You know your dog and their personality, inside and out. With just a look, you and your pup can have a full conversation and you don’t even speak the same language! Some cues are easy to pick up on right away. “I want to go for a walk.”, “I am hungry.”, “please share your snacks.” but some are a bit more subtle. Dog’s communicate instinctively with their bodies, eyes, and face. The key to strengthening your bond with your pup is to understand this body language to know how they are feeling, and how to respond. Remember, the lockdown is tough for everyone, even your dog. We’re sure your dog is missing their long strolls and spa days, and feeling as anxious as we are. Learning how to better communicate with your dog can help you bridge the gap and support your beloved pup in these tough times.
Look into Their Eyes
Just like humans, the best way to get a look at a dog’s internal state is by looking into their eyes, after all, it’s hard for them to hide emotion behind eyes so big -- even if they wanted to. If you notice your dog’s eyelids are relaxed and soft, almost squinting even, it can indicate your dog is calm and content. Conversely, your dog may feel threatened or aggressive if their eyes are wide open and alert, especially if they are fixed on one place for too long. Look for the whites in their eyes. This part of their eye does not typically show, so if it does, they may be trying to tell you they are feeling uncomfortable or anxious.
Handle this with care, and be a calming presence for your dog. If you can control the situation, try to take them out of it, or make them feel more comfortable. It’s also important to note that direct eye contact can take a much different tone for dogs than humans. Has your dog ever looked away, or tried to avoid eye contact? They’re not ignoring you, they may just be telling you they’re feeling stressed. Remember, staring intently is a sign of aggression for dogs, and they may just be trying to calm the situation. In these cases, It’s best to speak in soft, calming tones, and let them make eye contact with you when they’re ready.
Look at Their Face
Paired with those expressive eyes, a dog can use their face to signal to you how they are feeling. Simple actions like yawning or lip licking may seem completely innocuous to humans, but can be more ways for dogs to signal to you they are feeling nervous. While these do have their place, like when your dog is feeling sleepy, or after a tasty Bonne et Filou treat, look for these signs when you and your dog are in new places, your veterinarian's office, or whenever you suspect your dog may be uncomfortable.
Look at Their Bodies
Some of the most unmistakable dog body language can come from simply looking at how your dog is carrying themselves, and, of course, their tails. Notice your dog’s tail perched straight up when they are feeling like their posh and fabulous selves. However, their tail lower to the ground, or in-between their legs even, is a telltale sign they are afraid. You might recognize signs that are earmarked as “good” or “bad” like a wagging tail, or raised hairs. All these signs mean is that your dog is emotionally aroused. You know your fur baby like none other, so get to know what they look like in a neutral position, and what tends to get them excited, or upset.
Get to know your dog in this environment and you two will come out even closer than before (if that were even possible). For more tips on how to read when your dog might be feeling stressed or uncomfortable, and how to calm them, check out one of our favorite reads for pet owners: On Talking Terms with Dogs Calming Signals. This manual is written by Turid Rugaas, an expert in dog signals, and is available on Amazon! We’ll all get through this, and before long, we’ll be back to trips to the spa, and play dates in the park.