Understanding Your Dog’s Emotions

By on March 7, 2013

“Gross! Why’s he rolling around in the mud like that?”
“I don’t know son, maybe he thinks he’s bathing.”

Interestingly, wolves and other wild dogs rolled in mud and other fowl substances to disguise their scent from prey. While its original intention has somewhat diminished from its natural purpose, domestic dogs still tend to do it.

Questions like this are quite common for most pet owners, but when put to the test, many owners don’t have all the answers as to why dogs behave the way they do.

So, you already know your dog’s happy when he wags his tail, or angry when he bares his teeth, but how well do you truly know your dog’s inner emotions?

Dog’s have feelings, but unfortunately, they can’t use words to convey them.

Christa Grunzinger explains.

As a responsible pet owner, it’s best to understand your dog’s body language to truly relate to their emotions. By understanding your dog’s emotions, pet owners can better care for their pet’s needs, as well as promote a positive pet relationship for the entire family. Here are some tips to help you get started.

When your dog’s happy he may display signs by:

  • Holding his head high
  • Excitably panting
  • Keeping his eyes open wide
  • Relaxing his ears and tail
  • Wagging his tail
  • Licking family members or other family pets
  • Wiggling his body
  • Sticking his rump in the air

While most owners understand the signs of a happy dog, it’s beneficial to point these cues out to all members of the family, as well as visitors to the home, who may not be as pet savvy as you are. Imagine your atrociously sized St Bernard flailing in to greet your guest only to send them backwards to the floor from fright. The more you know about your pet, the more you can educate others.

When your dog’s scared or nervous he may display signs by:

  • Pulling his lips back
  • Excessively licking his lips
  • Lowering his eyes or looking at you sideways so you can see the whites of his eyes
  • Tucking his ears back behind his head
  • Tucking his tail between his legs
  • Hunching his spine upward
  • Rolling over on his back with his belly exposed
  • Huddling in a corner or under the bed
  • Trembling

It’s certainly not healthy to have stress in your life, nor is it healthy for your dog. Try learning to observe stress cues to ensure your pet’s healthy and happy lifestyle.

When your dog’s angry he may display signs by:

  • Standing tall on the tips of his toes
  • Baring his teeth
  • Staring with wide eyes, or eyes narrowed eyes, for a period of time
  • Pointing his ears forward
  • Stiffening his tail or pointing it straight out
  • Raising his hackles
  • Stiffening or slowing his movements

Sometimes dogs find the need to protect themselves or their family, and other times dogs feel threatened by a person, object or other animal that comes near. In cases like these, understanding specific cues will help you to protect your dog from doing something that’s unnecessary.

For instance, dogs have been known to fear bite, chase vehicles or jump fences in reaction to what causes them defensiveness.

As a responsible pet owner, it’s vital to respond to your dog’s anger cues to avoid negative occurrences.

When your dog’s anxious he may display signs by:

  • Vigorously scratching the floor/ground with his front paws
  • Pacing in circles or a straight line
  • Destroying toys and bedding in his kennel
  • Continuously barking at a door, window, or to be released from the kennel
  • Destroying doorways or windows when you are away

Separation Anxiety is a common concern for many pets, especially those who have experienced hardship at any point in their life. Dogs are also known to become anxious before earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, human epileptic seizures and heart attacks. Take the time to understand why your pet may be feeling anxious as he could be a life-saver. If you believe your dog is suffering from Separation Anxiety seek veterinary advice immediately.

When your dog’s bored he may display signs by:

  • Excessively licking, scratching, and nibbling himself
  • Digging in the yard
  • Chewing on things that aren’t his

Under-stimulating your pet can be detrimental to him and your home. Like humans, dogs can develop psychological issues and depression. Perhaps a simple change of routine will do the trick, but don’t be surprised if veterinary advice is needed to help maintain your pet’s behaviors.

When your dog’s territorial he may display signs by:

  • Hiking his leg to urinate on household furniture
  • Mounting family members or other family pets
  • Hovering over shared food/water bowls
  • Nipping at the heels or legs of family members or other family pets

As you may have guessed, such behavior is completely unacceptable, and allowing your pet to so may cause him to believe he has a higher rank in the family packing order. You, and other family members, must remain as dominant leaders to your pet.

Although it may seem comical to see your dog trying to hump your seven-year old son, however, realistically it’s instituting an outlook within your dog which you won’t be pleased with in the long run.

You can find more information about dog body language by downloading our report - go on, take the test to uncover your dog's personality!

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