When talking to people, we tend to pay attention to their body language. Whether you’re in a meeting to talk about automotive business opportunities or on a date with someone you met online, you watch how people smile, lean on the table, or use hand gestures when explaining. After all, non-verbal communication gives us a glimpse of what a person thinks or feels at the moment or whether they are telling the truth.
The same goes for dogs. Our furry friends exhibit a range of behaviors; some are straightforward, while others are difficult to interpret. One thing is clear, though: they communicate with one another and with us using their non-verbal language.
If you want to better understand your pooch and build a stronger relationship with it, you should learn to read canine body language. Start by focusing on these three important aspects of a dog’s body.
When looking at a dog’s eyes, focus on the white part of the eye or the sclera to see the focus and intensity of your dog’s gaze. If it feels tense or anxious, its eyes might look rounder than normal or show a lot of the sclera, also known as a “whale eye.” A whale eye can be a sign that the dog is uncomfortable. Perhaps, someone is hugging it or petting an area where it doesn’t want to be touched.
A whale eye can also indicate that the dog will soon become defensively aggressive. See if there’s another dog or cat in the vicinity, or there’s a stranger about to approach the dog. Ask others to back off until your dog relaxes or appears more comfortable in the environment, or you figure out what’s going on.
How do you know if your dog is relaxed? A comfortable dog often squints; its eyes become almond-shaped that you won’t see the sclera or any white part of the eye showing at all.
A happy and comfortable dog will likely have its mouth open, and it might even be panting. On the other hand, a fearful dog will usually keep its mouth closed. It may even pull its lips back at the corners.
Take note that a panting dog that suddenly closes its mouth in response to something in the surroundings can indicate increased stress. Another sign of extreme stress is drooling when no food is present.
The movement of a pooch’s ears can tell you things about its emotions. Relaxed dogs have their ears dropped to the side. Their ears point up if they’re curious or on the alert about something. If the ears are pulled back, the dog is likely anxious or uncomfortable. Noticed a whale eye and tight mouth while its ears are pulled back? The dog will likely soon become aggressive.
What about those floppy-eared dogs such as Basset hounds? You will have a better understanding of their emotions if you start paying attention to their ears’ base—whether it moves forward or back.
By taking note of their body language, you can respond to your dog’s needs and behaviors accordingly. You can keep everybody safe from your dog’s potential aggressiveness. More importantly, you can get to know your dog better and learn when they are annoyed or when they merely need you to reassure them.