Your Dog’s Body Language by River Valley Veterinary Hospital

Veterinarian in Fox Chapel | Your Dog’s Body Language Part 3

Here is the third and final article discussing dog’s actions and behaviors. Resident veterinarian in Fox Chapel expert and dog lover, Dr. Richard Linkenheimer has been thrilled to share his knowledge to help you gain a deeper understanding and deeper bond with your best friend. His expertise not only in the veterinary field, but as the owner of River Valley Veterinary Hospital for over 25 years has allowed him to see, and befriend many dogs. Enjoy his insight and invaluable information about man’s best friend!.


Chewing is often seen as a behavioral problem, one that is common to puppies. And puppies can’t help it – they are teething and exploring their world! But even in adult dogs, chewing is natural. The best thing to do, is take action before their chewing becomes a problem. Have ample toys and chews around that are more enticing to chew.

Make sure that the toys don’t resemble things in the home they aren’t allowed to chew, like a chew toy shaped like a shoe, says veterinarian in Fox Chapel clinic owner Dr. Linkenheimer. If they do start chewing on things they aren’t supposed to, simply redirect them to something more appropriate. The earlier you do this, the more successful you will be.

Activities that Curb Chewing

Although it is important to note that dogs will start to chew out of boredom or if they get over excited. Dr. Linkenheimer, the expert veterinarian in Fox Chapel. So ensure they have lots of toys to keep them engaged, especially if they are home alone for several hours. There are stuffed toys with squeakers, and chew bones made out of pet safe materials, and toys to keep your dog engaged. For example, a licky mat that will not only keep your dog engaged mentally, but licking is a self soothing behavior as well.

Snuffle mats are popular – they are soft fabric with lots of folds. Hide treats in the snuffle mat, and this encourages your dog to seek the treats, keeping their mind engaged and active, while allowing them to sniff, which helps tire your dogs out. Put some peanut butter in a hollow silicone toy, and the dog will love working hard to get the peanut butter out! All of these techniques will help your dog avoid chewing out of boredom.


Growling is your dog’s original warning system. The warning is for the perceived threat to leave. If you do not heed your dog’s warning, the next step will be a bite. In fact, says expert veterinarian in Fox Chapel, Richard Linkenheimer most dog bites can usually be avoided if everyone simply respects the dog’s request to leave them alone. And please do not punish the dog for growling, if they learn to not warn you, they will simply immediately escalate to bite, which will not help.

Many dog owners visit the River Valley Veterinary Hospital complaining that their dog growls when the owner is trying to take something away that the dog should not have, or when it’s time to stop chewing the bone. In that case, experts recommend simply trading the dog for a smaller treat so the owner can take it away safely. Think of it as a reward for giving up what they were chewing.

Veterinarian in Fox Chapel | Chasing

Dogs are predators, and depending on what breed of dog you have, will have a very high prey drive. This means chasing is built into the dog’s natural behavior. Think of greyhounds for example – they don’t have to be taught to chase that fake rabbit around a race track, they just have a high prey drive. However, many pet owners don’t need their family dog to be chasing everything down like that.

Family members need to know how to act around a dog that’s prone to chase. Walk, don’t run around your pet, and ensure your dog gets lots of walks to burn energy. If your dog loves to chase, take them outside to have them chase balls, or frisbees so they can fill this behavioral urge, and not chase people. The expert veterinarian in Fox Chapel, Dr. Linkenheimer recommends teaching your dog the “freeze” command so this behavior, when problematic can be stopped.


While biting, or nipping is instinctual, a trait they acquired from genetics, is a pack mentality behaviour. This helps them learn their place in the pack, or in your case, the family. This is one of the reasons puppies tend to nip and bite outside of teething and exploring. However, if biting happens after your dog is no longer a puppy, this should not be considered normal behavior. They may be afraid, or if provoked. Veterinarian in Fox Chapel expert, Dr. Linkenheimer says if a dog is aggressive, the more likely they are to biting.

Ensure they get to puppy or dog training early, and get them socialized early, and that can reduce the biting problem. However, if your dog normally doesn’t bite starts exhibiting this behavior, it can be a sign that they are in pain. Bring them to River Valley Veterinary Hospital right away for a check up.


Most people believe that panting is simply a way that your dog cools off, since they don’t sweat over most of their body. And while it’s true, says veterinarian in Fox Chapel clinic owner Dr. Linkenheimer says. That’s only one of the reasons why they pant, it can be a sign of fear, anxiety or stress. Therefore, pet owners should always consider why their pet is panting. Is it too warm for your pet? Should they be taken somewhere to cool down? If it’s not overly hot, consider what a pet owner can do to remove the stressors, or help your dog cope with the stressful situation.

Licky mats, snuffle mats, puzzle toys are just some ways to redirect the pet’s attention. But if your dog is suffering frequently from stress, contact River Valley Veterinary Hospital for an appointment to see if there’s a medical reason, or a supplement as a solution to help your pup stay relaxed and calm.


There are so many reasons why your pet licks, says veterinarian in Fox Chapel expert, Dr. Richard Linkenheimer. First, understand that it’s an instinctual behavior, from mother dogs licking their puppies to clean, and important grooming behaviors. Dogs also groom as a way to express affection as they bond with their pack. Whether they lick you in greeting, or when you’re relaxing together, it’s your dog’s way of showing their love!

It’s also interesting to learn that licking causes dopamine and endorphins to be released, which helps them feel happy, relaxed and calm! This is why lickimats are a good tool for anxious dogs. Your pet may also lick if they think you need to feel happy or be soothed! Dogs can be so empathetic and intuitive! If you’ve trained your dog not to bark to get your attention, licking may simply be a different method they use.

Maybe they want some scritches, to go for a walk, play outside or because they’re hungry. If your dog licks you, then looks expectantly in your direction, try figuring out what they want – your dog will likely be extremely pleased if you figure it out!

When to Distract From Licking

This is how some dogs ask to go outside at night, but to the shock of family members! Finally, your dog might be licking you because let’s face it – you taste good! Our skin develops  a thin layer of salt as we sweat throughout the day, and that’s delicious! However, licking isn’t always a harmless activity. Anxious dogs often lick as a self soothing activity since veterinarian in Fox Chapel, Dr. Linkenheimer says licking releases the endorphins and dopamine!

Unfortunately anxious licking can cause problems, causing bald patches or sores. It could be how they are coping with pain or an injury. To discover the cause of their licking, bring them in to River Valley Veterinary Hospital. They will ensure there’s nothing going on medically with your dog, and if it is anxiety, they’ll walk you through the options to help soothe your dog safely.

Putting it All Together

Ultimately, learning to read your dog’s body language and understand what they want takes some knowledge, being observant as you spend time with your dog, and patience. The more time you spend together, the more you will learn your dogs individual quirks and actions and behavior. Like people, no two dogs are exactly the same, so get to know your pet, and always take them to a trusted source for annual exams and medical check ups such as River Valley Veterinary Hospital. The love you get in return will be incredible!