Dog language, a guide/article/whatever that I wrote

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Dog language, a guide/article/whatever that I wrote

Postby Pineapples » Thu Nov 08, 2007 4:12 pm

This is an article I wrote for my breed club that I've tried to translate into english. It's not completely finished, I'm gonna fill inn some blanks later.
It's kinda long, butI hope it's educational, and that you enjoy it. :) I spent a lot of time writing it, so please let me know what you think, k?
(For me it helps to improve my english, so I guess it's win win either way?)

Dog Language

Have you ever noticed that your dog will shake itself off after an uncomfortable experience? That is licks its nose or yawns when you stare it in the eye? That it puts it's nose to the ground and sniffs around if you are a bit annoyed with it? That it scrapes or scratches you with its foot when it wants attention? That dogs never look each other in the eye like we do? That your dog wags its tail when its mad? That it wags its tail when its happy? That it can put its foot on another dog that is a bit weaker? That it can draw back the corners of its mouth when you come home from work? That it can bark at statues or put it's head to the side to things it hasn't seen before?

My, how they talk! They yap on to us, each other and their surroundings, and it's so good to know a little about what they are trying to say. So, my point with this article is to educate a bit about canines very ample languange, so that we can be a bit better at understanding our animals. I can guarantee that it will be a relief to your dog to realize that those big ole weird creatures aren't so dumb after all. That they understand a thing or two now and then at least. :) One needs to develop a trained eye to learn how to read dogs, there are so many nuances involved when they talk. One behavior can look the same in different situations, but can have different motivations. Mills pilotstudy on "calming signals" also showed that different signals were used in different situations and to different individuals.
To be quite honest, I am far from fluent in dog, but who is? Except for our dogs of course. It is a true joy to watch dogs that live together and make a pack talk to each other. They can have long conversations, discuss, argue, fight and play. It is very educational, and you can say a lot about a dog by observing it with others. So get out, watch and learn! it's the only way to get better at dog. Reinforce the signals you want you dog to use, preferably from when it's a puppy. Respond to the signals it gives you, so that it sees that talking will pay off. To learn dog language is so much more exciting than learning any other language. Because the more you understand, the more behavior you'll see in your dog. And you will get a better relationship and cooperation than what you had before. When you start understanding your dog better, you can also make yourself easier too understand for your dog.

Canines have a very evolved and rich language, and therefor a bid variety of messages. They are very social animals, and tell each other a lot more than one would think. A dog can easily challenge another dog to a fight, or make sure it avoids a fight. A dog can tell another one that they want to interact, or that they want to keep their distance. And a dog has many ways to show that they think that something is especially interesting.
The same language they use to talk to each other, they also use on us humans. There are wagging tails, barking, growling, facial expressions, body posture and lots lots more. Thanks to their language wild canines can live together in families (or packs) and have a giving life together. A pack isn't a collection of animals without contact. it's quite the opposite, where their survival is dependent by their ability to communicate, especially in the hunt. They can tell a whole lot both about the prey and each other, and thereby increasing the chances of a successful hunt. One single look can show that a prey is approaching. A stiff body posture and all attention to one place, can show exactly where the prey is. A signal with the tail can ssay that an attack is imminent. A specific look can mean that an attack should be aborted if the prey gives off too much of a fight.
When they are together they can show each other their devotion, or clearly show that they are enemies. They can coax each other together, or push each other away, just by using their signals. Isn't it fascinating??

What is communication?

This might be a little bit academic, and is not really important for the everyday owner. But for us "dogpeople" it is always good to speak the same language (just like dogs!), so that we can be sure that we are talking about the same thing. It is very useful to have already defines phrases, so that we can discard the phrases that are defines individually and can have one meaning to one person and another one to someone else.
Very simply put is communication made up of three parts. A sender, a recipient and a signal. The sender gives a signal that makes a change in the recipients conduct, behavior or mood. The recipient confirms that the information has been recieved by sending a signal back, and that way tells if the original signal had the intended meaning. Typical for the canine species is that they communicate with the help of facial expressions, body signals, sound, smell and touch. In an addition to communicate "messages", dogs also use their language to say something about their mood and state of mind.

