How to Read Dog Body Language

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We went to a great seminar, How to Read Dog Body Language, given by renowned dog trainer Colleen Safford of New York Walk & Train. It was held at the Tribeca Soho Animal Hospital (part of Downtown Veterinary Medical Hospitals.It was an absolutely amazing seminar and I can highly recommend going to it if you get the chance (or perhaps contact New York Walk & Train). Here are a few highlights:

How to Read Dog Body Language

  • Dogs use “calming signals” to convey harmless intentions. They also use these as self calming techniques.
  • Dogs work diligently to avoid conflict. As a human, it’s important to watch their various body language signals. Often humans don’t interpret them correctly.
  • Calming Signals include:
    • Lip licking
    • Yawn
    • Head turn (yep, your dog is not ignoring you but rather using a calming signal)
    • Scratch at collar or neck
    • Shaking it off
    • Soft blink
  • Aroused Dog Signals include:
    • Ears up, forward
    • Hard stare
    • Tail up, stiff wag
    • Stiff legged, weight over front legs
    • Closed mouth
  • It’s rude human behavior to do the following to dogs:
    • Approach a dog head on
    • Bend over a dog (including to put on a leash)
    • Making direct eye contact
  • Never punish a growling dog. The dog is warning us. It is a way for dogs to communicate stress and discomfort. If you punish the growl, you risk that they might escalate next time to biting without the warning of a growl.

Want to learn more? Check out our post on How to Properly Greet a Dog!

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