to talk with each other. He'll use his eyes, tail ears, and general stance to let them know what's on his mind. When two dogs meet, the first thing they do is establish their rank. A dog who wants to say, "I'm confident, I'm fearless, and what are you going to do about it?" does so by putting his head, tail, ears, and hackles up and by making eye contact. If another dog of lesser rank wants to reply, "O.K, got it." he'll lower his tail and ears and possible crouch or lick his lips.
When a dog wants to invite another do to play, there's no mistaking his message. He's happy, panting, grinning, and his tail is waging so hard that his whole rear end is wiggling. He may drop into a play-bow, then back up and pretend to run.
On the other hand, if they've been playing hard and one dog decides he's had enough, he'll start ignoring the other dog. If that doesn't work, he might raise a lip, growl, or even snap to get the other dog to back off. At this point the other dog will either get the message and move on his way or he may try to bring things to a friendly level again. To do this he'll use many gestures. He may lick the other dog's mouth, roll over, and expose his belly. These are all gestures that show submission. The dog might also use other appeasing gestures such as flattening his ears, lower his body and squinting.
The use of body language in dogs allows them to tell a lot about each other. Here are some other ways dogs communicate with body language.
- Direct eye contact means a dog is feeling bold and confident.
- Averted gaze is submissive
- Ears that are up and forward means a dog is challenging or being assertive
- Ears laid back show that a dog is worried or scared.
- Pawing is a submission gesture.
- Draping the head over another dog's shoulders is a challenge or sign that a dog is asserting dominance.
- Licking the lips is a sign a dog is worried or is being appeasing.
- Lips pulled back are a challenging or warning sign.
- Hackles raise indicate either a dog is frightened or is challenging another dog.
- Smooth hackles show a dog is calm.
- Tail held straight out, wagging rhythmically and slowly, means that a dog is cautious or on guard.
- Tail held up and wagging fast indicates excitement.
- A tail between the legs is a sign of fear.
Come back soon as I continue my serious on pet communication and how to speak dog. In my next article I plan to cover how dogs use their voice to communicate. In the mean time feel free to visit my website, Your Family Pet, for more information on dogs and other family pets.