Every moment our dog’s eyes are open, they are learning and communicating.
Dogs are brilliant animals. They communicate with us without speaking and share our same emotions, often to a much higher level of intensity.
Whether you have a new puppy or a well-established adult dog, our Edmonton dogs communicate with us in their unique ways. As dedicated dog owners, our job is to decode the meaning behind each tail wag, bark, and cry we see and hear in our beloved pets.
In this blog, we will review the different ways our Edmonton dogs communicate with us.
Our Edmonton Dogs Communicate With Us In Different Situations
When your dog is in different situations, you will notice that they exhibit other behaviours. From tail wagging to the dilation of their pupils, these distinct characteristics will tell you how your dog is feeling at that particular moment.
If you are a new pet parent, it is common to miss small gestures and signs that your pup might give off. The bond between you and your dog is a very powerful one. Your dog will take time to build trust with you, so it is essential to maintain that and show your dog that you care and love them by listening and interpreting their body language and vocal communication.
Since dogs don’t have the luxury of using words to express themselves, we rely on their body language to understand what they are trying to say. There are a few physical features that you should pay attention to:
Tail Placement: If your dog’s tail is in an upright position, this means they are relaxed and comfortable in their environment. You might see this when you’re out on a walk with your dog! They will more than likely love the fact that they’re outside exploring!
If you notice your dog puts their tail down, this could indicate stress, fear or uncertainty.
Ears: Each dog breed has its own unique set of ears. Some hang low while others stick straight up.
When you’re outside with your dog, you may notice their ears moving around quite a bit. They are listening intently to the sounds in their environment. In this situation, ear movement is a good thing! If your dog’s ears are pinned back towards the head, this is a big sign that your dog is fearful or anxious.
The Eyes: When you look into your puppy’s eyes, you can almost immediately tell what they are feeling. Your dog’s eyes will tell you a lot about what they may be feeling on the inside. Typically, a softer eyelid that remains half-closed means your dog is calm and relaxed. A dog whose eyes are wide open indicates that they are on alert and ready to observe their surroundings. An uncomfortable dog will avoid looking you in the eye. In contrast, dogs who feel threatened will look at you or an object with a stern stare.
Have you ever been around a dog who you felt was trying to “talk” to you? Well, it’s not unusual for pets to vocally respond to things to try and get your attention or convey a message. There are a couple of ways that dogs will verbally communicate with us.
Barking: A dog’s bark can send a lot of messages to humans and other dogs. Barking is the primary way that your dog communicates. A bark towards another dog needs to be taken in context. If you are at the dog park and your pup is playing with other dogs, barking in that scenario is acceptable. If your dog starts to bark like crazy once the doorbell rings, that could mean your dog was either startled or trying to alert you that you need to grab the door!
Whining: A dog’s whining can mean many different things. Again, context is important here.
The most obvious reasons for a puppy to whine are either in pain or looking for attention. Whining is a behaviour that you can quickly fix, but you can reinforce it if you’re not careful. If you know your dog well, you will understand the reasons for his whining. Typically if your dog is whining because they want the food on your plate, your best course of action is to ignore them. They will eventually stop and learn that whining doesn’t get them anywhere.
Growling: Nine times out of ten, a dog growling isn’t due to anything positive. Simply put, a growl is a warning. If your dog is growling at other dogs or people, this is an obvious sign of aggression. A professional dog trainer will be able to help you determine the root cause of your dog’s growling and help put a stop to it.
What Can We Learn From Our Dogs
Learning how our Edmonton dogs communicate will take time. What matters is that you attempt to speak their language. We can watch their body language and allow them to tell us when they need us to slow down. We can teach them through proper, below threshold associations that will enable them to feel safe and that we are listening.
For example, if you are trying to cut your pup’s nails for the first time, chances are he won’t be a big fan of it. Instead of bringing nail clippers home, holding a puppy down and getting the job done, or taking them to a groomer when they’re not desensitized, we can slow things down. We have the opportunity and, really, the responsibility to help our dogs feel better.
Why not spend a week teaching a puppy to feel comfortable around any grooming or handling equipment? Would it be so terrible to clip one nail per night? Even if they must see a groomer for these procedures, why not make it easier for both the puppy and the groomer by teaching them to feel safe, heard and willing?
It’s easier and more fun than you might think.
Some still have a misguided notion that anthropomorphizing (attributing human characteristics to our dogs) is a shameful and weak way to bridge our understanding between our emotions and those of our dogs. Science has finally proven what many of us have known all along.
What can we do to ensure that neural pathways and associations for our dogs and puppies are positive?
It is our job as owners, guardians, handlers and teachers, to desensitize our dogs to procedures and experiences that must occur during their lifetime.
Each of these signals needs to be taken in context and where your dog is in that particular moment. Having their tail down when they’re outside exploring their environment means something very different from when their tail is down if they’re relaxed at home.
Diamond in the Ruff includes systematic desensitization and counterconditioning in every, single class and private training session.