Is your dog acting a little strange? Do you swear to your friends and family that your dog is trying to tell you something? You are not alone and you are not wrong! Dogs are highly intelligent animals and they will use certain behaviors to try to grab your attention. They feel a range of emotions including love, happiness, fear, frustration, playfulness, and more. But, since they cannot use words, they rely on body language and behavior to communicate their message.
First, it can be helpful to understand when your dog is communicating fear or aggression because during those times, your dog may want to be left alone. Agitating an already aggressive dog that is on high alert can lead to a dog taking out aggressive behavior, even on a loved one. If your dog’s teeth are bared, his ears are alert, and his tail is alert, straight and raised, he is showing signs of “dominant” aggression. If you dog’s tail is down and between his hind legs, his ears are back, his body is slightly lowered, and the corner of his mouth is pulled back slightly, he may also be aggressive but it is likely because of fear. It is important to know and understand this because similar stances and features can also be playful.
It is important to be able to discern playful aggression and other types of aggression so that you can treat your dog with respect, care and love. Playful stances include tails up, front legs bent, mouth open and ears up. They may do this when they see that you are going to play fetch or run around with them. This stance is your dog’s way of saying “yes I want to play” or “please play with me.” Another body language is submission. But, there are two kinds of submission – loving and relaxed submission and fearful submission. A dog thatlies on their back is being submissive, but if they are relaxed, their tail will be relaxed, they may look away or directly at you, they will likely leave their belly exposed (inviting you to rub their belly) and they may lick their lips. Conversely, a dog that is so frightened that they submit might lie on their back but their tail will be tucked, their eyes may look away in fear, and their ears will be back out of fear.
Other interesting behavioral quirks that you may notice including a head tilt or cock, which implies that your dog is curious about something. If your dog is being destructive – chewing furniture or clothing, biting, scratching or more, they may be trying to tell you that they need more activity and exercise. Once you know what your dog is trying to communicate, it will allow you to have a better, more deep relationship with your dog.