So, to be able to call language communication it is dependent of a response. If the response is not there, it is per definition not communication. In Norway the author Turid Rugaas has revolutionized the way we look at canine language with her book "On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals", but there are a lot of problems with this book. First is that she defines a set of signals as "calming". This is not academic terminology. In scientific literature many of the signals that Rugaas describe are defines as agonistic behavior. This is behavior that arise in conflict situations. So, they are threatening signals (aggression) and submissive signals (calming if you will). The other problem is that there has not been found any communicative value in many of Rugaas' calming signals. That means that these signals are not expressed consciously and do not necessarily need to be recipieted and responded to. I'm sure you have experienced being unsure of a situation and start fiddling with your hair or an object in your hand - is this something you do consciously to tell your adversary that you don't like the situation? Is this something the adversary observes and responds to?

I will not discuss if all of Rugaas' signals are communicative, many mean they are, others not. Many of the signals can be expressions of emotion (we can not use the term feelings with dogs), that they are expressed unconsciously and that they have no communicative value, or that they have a calming effect on the individual that expresses them or recieves them. Emotion is defined as the sum of the subjective experience, physiological changes and behavioral change. The reason we use the term emotions and not feelings is that we do not know what is happening in the head of others. But we can measure physiological changes and behavioral changes.

For a species like the dog (humans too really) that can threaten with a staring look, it is important to be able to signalize the opposite by avoiding eyecontact, look another way, turn the head, or turn parts of the body away from the threat.
In short, agonistic behavior is conflict-decreasing or conflict-increasing, but certainly not synonymous with Rugaas' calming signals.
Agonistic behavior can be conscious or unconscious, but still possible to undestand and respond to for the recipient.

In 1997 there was published an article about agonistic behavior in different breeds sompared with wolves. Breeds like Siberian Husky, German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever - had a big behavioral repertoire - while breeds like Cavalier, Norfolk Terrier, French Bulldog and Shetland Sheepdog had a small behavioral repertoise. So, there are behavioral variables between the different breeds to make it even more complicated. In other words we can say that because of selective breeding, many breeds have lost their natural, rich and species appropriate language canines were originally equipped with. This doesn't automatically mean that individuals of these breeds get into trouble with other dogs, they still have enough language to say what they mean. The common denominator with these breeds is that they are first and foremost companion breeds. All breeds in existence have been subjected to neoteny in their natural and unnatural evolution from the wolf. Neoteny is the retention of juvenile features in the adult animal. We have bred for puppylike features since they are easier to handle and cute to look at. Which is fine to a certain degree, we can't keep wolves as pets, but exaggerating in vener good. I chose to write a little bit about it, because we have in our breeding to create dog breeds that fits in society and fulfils our demands of it, we should (must?) also take into consideration that when you breed for certain characteristics, you automatically deselect other. Who knows what the consequence is for our breeds if they are subjected to neoteny for a long time?

Communication between dogs and humans

Compared to dogs, humans have a very poor body language. The majority of our language is through symbols (words), while dogs are way mor honest than us, they talk in emotions. We humans also have body language, we establish a lot of messages though gestures, mimicry, movement and touch. We are just not as good as the dogs. Our body signals also include a lot that differs from canines. When we are happy we show the upper jaws teeth, we smile. We add a little staring. The same signals are a down right threat in dog. Fortunately dogs are as good at reading our body language as they at at reading their own, and they are very meticulous. Dogs gather information from our way of moving, our posture and our facial expressions. A dog can even be more aware of a humans intentions than the human itself! Bacon always knew I was sad, even before I knew myself.
Dogs that have good experiences with people usually don't bother much with the human signals. But they study every human that approaches - and sometimes it can go a bit pfft. Because us humans aren't so conscious on what our behavior looks like from the eye of a dog. When we want to show a dog friendliness, we can end up threatening it instead. So, think about how you choose to greet dogs, be aware of what you are actually telling it. It isn't always the same as what you want to tell it.

