I find that knowing what to look for in a dogs body language can be an excellent tool in knowing how they are feeling at the time. Certain signals that canines give us can let us know, for example, how to approach a strange dog or how to tell if your own dog isn’t feeling well. Here are some examples of different body languages and what they can mean for a dog:
Yawning- Yes it can mean your dog is tired, but it’s also a common sign of stress. Has a family member ever told you to take deep breaths when you are anxious? Deep breathing sends large amount of oxygen into our brains leaving us feeling calm. Humans and dogs both use a big yawn as a great subconscious technique to “pump ourselves up” when our body feels we need it.
If a dog is new on it’s first day of daycare, we would often see a lot of yawning as he made his way around meeting fellow canines. I once saw a pup at the “Super Dogs” show at the Calgary Stampede yawn right before his first big performance.
Yawning isn’t a bad thing. Just make sure your dog looks safe and comfortable if he’s doing it or make sure there’s a soft bed nearby!
Wrinkling of nose/showing teeth- This sign is often times the most overlooked by people even though it can be the most serious. A wrinkling of the nose and baring of the teeth sometimes combined with a low growl is definitely a warning to stay away. Dogs with food aggression will do this when people come to close to them while they are eating. A lot of times people can find this behavior funny but if left unresolved it can lead to problems with aggression.
Blinking- Dogs are known to be sweet and gentle creatures. They are very good at avoiding conflict and other intense situations with each other. They seem to use many forms of avoidance or submission (depending on the dog) before they escalate anything. Blinking is one of those signs. Slow blinking and a general lack of eye contact with another dog can show they mean that dog no harm or even complete submission. Nose licking can also be seen as a sign of submission.
Shake off- You will usually see this right after a dog fight or other stressful event. When a dog shakes their body, it means they are calming themselves down similar to the yawning mentioned earlier. This is always a good sign to see. Have you ever had a confrontation with someone that didn’t go so well and your friend tells you, “Just shake it off”. That’s exactly what your pooch is doing!
If you have questions about different dog behaviors or other body language signs there are many dog behavior books at your local library you can check out! Also be sure to comment below if you have any questions for me!