Understanding what your dog is telling you – Part 5
Reading your dog like a book in order to understand his “dog language” is reasonably uncomplicated most of the time. His body language is straightforward generally, but he can sometimes fool you.
If he is frightened, for example, rather than friendly or curious, he is likely to bite you. A good indicator of his level of courage is the angle of his tail. If, as you come closer, he keeps his tail high and appears even more aggressive, he probably isn’t bluffing.
If his tail drops and he becomes quiet, he probably would just as soon be friends. However, if is his hackles stay up, even though his tail goes down, he is still dangerous and you should keep your distance.
Because we sometimes think of our pets as having almost human personalities, we are likely to interpret their body language in terms of our own likes and dislikes. We can do that up to a point because they’ve learned some of their preferences. Nevertheless, we have our differences.
Some things you may not know
Your dog very likely has a few predilections you would never have suspected and probably will never approve. When he is rolling around in some stinky, odorous material, for example, the expression he has on his face could hardly be interpreted as anything but outright rebellion. His lips are pulled back a little in a slight grin (a smirk perhaps), his ears are lowered (because he must feel guilty), and his eyelids are half-closed in an expression of pure defiance.
There’s another way to make a mistake in reading your dog’s body language. Some smart dogs can play-act. An outdoor dog who has once been let in the house because he seems to be shivering on a cold night (in reality, dogs shiver from fear, not from the cold) will attempt to shake violently at the door whenever he feels he has a chance at a cozy evening by the fire.
A dog may play-act when he has accidentally barked at his own master. Nothing is more embarrassing; he will writhe on the ground when he realizes his error. To save face, a quick-witted dog will rush past his master and pretend he was barking at something else. He charges across the yard, furiously barking up the wrong tree, so to speak.
Most dogs are adept at one kind of body language that is plainly unambiguous. He speaks it when he lays his nose on your knee and looks up inquiringly with soft brown eyes, or when he muzzles the back of your neck while you are driving.
He is speaking his own language of love that has made him “man’s best friend” for thousands of years, and no dog owner has ever needed instructions in dog body language to get this message!