Many of us have grown up around dogs and consider ourselves pretty good at reading what our canine companions are saying.
Actually, as a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I find that while people are good at reading obvious communications from their dog (like a tucked tail or a growl), the dog’s smaller communications often get lost in translation.
Did you know about these 5 common signals from our dogs that people often miss?
1. Tongue Flick
Of course, a dog may lick their lips if they are anticipating a tasty treat or if they have recently eaten. However, outside the context of eating, a “lip lick” or “tongue flick” is a very common stress sign in dogs, and one that is easily missed! With a nervous lip lick, the tongue often darts quickly out the front of the mouth before returning to its position inside the mouth.
2. Whale Eye
Also called “crescent moon eye,” a dog will often turn its head slightly away from something that is worrying it in avoidance while displaying more of the whites of the eyes than usual. This sign means that the dog is stressed and needs additional space.
Keep in mind that some breeds with bulging eyes may appear that they are displaying “whale eye” when they really aren’t. It’s helpful to know what your dog’s eyes normally look like, and then you can more easily notice differences in their eyes if they are stressed.
3. Shake Off
A dog shaking off when it is dry is “shaking off the stress” and attempting to calm itself. It’s like hitting the “reset” button. Sometimes dogs will do this after eustress, or happy stress. For instance, a dog meeting up with a dog friend may shake off after the initial greeting. At other times, a dog will shake off to try to return to baseline after a distressing event.
4. Facial Lines
Have you ever noticed extra wrinkles or lines appearing in your dog’s forehead or around their eyes? These lines indicate facial tension and can be another sign of stress! Of course, some dogs are wrinkly to begin with; however, with those dogs, their wrinkle position will actually change when their faces are tense. Knowing your dog’s natural resting face will allow you to notice when stress is present.
Everybody knows that a growl or a snap is a warning, but did you know that a freeze, or prolonged stillness, is an even bigger indicator that trouble is underfoot? Relaxed dogs move in curved lines and with curved bodies and are typically in motion at least a little bit. If you see a dog become very stiff and still and hold that position, it’s wise to back off.
How many of these signals did you know about already? If you got a 5 out of 5, congratulations! You know more about canine communication than most people!
If you’d like to continue your learning about dog body language and become more fluent in “understanding dog,” check out my Learn to Speak Dog Zoom seminar!