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Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language

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Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language

Itís certainly not hard to figure out what your dog is telling you when it meets you at the door after youíve been out for awhile–the joyful grin and madly wagging tail say it all. Most of us quickly learn our petís basic repertoire of overt language. But some of the signals dogs give are subtle or confusing.

Being able to read a dogís body language is especially necessary for urban dwellers. You not only want to be able to interpret your own pet correctly but, on the street, you want to be able to tell friend from foe.

Learn more about what dogs are telling us with their body language, right here:

1. Hostile tail-wagging. Wagging tails donít always mean friendliness. Say your dog meets a strange dog off the leash. The other dog approaches with great interest, ears alert and tail wagging. But this dog is giving out signals that spell hostility. The wagging tail is stiff and held high. The eyes have a hard expression and stare into your dogís eyes. The dogís hackles are raised. The animalís whole posture signifies aggression. Even without growling or showing its teeth, a dog behaving like this has a chip on its shoulder. You should remove your dog from the scene quietly and quickly.

2. Friendly tail-wagging. A friendly or curious dogís tail will be wagging in wide sweeps, hanging down. Its ears are down and its fur is smooth along its shoulders and back. The dog will not attempt to look you or your dog in the eye. It will go through the typical sniffing pattern with your dog–first nose to nose, then the genitals. Offer this dog the back of your fist to smell, and then you can probably pet it if you wish.

Next: 3 more kinds of body language displayed by dogs

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Read more: Behavior & Communication, Dogs, Everyday Pet Care, Pets, Safety,

Adapted from City Dog, by Patricia Curtis (Lantern Books, 2002). Copyright (c) 2002 by Patricia Curtis. Reprinted by permission of Lantern Books.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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+ add your own
1:48PM PST on Mar 4, 2013

Okey dokey; still challenging.

4:05PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

good to know

6:14AM PST on Dec 26, 2012

Thanks makes sense.

8:21AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012


3:25PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

Thanks for the article!

3:11PM PST on Feb 16, 2012


2:42AM PST on Dec 26, 2011

Excellent article - thanks.

3:56PM PST on Jan 15, 2011


5:23PM PST on Dec 28, 2010


1:27AM PST on Nov 27, 2010

Thanks for the article.

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people are talking

@ Harry S - I can't believe anyone is really that stupid. You must be pulling our leg...

Thanks for the reminder.

thank you, interesting


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