Dog Mannerisms: Understanding Your Canine Companion

Dog Mannerisms

Dogs have been our loyal companions for thousands of years. Over time, we ‘domesticated’ them – meaning we brought them into our homes and lives as our furry little friends. They’ve learned to read our cues and offer constant companionship.

But even though dogs and humans have lived together a long time, there’s still a language barrier between the two species. But while dogs don’t ‘speak’ our language, they still have their own way of communicating through actions. Learning a bit of “dog language” can strengthen your bond and help you better understand your pet’s needs.

Here are 5 common dog mannerisms and what they might be trying to tell you:

1. The “I Need a Break” Signal: Turning Away or Licking Lips

Imagine being approached by someone you find a bit intimidating – you might turn your body away or look off to the side. Dogs do the same thing!

If your pup turns their head away, avoids eye contact, or excessively licks their lips, they may be uncomfortable. This could be due to a new person, an unfamiliar situation, or even just being overstimulated by vigorous play. It’s best to give them some space in these moments.

2. The Whale Eye: A Sign of Stress

When a dog feels stressed or threatened, you might notice the whites of their eyes become more visible in a sort of half-moon shape known as ‘whale eye.’

Dog Mannerisms

This is often accompanied by a tense facial expression and their body might appear stiff. If you see the ‘whale eye,’ it’s usually a sign that your dog needs some distance from whatever is upsetting them. Pushing further risks an escalation in their anxiety or even a defensive snap or bite.

3. The Play Bow: An Invitation to Fun

Dogs have a clear way of saying “Let’s play!” The play bow  – where their front legs are lowered to the ground and their rear stays high in the air – is a universal dog invitation to some friendly fun.

If your dog throws you a play bow, it means they feel comfortable, happy, and ready to let loose a bit.

4. The Low, Slow Wag: Not Always Happy

While a big, enthusiastic tail wag often shows happiness, a slow, low wag can indicate a different mood altogether. 

A low wag can signal that your dog is feeling unsure, apprehensive, or even a bit submissive. The rest of your dog’s body language can help you determine what’s going on. A  tense body, raised hackles (the hair along the back), or pinned-back ears suggest that your dog might be feeling stressed or uneasy.

5. Shaking It Off: A Reset Button

Have you ever noticed your dog give a full-body shake after a stressful or exciting situation? This behavior is their way of literally shaking off the tension and returning to a calmer state.  They might do this after meeting a new dog, experiencing a loud noise, or even just waking up from a nap.

Understanding Your Dog’s Language

Learning to read your dog’s body language cues is rewarding. It does require a little more attention and interest, but learning your dog’s ‘language’ can improve your relationship and help you better care for them.

Haven’t gotten a dog yet, but thinking about it? Check out our need-to-know guide before taking on a new companion.

Next month, we’ll go over some of the intricacies of ‘cat’ speak – another furry friend whose language isn’t quite like our own.

For More Information About This Subject Or General Questions You Can Contact:

Courie Dennis with Posh Paws Pet Care, LLC
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