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How to read your dog's body language

Published: Oct 23, 2012

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If you're a dog owner, chances are you've had an experience that made you wish your dog could talk. Perhaps you forgot to feed her and she was unable to tell you, or maybe she was worried about another member of the family, but couldn't express herself. While it's unlikely that your dog will ever be able to form words, there are many ways canines communicate their emotions and thoughts. Knowing how to interpret your pet's body language will make it easier for you to understand her needs and wants.

It's more than just a wag
Perhaps the most clear indicator of your dog's mood is her tail. While some people may think that a wagging tail is a surefire sign of happiness, the way in which the tail wags can tell you more, according to NJ.com. An elevated tail, which you'll often see when out on walks, means that the dog is feeling confident. If you see your dog wagging her tail with her entire body, what may look like wiggling, it means she is quite happy. However, if your dog is wagging only her tail and not the rest of the body, it may mean that she is feeling anxious, interested, aggressive, or pensive. A tail between the legs can mean your dog is afraid.

When your dog speaks
Dogs make lots of noises, and each one can signify something different. A growl is easy to understand - it is a warning. When your dog whines, she is basically saying "I want." You may hear this when you're offering her a treat, and canines who suffer from separation anxiety in dogs will also frequently whine when their owner leaves the house. If you see your pet yawning with vocalization, or giving out a high pitched bark, it's likely that she is excited.

Keep an eye on the face
Your dog's face and the position of her head can also be indicative of how she's feeling, according to Modern Dog Magazine. A dog who puts her ears back, wrinkles her nose, shows her teeth and raises her hackles is likely fearful or angry. If your canine is doing this too often, it could be an indication of dog aggression, and you may want to speak to your vet about curbing this behavior.

Recognize warning signs
Some body language may indicate pain in dogs or other dog emergencies that require medical attention. If your canine is limping or favoring a part of her body, experiencing rapid panting, cowering or suddenly acting much less active than she normally does, it's essential that you get her to a vet clinic right away.

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