Your own dog interprets your body signals much more than you think. Many think that a dogs obedience is about the fact that we have taught them certain words: "sit" ,"down", "stay" etc. But the words are just a little part of obedience. Very often a dog depends more on facial mimicry and expression than on the actual words. Do the following experiment:
Stand up with your back against your dog, so that it is all that way behind you and can not see your face. Stand completely still. Give the command "sit", and then "down". Sneak a peak behind you and look at your dogs reaction to the commands. With all probability it will obey with doubt if at all. Because it didn't get the chance to see the body language they are used to when normally given the commands. Dogs depend on seeing our facial expressions, arm movement and body posture together with the words, and when they are not available they don't get enough information to understand what we say. If if obeys, you have trained your dog well, then you can try another variety. Lie down with your face to the floor and command your dog from your passive position, still without looking at the dog. Does it still obey? :)

It is interesting to think about the fact that dogs and people communicate with each other in such a different way, and that we still coexist in a fruitful manner. I mean, conflicts between dogs and people are quite rare when you look at the numbers. Dogs are fantastic and adaptable creatures, they learn our way of communicating without trouble worth mentioning. We have huge demands for our dogs, both from society and us responsible for them. In many ways they are not allowed to be the animals that they are anymore. Still, bite incidents are very rare compared to how many dogs there are. I think we can thank dogs for that, not humans. Vi should in no way underestimate the fourlegged creatures we choose to share our lives with.


Anthropomorphism it the phrase to illustrate when we assign animals human attributes that they do not have the disposition to have. Words like jealousy, envy, insulted, sad, bad conscience and depressed have little to do in a realistic dog ownership. It is now fair to dogs to assign dogs feelings like that. In our search to understand these weird and funny animals it is easy to use notions we are familiar with, and that we use to define our own state of mind, or feelings if you will. But remember that dogs are simple animals, they don't have a logical sense, they don't comprehend that one thin relates to another the way we do, and they live in the moment. They also do not conspire to take over the whole world like it seems like some think. Being a dog has its limits. They are not like us.
The cause of the sometimes exaggerated anthropomorphism can be because of Disneys very human representation of animals. Who doesn't remember Lassies fantastic loyalty, his heroism and his impeccable intuition and sixth sense. Reality is not like that of course. But when we are fed this from childhood, and also have a need to put a dogs personality in understandable (to us!) classifications, maybe it's not so strange that we anthropomorphize sometimes?
But anthropomorphizing often leads to unfair punishment (vi think we understand why the dog does what it does, "she usually knows this" or "he knows it's doing something wrong", or to babying and fussing over on the other side of the scale. Dogs become sort of a baby substitute, and that rare leads to anything but disobedient dogs.

Dogs talk in many ways

Dogs make themselves understood in many different ways. Through body signals, sound, scent and touch. Often we can get a whole package of signals to really underline what a dog is trying to say. A dog can for example both growl and bare teeth at the same time. Even their looks can say a lot about what state of mood the dog is.
We differentiate between passive and active submission, and between passive and active threat. With "active" we mean that a dog is approaching another and gives signalacts towards it; licks it's mouth, or airsnaps. While passive means that a dog is staying still and not moving towards another dog; roll over on its back, or giving a growl without moving forward.

Agonistic behavior

Agonistic behavior is shown in conflict or in meetings with strangers. They can be aggressive or aggressioncalming. You could also call them distanceincreasing or distancedecreasing. It is these, among other things, that a packs hierarchy is maintained. A lot of the times in a dog meeting the signals are exchanged unbelievably fast, with sudden transitions. And it is always about gradual changes between a high and a low tail, ears erect or pulled back. To be able to catch all these nuances, you need, like I mentioned before, to train your observational skills.

Here is a (guaranteed not even close to complete) general view over dog languages different parts, and which signals dogs use. I have tried to illustrate communication with photos, where they are available (it is really difficult to photograph talking dogs!). Some signals are not illustrated at all unfortunately. It is wise to note that there are some breedspecific differences, and we also have to take the dogs anatomy in consideration. Dog language is not an exact science, and we have to have a dogs physique and colors in mind.

