Wouldn’t it be amazing if our pets could talk to us? While it is unlikely that your dog will ever utter the words “hi, how was your day?” when you get home from work; it is important to know that our dogs communicate with us constantly. Dogs rely heavily on body language to express themselves both to humans and other animals. Unfortunately for humans we are usually too busy talking to stop and listen to what they are trying to tell us.

dog speak

Frank is telling us he is happy with forward ears and a high loose tail

Dogs use every part of their body to display their emotions. Eye position, tail height and movement, ear carriage and body stance are all connected to communicate a message. A happy dog will have alert eyes, a loose wag to the tail, a relaxed body stance and perked ears. A dog that is unsure of the situation will have darting eyes, a tucked tail, a crouching body stance and pinned back ears. A dog that is on guard will have fixed eyes, a stiff tail that may or may not wag slightly, a tense body stance and rigid ears. In fact, growling and barking are usually reserved for when these more subtle body signals are ignored.

dog speak

Lilly is saying she is not happy at all in her costume with her ears pinned back and her tail down

So the next time you wonder what your dog is thinking about, take a minute to observe the body language he is projecting. I bet that once you learn his signals you can develop an even stronger bond with your furry best friend. If you are interested in what your cat has to say – good luck. Cats also display clues as to how they are feeling, but in true feline fashion it is much less obvious.

Ashley Gallagher, DVM

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