Learn how to speak cat, dog, rabbit and horse by studying animal body language!
Signs of relaxation include: taking treats gently, ears forward, eyes relaxed, jaw loose, wiggly body, and widely wagging tail close to level with the body.
Subtle behaviors indicating conflict, anxiety, and fear include: yawning when not sleepy, lip licking and tongue flicking, the “wet dog shake” when not wet, picking up a paw, turning head to the side and averting eyes, moving the ears back, trying to retreat or hide, moving slowly, tensing or freezing, dilated pupils (eyes look wide and dark), showing whites of eyes, rolling on back and showing belly, excessive licking of herself, a person, or dog, taking treats harder or suddenly not eating at all, and hypervigilance of surroundings.
We humans behave in a very "primate" way and what we often intend with our own body language is much different than what our pets perceive.
A direct stare, eye contact, a reach towards the body and especially the face, and bending over or reaching towards our pets can all be threatening and scary. Even a well intended hug or kiss is often very scary to our pets.
The image below illustrates how some dogs think we act! Can you tell how this dog is feeling by reading his body language (the answer is below)?
The above dog is fearful. His eyes are wide, tail is tucked, ears are back, jaw is closed and stiff, and he is flattened to the ground. This is not a dog who wants to be petted. So how might you help this dog feel more comfortable?
To avoid causing fear in our pets, it is best to turn our bodies to the side, avert our eyes from theirs, avoid reaching towards or leaning over them, avoid putting our faces near theirs, and instead call them over to us so that they can make the choice to interact.
Click on the graphic below to learn more!