Bodysignals and movement
Communication that involves body signals is that dogs use the most. They include both gestures and mimicry. The gestures are so clear that another dog can read them even from a distance. Mimicry isn't as easy since it is made up of small and fine movements in the face. The mimicries clarity is underlines or suppressed by color and fur. Different breeds can have advantages or disadvantages just because of the way they were born. For example, it is easier for a Siberian Husky to make itself understood, than for a hairy Old English Sheepdog.

Distance-decreasing signals:
The easiest way to establish it's position is a staring look with erect ears and the tail stiffly in the air. If the opponent then does not show aggression-decreasing signals, the dog can start circling it with exaggerated stiff legs and erect ears and tail. Sometimes it can wag it's tail in a high and stiff fashion, which marks a very powerful threat with a high risk of attack. But if the tail is waving at a level below the dogs topline, it's not a threat but an aggression-decreasing signal. It can be very easy to misinterpret the way a dog holds its tail, esecially if their tail is carried above the back as standard. One dog can also come in and stand right in front of another dog, or go into a so called T-position, which means coming in from a straight angle with it's head over the other dogs back. Other position establishing signals are putting it's paws on another dogs shoulders/back or mounting. With more serious threats, the dog hackles go up, bares it's teeth and frowns both its muzzle and forehead. It will also walk in stiff movement and with a high held head and tail. Barking and growling is more common in less serious threats. If no dog wants to budge in a ceremony like this, we can se full on attacks. This will reveal bites and strikes to the head and shoulder area. The dogs will try to get a hold on each other with their teeth and pull and shake until one submits. This does not always happen, dogs are very capable of killing each other. For equal sized dogs damages are usually not grave though (although there are differences between breeds) other than puncture wounds and ripped ears. For smaller dogs that don't give in for bigger dogs, the injuries can get quite severe. Many dogs do not have a fair comprehension of size in a situation like this, and answers up based on the opponents aggression level without considering size.

The american researcher Randall Lockwood have done scientific research on wolves and the conflicts between them. He found put that fighting is a very bad way to establish rank. Fights was seldom about conflict of rank. We can say that the thing we have with "let them fight and figure out their positioning" (Although us bully owners hopefully never think that!) is not correct. It is not rank that the dogs are figuring out. Because it is definitely not always the winner of the fight that has the highest position!
Lockwood points out that observations on both wolves and monkeys show that there is usually the low ranking individuals that show aggressive behavior. You can say that the most selfconfident, high rank, most dominant that fight the least! It is the anxious individuals that show the most aggression.

Active distance-increasing signals:
The submissive individuals stands or sits while the other one walks around. It turns it's head away, but it can pull its lips up and show its teeth. The muzzle and forehead wrinkles up, and it raises its hackles. A lot of the times you can hear a warning growl. If the submissive dog is challenged by the other dog it can reciprocate with lashes and airsnaps together with a growly and snappy sound. The submissive dog shows that it will protect itself if it is to be attacked, but it does not want a fight. This type of threat display will depend a lot on whether the dog has a possibility go get away or not.

Passive distance-increasing signals:
The most common form of passive defense in dogs are to walk away, or to stand still with a low tail (sometimes the tail is tucked), ears are pulled back and and their look is turned away from the threat. The submissive can also sit down, lie down, lick its mouth or nose, and pull the corners of their mouth back making their lips long. The dog can even sit in different ways, for example have a laid back position with or without a front foot lifted up in the air and with a back leg to the side, which will let the other dog smell its butt and tummy. If the threat gets even stronger it might lie down completely with its tail between its legs, its head turned to the side, and ears pulled back. These signals are ritualized puppy behavior and is very aggression inhibiting. The part that is usually attacked - the back and neck - is hidden, and the biggest means to show threat, the face, is turned away.

I'll put in an illustration here within a reasonable time hopefully.

