3. “Play” position. Let’s say your dog, after the usual preliminary sniffs, suddenly bounces down on its chest and elbows with its ears flattened and its rear end in the air. Unless the dog’s owner recognizes your dog’s body language, he or she may snatch the animal away protectively, misinterpreting your dog’s behavior as aggression. Your dog was giving off perfectly clear signals–”Let’s play“–yet was misunderstood. A dog that merely wants to play may also jump excitedly and bark, grin and wag its tail, run around in circles, and roll over.
4. Submissive postures. Sometimes a dog will lie on its belly with its ears flattened and the fur along its back flat and smooth. It looks away and may roll over onto its back. Is it afraid–a coward, a wimp? In most cases not–it may well only be showing submission. It is probably saying, “I am recognizing that you are the boss (pack leader).” Or it could be telling the other dog, “I’m not into power–I don’t want to fight.” A dog that avoids confrontation in this manner usually makes a good city dog.
5. Signs of fear. A frightened dog lowers its body, with its tail hanging low or tucked between its legs. Its head is down, its ears are laid back, and its hackles are usually raised. The dog may instinctively crouch close to the ground to protect its belly, and it may approach you and your dog in circles. Because a scared dog can quickly become a fear-biter, the best course is to stand still with your hands by your sides and refrain from looking the animal in the eye. Don’t corner it or turn your back on it, but speak to it in a soothing voice. Unless it gets over its fear, relaxes, and shows friendliness or submission, it’s best to move away quietly.
Adapted from City Dog, by Patricia Curtis (Lantern Books, 2002). Copyright (c) 2002 by Patricia Curtis. Reprinted by permission of Lantern Books.