It is generally accepted fact that dogs, unless trained or prompted by an owner, do not communicate through words. Instead, in an effort to establish their needs, they employ quite a few subtle gestures and some that are quite obvious. Humans, however, can often gloss over the subtlety and instead insert their own subtext based on their desires, ignoring the instinctive urges of a canine companion. It is not done maliciously, but often out of ignorance of what to look for. How do you interpret Pablo’s slight adjustment to the position of his ears? While a dog speaks with his whole body and body language should be taken in his context, there are some facial expressions that a dog owner may want to pay special attention to.
Many of us never get to see a genuine ‘smile’ from a dog, and when it does happen, it can be unnerving for the first few times. A happy, relaxed dog body, tail wagging, pawing for attention, and yet when you look down to lavish some affection, a mouth full of teeth and bare gums greets you. Normally, this type of display of teeth is reserved for a warning, “back off,” the expression goes, but the dog’s body language screams otherwise. This can send mixed signals to a human, but it’s not so confusing if other signals are also taken into account. Is there another animal, especially another dog, that also competes for affection? Are you forced to pet two dogs at the same time? A smile in this situation can very well mean, “Look, I’m deferring to you more, put all your attention on me.” You may find Pablo pushing his sister Annie almost aggressively out of the way to get both hands on him by himself. This type of smile will probably be much rarer when attention is not divided.
A smile, which is usually marked by lifting the corners of the mouth, and when not accompanied by body language that clearly indicates otherwise, usually means that there is no perceived threat and that the dog is not trying to shake the dog off. boat. This action is rarely used by a dominant or alpha dog who sees himself as equal to a human. The smile can also be reinforced through praise and caresses.
Speak in tongues
While the tongue is one of the main ways dogs cool down, it can be more than just a heat regulator. Panting allows the canine to draw in air that runs across the tongue and evaporates moisture, which in turn acts as a cooler for the rest of the body, lowering the core temperature. A tongue can also indicate stress in dogs, although the signs are subtle and harder to read. With a little observation skill, you can spot the differences. A completely relaxed dog tongue is the sign of a calm dog. It hangs loosely with no weird curves and just falls over your teeth and out of your mouth, big and floppy.
A spatulate tongue is one that the dog does not allow to fall loose and instead looks like Pablo is holding it and pulling it away from his teeth, causing an odd curve and giving the tongue a stiff appearance. It may seem wider at the tip and it certainly doesn’t have that floppy, dangling look. This is an indication that Pablo is stressed, but like yawning, it’s not something to worry too much about. He may be “upset” because he is expected to sit down before leaving the house for a run in the backyard.
There may also be what some call tongue clicking, which are even more subtle markers of distress. While this is a behavior that is not fully understood, it is generally considered to be a self-calming action or, as in humans, a nervous action. Sometimes the movement of the tongue is very small, just over the lips, and other times it can cover the dog’s nose. The bigger the lick, the more Annie may be struggling to calm down in a situation that is taxing her nerves but doesn’t call for a full flight or fight response. A dog may be out of her comfort zone or settle in after a day of dodging the toddler. Humans can often help dispel this condition by flicking their tongues for the dog to see them, or a combination of lip licking and yawning.
While the eyes and ears are certainly easier for us to read, missing the finer points of dog communication can stress them even more. They read us a lot better than we read them, but we can level the playing field a bit if we just slow down and take the time to not only look at what our beloved furry friends are trying to tell us, but to observe and interpret. . Actions speak louder than words and in the canine world, that’s a truism that cannot be overstated. Watch and learn. It can only strengthen the bond between you and your loved ones.