When dogs raise their hackles it is always an unconscious gesture, dogs can not control their hackles. Dogs raise their hackles to look bigger and taller, either because they are angry, scared or generally worked up about something.
Dogs raise hackles in two different ways. One where the hackles are up just on the front part of the back and neck, the other where the hair is raised down the entire back. Some dogs raise their hackles on the front and back of their back, while the fur rests in the middle. It is looked at as a sign of confidence when the dog only raises the front part of their back, but a full back hackle indicated that the dog is insecure. More correct is it to say that a dog raising partial hackles is a bit worked up, but a dog with full hackles is a very worked up dog. It is said that it is adrenalin that causes raised hackles (I'm sure you have experiences that the hairs on the back of your neck raises or that you get goosebumps if you get scared or worked up?), and adrenaline is a stress hormone. I think it is very difficult to say something definitive about a dogs state of mind based on hackles. Is it angry? Is it scared? Is it feeling anxious? I think the only conclusion we can make is that the dog is worked up about something in some way.

I'll put in an illustration here within a reasonable time hopefully.

Weight of the body:
How a dog places the weight of its body can say something about its state of mind. To put its weight on the back part of their body makes it easier to quickly submit and/or run away, while if the weight is on the front part of the body indicates selfconfidence and can possibly be a threatsignal. An angry dog will put it's weight on the front so that it can easily attack.

Body positioning:
A dog can turn away from another dog, or a human, to signalize peacefulness. This is the opposite to approaching straight on, that can be a threat. The so called T-position has been studied carefully, where the submissive shows its side and the superior stands directly towards the other.
In other ways, a dog can show that it is peaceful by turning its butt to people and dogs. It is to mark that they do not mean harm or threat, even if it is being very close. Closeness can be very sensitive for some dogs, and it can be of importance. If a dog approaches another dog quickly, it can be interpreted as a threat or challenge. If the dog shows a clear invitation to play or submission, it is usually fine. If it comes inn stiff, it's a challenge. Some dogs can even react to other dogs being to close to each other, and try to break it up by going in between them. Some dogs can even think that humans that are hugging or showing affection like kissing are just about to fight, and will try to fix the imminent conflict. Usually to the humans malcontent....

In submission the neck is turned downwards. At the same time the head id heightened some, so that the dogs neck and nose forms a straight line with the back. When the neck is proudly held up and back and the nose turned downwards, so that the dogs neck and head forms an arch, it shows that the dog is selfconfident.

(I'll put some more things in here if the mods will let me. After I've done the work of course.)

Lastly I wanted to point out something about agonistic behavior. It isn't necessarily the case that a dog that uses a lot of submissive/conflictsupressing signals is a nervous, uncertain, weak, submissive or cowardice dog. On the contrary, it demands a lot of courage to dare to fix potential conflicts. On the other hand isn't it automatically the dog that makes itself big and tough is a dominant or strong dog either. It is just as likely that it is a show to mask a weaker foundational temperament.
Real dominant dogs are not the ones who get in trouble with other dogs or the ones that lash out on the leash. Really dominant dogs don't have to prove themselves or anything else. Because they have the natural authority that makes them able to completely control other with just a glance, or just standing there motionless.
It is a complete and utter joy to watch these fantastic selfconfident and peaceful dogs talk! These are the dogs who usually will fix conflicts between other dogs, even by just walking closely.
I will never forget a meeting I witnessed between two males close in age (both intact). One of them was a Husky mix who's owner proclaims her dog is the most dominant dog alive, alphamale of the litter and all that mumbo jumbo. The other one was a black dog, also a mix, which I had the joy of socializing my puppys with. The two males meet (both off leash), the Husky mix immediately goes into a big and stiff stance, and closes in on the other male while staring intently. Black dog is totally relaxed, and does not give the other one any attention. Husky mix start to obviously push the limits by putting his paw on the other ones shoulder and wants to get on his back to hump him. What he is doing is making a down right show to ry to assert himself. All of this doesn't really affect Black dog much, he just walks away tough fellow. Husky mix walks away for a bit to mark on just about everything that sticks more than an inch up from the ground. After a little round, he goes back to black dog to start everything all over again. Tail over his back, stiff legs, staring, the whole package. Black dog glances over at him, and I will never forget that look. With just a single glance the Husky mix fall apart in a moment. His tails falls down, his head turns to the side, and he turns to the side. The dog shrinks about 4 inches in height, and he retreats straight away from Black dog. The black one just continues doing what he was doing, like nothing ever happened. It was a n insane thing to watch, and there was absolutely no doubt about who was the dominant of the two. I couldn't help myself mentioning to the owner of Husky mix, that her dog was a wannabe, and not a dominant dog at all. It almost seemed like she was disappointed.

