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Listen Up Your Dog is Talking to You!

by Kayye Nynne

Imagine that every time you attempt to talk to your best friend their response is one of harsh scolding words. Now picture this happening not once, twice or thrice but almost every single day. I'm betting soon there won't be much of anything to call as friendship left! I'll even go out on a limb here and hazard a guess that soon the two of you won't be talking altogether. Perhaps you'd withdraw into some kinda shell or maybe the bombardment of negativity and criticism would drive you to lash out in anger one day.

Okay, now let's picture this scenario a little bit differently in that you happen to be a dog and that supposed best friend of yours is your owner.  That makes it a tad more complicated doesn't it, especially if your owner is not trying to be intentionally cruel or harsh but simply doesn't understand how to communicate properly with you!

Okay revert back to your human form for now. Have you ever tried communicating with someone who doesn't speak the same language as you? It isn't easy is it! There's a whole lot of arm waving, gesticulating, self-conscious grinning and facial contortions, much of which isn't actually helping you to understand one another any better…and we are talking about communication between individuals from the same species here! That pretty much puts into perspective the monumental wall standing between you and your dog communicating efficiently with one another.

The very real problem here is that you don't talk dogspeak and neither does your dog speak any human language but that doesn't mean that you can't learn how to communicate effectively with one another. And seeing as you happen to be the more intelligent species in this particular partnership, the onus is on you to create that better environment of communication. However unfortunately far too often this is not the case, more often than not it being the dog owner representing the party that gets irritated and confrontational during sessions of communication. If and when a situation such as this continues for a long enough duration this in turn could make your dog to:

  • Becomeet depressed and withdraw
  • Start avoiding you
  • Whimper and slink about whenever you're in the vicinity
  • Become aggressive and unmanageable

Communication With Your Dog Starts With Understanding Your Dog

Like us humans, dogs have their own standard dog etiquette that incorporates accepted proper behavior and quite naturally in the same way that we expect them to respond in a desired manner to our communication so do they expect no less from us. But as pointed out previously, being that we are two very different species, notwithstanding the fact that we have co-existed side by side for thousands of years, human beings and dogs speak very different languages!

Thus to forge a better relationship with your dog you need to have a better understanding of dog communicative signals other than the obvious ones that comprise dog language.

Dog Language

Dogs bark, growl, yelp, snarl, whine, howl, warble and sing as a means of communication between themselves and other species such as people. Dogs can tell pretty accurately from the tone and inflection of our voices our mood and state of mind, much in the same way that we can judge their intent from the type of vocalization they utter. However there is only so far such communication can go and the plain fact of the matter is that so much of dog language exists in the form of unvocalized signals; something the average dog owner has no clue about.

Generally speaking all dogs no matter where they come from (thanks to their common ancestral origins, the wolf) understand what another dog is saying. However some dogs are better adapted to unvocalized signals than others. For example dogs that have docked tails cannot communicate dog signals that incorporate tail action. Also color patterns do play a part in dog language communication, and dogs that have black outline eyes with tan spots above them are better able to communicate eye-related signals because of such contrast. Completely black dogs or white ones are at a disadvantage from this perspective, which may explain why black dogs use the licking signal more often than the ones using facial expressions.

Common Unvocalized Dog Signals

Nose Licking: Nose licking by dogs is one of the signals they use to show their discomfort or alternatively it used as a message to calm down other dogs or people in a situation in which the dog doing the licking evaluates as one that is too stressful.

Head Turning: The motion of head turning could be a subtle swivel or a single swift movement; sometimes the head turning could be a prolonged side to side movement. Averting their heads is another manner in which dogs can defuse potentially explosive situations between themselves because by turning their heads away they are signaling non-threatening intentions in polite doggy speak.

Next time you are stooping over your dog look carefully to see if he or she turns their head away; if they do then they are evidently signaling to you that it makes them feel uncomfortable. If you pay special attention next time you'll also notice that dogs rarely look directly at one another because it is considered impolite and rife with threat. When dogs are seated in group they generally avert their heads away from one another in keeping with polite dog etiquette (much like the way civilized persons make a point of not staring directly at the person opposite them in a subway car).

Eye Squinting: Dogs narrow their eyes to express to the person or fellow canine to whom their gaze is directed that they have no ill intentions, and that there is no veiled threat implied from that gaze. Whenever a dog looks at another dog directly with no threatening intentions, the dog squints its eyes to make sure the other dog understands that no aggression is intended.

Dog Bowing: Bowing represents a number of things in doggy language but most commonly it is an invitation to play. Dogs don't only bow to other dogs they also bow to people and other animals. When a bowing dog also hops from foot to foot then unquestionably that is an invitation to play. Sometimes dogs also use bowing as a means to calm or de-stress a situation.

Yawning: A yawning dog does not reflect a tired dog; yawning happens to be yet another de-stressing signal in doggy language. This is one dog signal you can use quite effectively to calm your dog when it is anxious or agitated. These are just a few of the many unvocalized signals dog use to communicate with other dogs and us. You can easily use some of these dog signals to communicate with your furry best friend. However I wouldn't recommend going around slobbering your tongue across your face; that may go down well in doggy world but I am not sure the same can be said in the real world!

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