According to an article called ‘Dogs and People: Exploring the Human-Dog Connection’, domestic dogs are regarded as humankind’s earliest companion, with a bond that has endured throughout centuries. Dogs have taken on a variety of roles in our lives: guardians, working partners, beasts of burden, hunting guides, and above all, companions. Over the years, both humans and canines developed different cues that allow us to tap into these bonds and communicate with one another. In this article, we’ll provide you with tips on how to read your dog and improve your overall relationship:
Look at their body language
Because we aren’t mind-readers, dog owners rely on body language to give us hints on what dogs are feeling. As highlighted in The Dog’s Mind: Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior, we’ve built up a substantial body of knowledge on the psychology of dog behavior. We know that they do have a unique way of perceiving the world around them, and can suffer from stress or other negative emotions. Body language — from their eyes and fur, down to their tails — can tell you something new.
In terms of stress, it’s important to look at your dog’s posture and mouth. A calm, relaxed dog will have four legs even on the ground, with no muscles strained and a slightly open, relaxed snout. On the other hand, fearful dogs may arch away from you and keep their body close to the floor, muscles strained. Finally, dogs may have the “zoomies” — where they run around erratically — as a way to blow off stress. Keeping an eye on these signs, and looking out for potential stressors can greatly improve your relationship with your pet.
Pay attention to sound
Dogs do have verbal cues, which helps us figure out what they’re thinking and feeling. Quiet, calm panting that sounds like light breathing is a good sign, and this breathing becomes slightly heavier when they’re energetic or on-the-move. However, heavy panting or whining means your dog is in need of attention, as they’re expressing discomfort. Common dog sounds we know like barking or howling are usually done to express themselves, whether this is directed to you, to other dogs in the area, or strangers they don’t trust. Interestingly, it’s not just about the sounds a dog makes either. Canines are particularly sensitive to the things they hear. Recent research from the University of Glasgow suggests music can affect a dog’s behavior, and even calm them down if they’re feeling antsy or restless. Moreover, you should definitely pay attention to your tone of voice when speaking to a dog. Other studies suggest that dogs understand human language, particularly when the high-pitched “baby talk” tone is used for words like treat or walk.
Observe them in the company of other dogs
In his book Wonderdog: How the Science of Dogs Changed the Science of Life, UK-based wildlife expert and science writer Jules Howards notes that dogs have sociality built into their genes, and feel powerful attachments with one another. Thus, watching dogs at play with members of their own species can teach you a lot about your pet. For example, dogs tend to gravitate more towards other dogs that play similarly to them. From there, you may develop a better idea of how exactly your pup likes to play as well, like whether they prefer more high-energy or relaxed activities.
We’ve talked about helping older dogs socialize better with other canines in a previous post titled ‘How To Socialize An Older Dog’, and the same advice applies: let your dog hang out with other dogs you both already know. Think of your dog as a student, and the other dogs as their teacher; obviously, you’d want them to learn from a well-behaved dog with an even temperament. As a pet parent, you should spend a lot of time watching your fur babies, so you can understand their unique communication styles.
Article written by Ruth Justine
Exclusively for Pacific Pups Rescue
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