Illustrational pictures:
I am sorry that most of these pictures are of my own dogs, but obviously they are the ones I have the most pictures of. Do you have any pictures that illustrate dog language clearly I'd be very interested in seeing them, and possibly including them in the article. My email is at the bottom of the article.

Blenda shakes herself after/in a meeting with an Akita to get the stressing experience out of her body. He is done with the meeting, and retracts a little.

Blenda sits, and turns her head and eyes to the side. She pulls her ears back. Blenda is showing passive, distanceseeking signals to a horny Lab. ;)

Ted turns his head, Blenda licks her nose.

Moshi "smiles" at a person touching her and leaning over her. She pulls back her mouth and ears. ("We are friends, and i mean no harm")

Moshi gets a signal from a Whippet that she is being too intense. An airsnap, showing of the front teeth, but with drawn back ears and a tucked tail indicates a threat based on insecurity (Mr. Whippet wants some space), not aggression (even if the signals are of aggressive nature).

Moshi meets Ted. Makes herself small, pulls back the corners of her mouth, low tail. The next picture illustrates what she does afterwards.

Moshi submits to Ted. Low tail, she comes in with a low body, and her head up. She is about to tip over and show her tummy.

Moshi turns around and licks her nose at Ted in play. Her head is low, her ears are pulled back and she is indicating that she thinks he's being a bit intense and telling him to calm down.

Five very clear signals at one time. Moshi sits down to make herself smaller and to lessen the chance of confrontation. She exposes her tummy to Ted, and she licks her nose. She pulls back her ears and squints with her eyes. All of these are peaceful signals showing she doesn't want trouble. Ted responds with calm and selfconfident movements. A very good example of passive distanceseeking signals.

Moshi scratches her leg on Ted. It is considered to be a signal that dates back to when they were puppys, where the puppies scratch on the dams teats to stimulate milkproduction.
Her body is low, all the weight is on the back of her body, she has a low "whipping" tail (she only wags the tip of it), and pulled back ears and the corners of the mouth. Ted responds by being passive, with pulled back ears and a selfconfident and wagging tail.

Smell is very inportant for dogs in a greeting situation.

Ted makes himself big. Long-legged and with stiff movements. He bristles the fur on his back and neck.

A little game in dominance. The Labrador is trying to mount Ted. Ted responds by pulling back his ears and a low tail. In addition he growls as a warning. The Lab doesn't listen to the warning, and got an airsnap right after this picture was taken. He answered that very nicely, and retracted.

Moshi meets Akita. Very low body posture, with the weight on the back of her body, pulls her ears back, and "whips" her tail. Akita is just about to answer by licking his nose.

A puppy Unix is submitting to Bacon. She rolls over on her back, exposes her tummy, and lets her self be inspected. Many people think you can make a dog submit by physically forcing it on its back and holding it there. But the truth is that dogs never physically forces another dog on its back. Dogs voluntarily roll ov er on their back, if not it's actually not submission! To alpharoll your dog is something you should be very careful with, chances are the dog can respond with defense and fear aggression. Best scenario is that you are "just" scaring it to death.

Bacon doesn't want to play photo model anymore, and yawns to the camera.

A Standars Poodle licks Bacons corner of the mouth. A pacifying signal.

