Over time, dog owners will gradually develop an innate understanding with their pets. This communication between human and canine is near-telepathic. However, it can often happen that the signals and posture from your dog are misinterpreted. It can be a source of great annoyance for the animal.
How can we tell that a dog is content and relaxed? One clear sign is them having their mouth open (unless you’re eating, in which case the dog is demanding to be fed!). A head-up, tail-down posture with its ears raised backwards also indicates that everything is fine. Wagging tails are usually interpreted as a sign that the dog is happy. If this is accompanied by its ears being pinned back or on their sides, it’s more likely that the animal feels frightened.
It’s also well worth knowing when a dog is liable to become aggressive. This is especially important if you have not encountered it before. If the dog has its teeth bared, has its hackles up and is standing tall on its back legs, these hint at the potential for aggression. As does a tense posture, stiff tail movement or the tail being positioned between its legs. A fearful pose, where its body is lowered and its ears are pinned back, is also one of which to be wary.
Listen carefully to the dog’s barking, too. A high-pitched, drawn-out woof usually signifies that the dog is relaxed and carefree. On the other hand, a quick spate of low-pitched barks repeated frequently is a sign that the dog is in an alert state that could become aggressive.
This infographic from Greyhounds as Pets explains a wide variety of body language signals from dogs. It attempts to help people understand these signals correctly. Knowing how a dog is feeling can enable us to communicate with it more effectively.
Decoding Dog Posture
Dog aggression isn’t something that’s fun to talk about. It’s also something that can’t be ignored if you expect to have a happy and healthy relationship with your pet. Aggression can be treated with medical care, proper training, and working alongside a behavioral expert. First, you need to understand the root cause:
Causes of Aggression
- Pain or sickness – this is the most common form of aggression and can be one of the easiest ones to deal with. Remove the source and you remove the aggression. If your pet is suddenly asking aggressive for no apparent reason, be sure to call your vet ASAP. Some medical conditions can cause aggressive behavior too; if your pet is in pain, they are likely to be irritable and act out.
- Fear – If your pet perceives a threat to themselves, you, or their puppies aggression will frequently be apparent. It is important to socialize your pet and yourself when they are young so they are not afraid of strangers approaching or touching them or you. Dogs frequently read our signals too. If you’re acting intimidated or threatened, don’t be surprised if your pet acts aggressively toward the perceived threat.
- Genetics – A much-debated topic, the simple fact is that some breeds of dogs are far more likley to behave aggressively than others. Some varieties have been genetically engineered for fighting or protection. Make sure you understand your dog’s breed as well as any adopted pets history before bringing them home. It is especially important to focus on training and control with dogs who are genetically predisposed toward it.
- Learned aggression – Sadly, some dogs are not only bred to be aggressive but taught as well. While it’s not impossible to re-train a dog, it does take time, dedication, and caution to remove triggers. Before taking on such a task, be sure to consult a veterinarian or training professionals.