Saturday, 3 March 2012

Reading Your Dogs Body Language

Understanding what our dog is feeling is an essential skill when assessing why dogs perform the behaviours they do and preventing bad behaviour.
Look for all the signs that your dog is under even a little stress and take appropriate action to reduce the stress and reward the dog for coping with what ever was stressing them. This will improve the performance of all dogs and prevent almost all socially unacceptable behaviours.

In this photo the dog is guarding her chew, notice she has stopped chewing, is staring hard at the person with the camera, you can see the whites of her eyes, her ears are back and she is very still.

In this photo the dog has been asked to do a dog trick, he has half done it (it is also not a natural play bow but a taught one on cue) but rather complete it he becomes stressed, note the closed mouth, worried expression and head turn away from the camera.

For more examples please look at the following two links:

This link is to the Turid Rugaas website – the person who has globally done the most research in to calming signals.

This is another great video on body language, it can also be accessed from our You Tube site

Appropriate steps to reduce mild stress might be:
  • Putting more distance between what ever is stressing your dog and your dog, i.e. move further away.
  • Distracting your dog with a favourite toy or treat to take their mind off the stress.
  • Trying to lower the intensity of what is stressing them. For instance if your dog was sensitive to noise try to shut out the sound of the thunder storm by shutting all the windows and moving the dog to the centre of the house. If the dog is sensitive to movement or energy levels ask children to walk not run when near the dog.
  • Ask your dog to perform things you have trained them to do and reward them for it. This must be a pre-trained cue that your dog understands and enjoys.
  • Comfort your dog and in some cases you could pick up your dog.
  • Prevent what ever is stressing the dog from getting closer, louder, faster etc.
Appropriate steps to reduce major stress would be:
  • Remove the dog at once from the situation or the thing that is stressing them.
  • Remove the stressors (e.g. people, children, dogs, mower, bike, cat) at once from the dog.

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