Moshi pulls her ears back and squints her eyes to the camera and me. I am leaning over her with a weird black gadget in front of my face, so it is safer to tell "us" she is being peaceful. ;)

Malika makes a playbow to Doppler to coax him into a round of play.

Moshi shows full submission to a bullying Unix. Her tail is tucked, her mouth is pulled back and so are her ears. Unix is hackling her tail, the bottom of her back and her neck. She is also growling, demanding respect from the younger dog.

Moshi gives a warning to Kåre. She is staring, and fully showing her teeth. Her wight of body is on the front and her tail is straight out on a line from her back. "Leave me the heck alone!"

Kåre doesn't listen, and Moshi gives a final warning in the shape of a "serpent tongue". "Get away from me, or else!"

Dogs also express themselves through a wide variety of different sounds. Most of these sounds they are born with, and are used in specific situations. Like when a dog can bark to alert that a stranger is coming, or it can growl as a warning to a dog that is threatening. A dog can also learn to use sound in situations where it isn't really natural for it to use sound. It can bark for attention, food or to go for a walk. A very playful dog can have an orchestra of growling during a game of tug, but it doesn't mean anything but play. A dog can also learn to bark on command.
A dog has many different sounds to use, it can howl like a wolf, bark in many different tones, grown in different ways, whimper like a puppy, shriek in pain or fear, scream in anger, squeek because it is impatient, sneeze to steer the attention to something and purr or sigh in delight. These are sounds us humans are pretty good at understanding, but they are also misunderstood a lot of the time. it seems like humans have trouble distinguishing between aggressive and scared noises. We think growling is an aggressive sound for example, something it actually rarely is. A dog can growl because it is guarding it's food, or a bone then dad walks past. That can make dad angry, and tells the dog off, maybe even corrects it physically. He really shouldn't because it is he that have misunderstood the dogs language! Even if the dog sounds angry, it is just trying to say that it doesn't trust dad enough to think it'll be able to keep its food. He should instead be working on getting the dog to trust him. And it doesn't really help to correct a dog for growling anyway. You are just punishing the symptoms, not dealing with the cause of the problem.

That scent has major meaning to dogs is very easy to see. In many ways dogs live in a world of smells. Peespots are what dogs smell the most and longest, and it is easy to see that they are among the most important scentsignals in a dogs world. Excrement is also considered to be an important part of the exchange of messages between dogs. Puppys have a different scent than the adult dog. It is believed that this scent can contribute to calming aggression in adults. Personally I think that a puppys scent is the reason why puppys get the "puppy license" from older dogs, where they are not corrected for unwanted behavior until they reach a certain age. Scentmarking can have many causes to a dog, they can claim territory, mark it's home, tell something about their identity, their sexual and social status (i.e. if a female is in heat). What information canines exchange through their marking isn't known in it's entirety, but there is no doubt that there is a lot of information in some dogpee!

To come close and even touching each other can to a dog mean everything from an intimate contact to a challange to a fight. The situation combined with other signals determines if it's about threat, challange or love. A dog can seek body contact with another dog while it also shows signals of submission - or signals which obviously tells it wants to play. In these cases, this close contact will not be interpreted as a threat by the other dog. But if a dos is stiff and hard when it comes close, or even tries to touch another dog with a paw on the shoulder, fights can arise. Us humans function the same to some extent. Unexpected body contact is taboo in most cultures, we don't let strangers on the street some over and touch us? That can make us react with fear or anger. But we still appreciate touch, cuddles and caresses. We even have a very odd urge to touch every dog we meet!
Touch is also important when it comes to general health, and also as therapy. Studies show that people who have dogs or cats as pets are generally healthier, have less psychological problems, and communicate better at a non-verbal level, than people without pets.

Thanks to Lundqvist Dog School for allowing me to photograph during their course "introduction to dog language". Thanks to Ane for helping me with her own photographic skills, which are so superior to mine it's embarrassing.
Thank you so much to Bodil, Hilde, Tor and Kim for reading through this, and giving me feedback.

This article is copyrighted to Mari F.

All the photos in this article is copyrighted, and can not be used without the authors consent.

