How to read your puppy's body language | Hill's Transforming Lives
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How to read your puppy's body language

Dogs communicate to each other using body language, which involves body postures, facial expressions, noises and scents. They express their emotions using their mouth, eyes, ears and tail. As such, you can learn to better understand their intentions by learning how to interpret their body language.

How to recognise displays of aggression & submission?

When puppies feel aggressive or brave, they'll try to stand taller to make themselves look bigger, while also pulling their ears and tails upright. It's also common for them to push out their chests and raise the hair on their backs and necks, maybe even while growling or slowly wagging their tails.

Submissive dogs, on the other hand, will try to make themselves appear small, acting like puppies since adult dogs are expected to scold rather than attack puppies. They'll assume a sideways crouching position on the ground, wagging their tails at a low height. They may also try to lick the dominant being, and will sometimes roll onto their back.

How to read your puppy's tail signals?

A wagging tail is most often considered a sign of happiness or friendliness, but it can signify other moods as well. When they hold their tails at an angle of more than 45 degrees from the ground, puppies are most likely alert and interested. Their natural angle varies by breed. If pups hold their tails rigid while wagging them slowly, it would indicate that they're angry. Anxiety or nervousness is expressed by the wagging of a stiff, drooping tail. If puppies are scared, their tails would be clamped low over their hindquarters.

How to read your puppy's eyes?

Half-closed eyes are a sign of pleasure or submission, while wide-open eyes can be a sign of aggression. If your puppy stares at you with wide-open eyes, don't engage in a staring competition, especially if your pup has a nervous disposition. That's because dogs will naturally stare at each other until one of them makes a challenge or backs down.

How to recognise smiling versus snarling?

Some dog breeds, such as Labradors, and puppies in general, tend to pull their mouths into a lopsided grin that looks like a smile. It is indeed a sign of friendliness or submission. However, look carefully. When dogs draw their lips back to show their teeth, that's a sign of aggression.

How to recognise signs of playfulness?

You'll know it's playtime when your puppy raises a paw or bows down and barks to get your attention. Your pup may even offer you a toy, or jump up against you or another dog as an invitation for a game of chase.

How do dogs respond to your body language?

Since dogs are highly attuned to body language, your puppy is more likely to respond to your physical cues than your voice, discovering what you're feeling even when you're not speaking. Thus, you can use your body language as a deliberate means of improving your communication. Crouching down with your arms open, for instance, would indicate that you're welcoming your dog's approach while staring at your dog from a towering position would be considered threatening.

How to understand your puppy's barking and whining?

Barking is a completely natural thing for a dog to do. However, excessive barking can drive you and your neighbours nuts, so it would improve everyone's sanity if the barking could be limited. Dogs often have difficulty understanding when their barking is welcome and when not because of our confusing and conflicting reactions to it. Sometimes we ignore it, other times we may yell at them to stop, or we may want to encourage barking when a suspicious person is about. Rather than fretting over teaching your dog when not to bark, it's more helpful to teach your dog that it's allowed to bark until you tell it to stop.

How to train your puppy to bark less?

To train your dog when to stop barking, use a simple and clear command, such as “stop barking”. Start your training by letting your dog bark a few times. Praise your dog for alerting you, then give your dog the “stop barking” command while holding a treat in front of them. Your dog should stop barking to sniff the treat. Allow a few moments of silence before handing over your dog's reward. In subsequent training sessions, increase the time between when your dog stops barking and when you give your dog a treat.

If you can't get your dog's excessive barking under control with this method, ask your veterinarian's advice. They may refer you to a trainer with expertise in this field.

What about whining?

While a whining puppy may trigger our impulse to comfort it, it may have the undesired effect of encouraging whining rather than stopping it. If you give your puppy the impression that it's being praised for whining, your puppy may start doing it needs affection. To train your puppy to stop whining, you first need to learn to ignore the whining. Wait until your pup stops whining before giving it attention and praise. In that way, it'll learn not to seek your approval by whining and whimpering.