Veterinarian in Fox Chapel | Reading Your Dog’s Body Language Part 1

In previous articles, veterinarian in Fox Chapel expert Richard Linkenheimer owner of River Valley Veterinary Hospital discussed dog body language with some of the more obvious telltale signs, such as their head placement, mouth movements, ears, eyes and tail. In today’s article, we are learning about the dog’s body language with their body, and what certain behaviours mean. Learning to know what your dog is telling you not only helps you bond deeper with your pet, but can help remove stressors or danger, helping your pet significantly!

What to Know to Start

While it can be fun and helpful to know what your dog is likely thinking or indicating, don’t use this as a diagnostic tool, cautions Dr. Linkenheimer, the owner and veterinarian of River Valley Veterinary Hospital, the expert veterinarian in Fox Chapel. Nothing should replace the advice and expertise of a trained professional. If you have any concerns, or think your dog is behaving abnormally, please bring them in for a check up right away.

Second, understand that various breeds have different types of behavior. A sheepdog, standard poodle, terrier, German shepherd and chihuahua for example will all have their own types of behaviours or mannerisms. For example, some breeds are known to be more energetic for example. And how they were raised will also factor into their behavior, which is why adopting a shelter animal often means showing the animal a lot of patience, as they get used to a completely new home, they may be anxious or fearful and will take time to acclimate.

Body Position

The body position of a dog will tell you a lot about what they are trying to communicate, expert veterinarian in Fox Chapel, Dr. Linkenheimer says. And it’s not just looking at the body, but considering all information. Are the ears up, down or back? What is the tail doing? By putting all the parts together, and looking at visual cues and your surroundings, you will unlock the secrets to understanding what your dog is telling you.

Stiff As A Board

A dog’s neutral pose is relaxed, their tail might be wagging if standing. If laying down, it might look like they’re about to fall asleep, and they just might! A relaxed dog is a sleepy dog, since dogs sleep 12 – 14 hours a day. However, a dog that is stiff has all their legs straight, their tail is likely pointing vertically backwards, and their ears will be alert – watching, waiting, assessing the situation.

They may be looking to you at if they should take action or calm down. It’s a very small difference between a stiff, alert dog to an aggressive one. If you see a dog in a stiff or alert stance, do not make eye contact, in fact, you may want to blink slowly, and avert your eyes down, and remain calm. Veterinarian in Fox Chapel expert Dr. Linkenheimer explains that owners who remain calm, talk gently to their dogs can help them relax again, and get away from being “on alert”.

Veterinarian In Fox Chapel | Play Bowing

Bowing is exactly what it sounds like says veterinarian in Fox Chapel. The dogs’ hind end will be up, and their back and front legs will bend to allow a “bow”. It’s a very cute position, and that’s on purpose! This pose is indicating the dog is ready for play. Maybe there’s a toy or ball by you, and your dog is trying to get you to play! If your dog does this at the off leash park, he’s trying to engage the other dogs to play with them! In this bowing behavior, you will also likely see forward ears, and a broadly sweeping tail!

Shake It Off

Other than when your dog has a bath, or goes to the groomers, which is actually an extremely effective technique says Dr. Linkenheimer, expert veterinarian in Fox Chapel. They can shake-off about 70% of the excess water in their fur! But other than that, have you ever seen your dog shake their entire body?

It’s a broad, side to side motion that usually starts at their hind quarters, and moves up to their head, a bit like a ripple. This can be a bit harder to decipher, but the clues are there. If your dog shakes off after a nap, or after being pet or groomed, they are shaking off the grogginess of sleep, or getting their fur lined up correctly.

But that’s not the only time they will do the shake off. A pet might shake-off to release tense muscles, but also tense emotions. Maybe they had a good run at the park, or went for a particularly long walk. Maybe they met a bunch of new dogs, and they were nervous and excited. Look for your dog’s other cues – ears, tail and eyes. Then look at the situation, if your dog is uncomfortable, give them love and reassure them, or take them away from the stressful situation.

A Shake-Off and Shaking Are Different

However, Dr. Linkenheimer cautions pet owners this should not be confused with watching your pet shake or tremble. They may be cold, nervous or scared, but a tremulous shaking of the whole body that does not stop should be taken very seriously. They recommend bringing your dog into a veterinarian in Fox Chapel like River Valley Veterinary Hospital where they can do a full check up and blood tests. They could be sick, anxious, poisoned, or have a neurological issue. Don’t delay if you see tremors. And when in doubt, always get your animal checked by experts.

Crouching Dog Hidden Dragon

A crouching behavior is when your dog will have all their legs bent, and their back will be rounded says veterinarian in Fox Chapel expert, Dr. Linkenheimer. This will indicate an anxious, nervous or frightened dog. Look at their head, tail and ear positions. Their tail will either hang low, or tucked between their legs if frightened. Their ears will be pointed back if nervous, flat against their head if scared.

Their head will usually be hanging low as well. Speak calmly and reassure your pet, and remove them from the environment, or remove the threat. Be aware that if the dog continues to feel scared or threatened, they may bite or take other defensive action. Take quick, but calm action, your dog will thank you for taking care of them!

Contact Us Today!

Learning how to speak your dog’s language will go a long way in communicating with your dog. Like most dog trainers say – it’s not about teaching the dog how to obey your commands, it’s about learning how your dog communicates, so you can speak in the same language. Ultimately, all a dog wants is to make their pack (your family) happy, if you can communicate in way they understand, they will be more than happy to comply.

However, if you have any questions about pet behavior, or any concerns about dog health, contact River Valley Veterinary Hospital and make an appointment to get a check up right away!