Dogs are called “man's best friend”, but most of us don't know how to understand the emotions and intentions expressed by a dog. Dogs are extremely expressive animals and they use their face and body language to convey their emotional state. Although this system of expression may be a little complex for us to understand but we can learn interpret a dog's emotions by putting in some effort. This interpreted information can be very useful in predicting what the dog is likely to do and this will ultimately help us in forming a very close and affectionate bond with our loved pets and companions.
Looking for the right signs
The dog's face, ears, tails and overall body is used to to convey a lot of useful information. A lot of emotions can be interpreted from a dog's basic facial expressions. The shape and the size of the eye or the direction and intensity of the gaze can be used to gauge a lot of emotions. The position of the teeth, jaw and lips can be used to deduce weather the dog is happy or sad. In a comfortable and relaxed state, dogs keep their ears in a normal position but when they are alert, they will keep their ears straight and erect and point them towards their point of focus. Contrary to popular belief, a dog may wag its tail even when it’s angry! The overall body posture is the key to interpreting a dog's emotions. Isolating any single sign can lead to incorrect estimations and are the major cause of misunderstandings between pets and their owners.
Some Common Body Gestures
We will try to cover some of the most basic emotions that can be approximated by studying various signs that are displayed by a dog in varying situations:
An excited dog look like it is ready for action, its body appears of natural size but its weight might be concentrated towards its hind legs as he is ready to move around. Excited dogs have their ears up and tails high. They usually keep their mouths open and may bark.
A dog when happy appears to be very relaxed. Its tail and ears are in a normal position and the body appears to be of normal size. The dog's muscles get relaxed and it might wag its tail. Normal panting and a slightly open mouth may also be observed.
It is easy to tell if a dog is alert. The dog appears to be very intense and looks focused. The dog’s ears are straight and point forward. It stand upright with its weight on all of his legs. The tail goes rigid and is either in the natural position or vertical. It may growl or bark and the hair might be raised.
Dominating or Submissive
These are two completely opposite emotions that your dog may experience. Its behavior and body language will also change drastically between these two states.
It’s fairly easy to determine if your dog is feeling like an alpha male. He will stand erect and his posture will be very confident. The dog will try to appear large by standing straight and tall. An arched neck and tensed posture are signs of a dominant dog. He will appear alert and may even lean a little in the forward direction. His ears will be alert and pointing in front to pick up even the faintest sounds. In this emotional state, the dog will not shy away from making direct eye contact as a sharp stare is a sign of fearlessness and dominance.
Submissive behavior is a litter harder to detect as the body language is similar to that of a fearful or scared dog. Submissive behavior can be directed to either a person or another dog to avoid a face-off and to show its subordination. By acting submissive, the dog makes sure that it is not perceived as a threat and is not attacked unnecessarily. To show his submissiveness, the dog will try to make its body look very small. He may bend down, close to the ground and try to occupy the least amount of space possible by tucking its tail in between its legs and even folding its ears. A submissive dog will avoid eye contact at all costs.
Making small efforts to understand your dog’s emotions can go a long way in strengthening your relationship and enhancing the trust that you share with your beloved pet.