Dogs can communicate without barking and by barking. Other dogs know what the dog is saying, but the inexperienced dog owner may not know how to read his dog’s non-verbal communication. If you pay attention to your dog’s actions, you will soon see a plethora of communication, and your dog will become closer to you.
One of the first modes of communication you should look for is the dog’s ears. If the ears are standing at rest (whether hanging or standing erect, depending on the breed), the dog is neutral. If the ears are pointed forward, he is paying attention to you or something within his range. Even a dog with floppy ears can move his ears forward. The tail will be carried in its alert mode, usually up when the dog is excited or paying attention to you or something in his range.
If the ears are pinned back and the tail is held straight out or tucked between the legs, be aware that the dog is giving you a warning that he does not approve of the situation. If the ears are laid back and the tail is wagging, the dog is relaxed and enjoying the current situation.
If the dog’s legs are braced and the tail is wagging, the dog is in a playful mode, and he is ready to run and play. If his legs are braced, and the tail is tucked or the ears are pinned – or both, the dog is giving a serious warning that he is not accepting of the current situation. Dogs will not generally lay their ears back when excited, but with some breeds that may happen, so you will have to watch all of the signs, not just the ears.
A scared dog may become suddenly aggressive in certain situations. If a dog is trembling and has his tail tucked, he is afraid, and generally not dangerous, but some dogs may act out when they are scared. Use caution around dogs showing fear of anything, especially humans. A dog may also tremble when he is excited, but his tail will not be tucked – it will be held in its excited mode or in its natural hanging position.
Your dog may not be feeling well if he seems listless or is sleeping more than normal. Dogs try to hide when they are not feeling well – this is part of the fight or flight programmed into them. He may act out if he is not feeling well. If you have any suspicions your dog is not feeling well, you should take him to the vet. His behavior change is his way of telling you something is wrong.
Use these simple tips to read some of your dog’s signs. As you pay more attention to your dog’s signals, you will be able to better communicate with him. Remember to always look at the ears, tail and stance of the dog, as ears down mean more than one thing.