From the moment we bring a puppy or adult dog into our home they are communicating with us. Even though we may not know what they are communicating, they are observing and reacting to our actions. They learn and communicate primarily through body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.
Studying a dog’s movements from their ears down to their tails often helps us translate their body language. Once we learn how to respond to their body language we will be much more successful with our training goals. An ideal way to achieve this is to observe dog to dog interaction.
When dogs meet you may witness the dominant dog state his or her place in the pecking order by; raising their hackles, ears tensing, its’ head may rise up, and the tail will be stiff. The submissive dog will probably back off by crouching and avoiding direct eye contact which means “I’m not a threat”.
When the initial threat no longer exists, they may sniff each other’s rear end. The scent gives them necessary information on how to continue their meeting.
At this point they will either walk away from each other or they may engage in play. Play usually begins with a bow position with their front paws facing each other and the rear end up in the air with their tail wagging.
If one dog does not care to play, he or she will turn away or ignore the advances of the dog that is encouraging the play. If the playful dog persists, the uninterested dog may snarl and growl as a warning. This is usually enough for the playful pup to stop.
For a variety of reasons there may be instances where the dogs are not compatible. This may result in a fight, however, most of the time dogs prefer not to fight and will usually leave each other alone.
So many breeds, so many tails, and they are all telling a tale.
All dogs communicate with their bodies and their tail is a huge part of communication. However, if the dog has a short stubby tail it is much more difficult to read. In this case you need to learn to rely on ear set, head set, body stance, facial expression and eye contact.
If a dog is saying “I am happy to see you and wants to play”, the tail will usually wag fast and high. His facial expression is usually inviting and calm.
When a dog is carrying his or her tail between its legs, they are most likely unsure or afraid of the situation they are in.
If a dog is showing aggressive tendencies, he or she will hold their tail stiff and high and may slightly wag it. The body will also be stiff and he will probably make direct eye contact.
By reading tail wags you will learn how and when to approach a dog. To learn more about doggy tails, please contact Lillian Sikorski.