Sources: (Some are not in english, but I translated the titles)
Dog Language - An Encyclopedia of Canine Behavior av Roger Abrantes 1997

Hundens Språk och Flockliv[ (Translation: The dogs language and packlife) av Lars Fält 2003

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals Turid Rugaas 1997

Aggression In Dogs - Practical Management, Prevention & Behavior Modification Brenda Aloff 2002

Så Tänker Hunden (translation: How dogs think) Walty Dudok van Heel 1997

Lexikon i Hundspråk (Translation: Dictionary in Dog Language) Anders Hallgren 2000

Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog - The classic study John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller 1965

The Culture Clash Jean Donaldson 1996

Applied Dog Behavior and Training - Volume One - Adaptation and Learning Steven R. Lindsay 2000

Applied Dog Behavior and Training - Volume Two - Etiology and Assessment of Behavior Problems Steven R. Lindsay 2001

Kjæledyr - kilde til trivsel og helse (Translation: Pets - a Source of Well-being and Health Professor Bjarne O. Braastad ( )

Hunden og mennesket - forstår vi hverandre? (Translation: Dog and Humans - Do We Understand Each Other? Article in the magazine Hundesport nr 1 2007, by Astrid V. Vikaune

Hundmöten (Translation: Dog Meetings) Memea Mohlin 2006

Canine Body language A Photographic Guide Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog Brenda Aloff 2005

He just wants to say hi! Suzanne Clothier ( )

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Postby Linariel » Thu Nov 08, 2007 4:19 pm

That was a great article, and the pictures were an awesome addition.

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Postby Deniselynn » Thu Nov 08, 2007 4:44 pm

:thumbsup: Wonderful read and the visuals are an extra bonus! Thanks!

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Postby tcox » Thu Nov 08, 2007 4:57 pm

I've been wanting to put together a slide show on DVD that will help me educate people about dog behavior.

Have you got this presentation in any other form?

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Postby makedonce78 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 5:25 pm

I loved the pictures too. :thumbsup: Good article, especially for first time owners like me

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Postby lovabull » Thu Nov 08, 2007 6:00 pm

Wonderful article. I think I have some pictures that illustrate some of the behaviors you mentioned. I will email them to you. Hopefully the can be of some use to you.

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Postby pblove » Thu Nov 08, 2007 7:38 pm

Thank you for taking the time to write/document/post this
This is going to be very helpful to many people I am sure.
Looks like a candidate for a sticky to me?

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Postby artemiss » Thu Nov 08, 2007 7:48 pm

Looks like a candidate for a sticky to me?

wonderful article, and I think that the pics are awesome..too many people misread dog body-language, and having a handy reference would sure be nice..

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Postby spammie » Thu Nov 08, 2007 8:00 pm

I give it 2 thumbs up! :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
Very well written and informative. The visuals are incredible. Good Job!

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Postby Leslie H » Thu Nov 08, 2007 9:21 pm

Oh, that is terrific. Well thought out and written, w/excellent photos to illustrate. Thank you.

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Postby tcox » Fri Nov 09, 2007 10:19 am

YEAH 4 Sticky! :thumbsup:

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Postby kristakmj » Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:40 pm

sierra stands like that with her side showing letting the other dog do the sniffing, i always thought it was not a good sign but if i understood right its almost like saying i want no trouble ? thats pretty cool sierra has not shown any DA thus far although im still eary and while on leash she doesnt care about barking dogs

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Postby pits in 4-H » Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:11 am

Very discriptive with the photos & captions. Great Job!

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Postby Pineapples » Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:27 am

Thank you guys! :)

kristakmj wrote:sierra stands like that with her side showing letting the other dog do the sniffing, i always thought it was not a good sign but if i understood right its almost like saying i want no trouble ?

That depends totally on a lot of different things. Ears, weight of the body, tail, etc. It's all about the nuances, and reading the whole dog.

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Postby INOCNTKITN187 » Sat Nov 17, 2007 5:25 am

Love it, can't wait for more!!

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