Understanding Dogs 101: Intro to Dog Psychology
All dogs have different and unique personalities, just like we do. Similarly they experience feelings the same way as well!
The basic emotions that dogs have such as happiness, sadness, and fear are necessary in helping dogs survive. These emotions motivate dogs to behave with a basic survival instinct: to protect themselves.
While dogs can't really talk and tell you how they feel like humans can do, luckily we can read their body language as a way to communicate with our dogs.
This one is usually the most obvious emotion to recognize in a dog. After all, it's been widely popularized as typical happy dog behavior. Just look at that tail - a wagging tail usually means a happy dog! However if they are not wagging their tail in a relaxed, loose manner but rather in a shaking, vigorous manner, it could mean that they are anxious. Watch out, this signal is frequently mistaken for happiness in a dog as well.
It's also easy to tell when your dog is happy if they are engaging with you in a friendly, relaxed, and gentle manner. Some dogs even "smile"! This means that their lips are loose with their mouth slightly open. Perhaps their tongue might stick out a bit too.
A dog avoiding eye contact is anxious and showing signs of submission. You might see some tension in their forehead. Their ears may be pricked or held back, trying to listen to their surroundings.
They might lick their lips or yawn even if they're not hungry or tired.
As mentioned above, they may wag their tails, while their heads are slightly lowered.
Fear in dogs is quite obvious. Some dogs may cower in an attempt to look small, or others might roll on their backs to show submission.
They will also avoid contact with the object, animal, or person they are afraid of. Some dogs will have their ears flattened against their head. Again, frequently licking their lips or yawning is also a sign of fear. Their tail will be low or even tucked between their legs. Watch out if they bark or growl. If bothered any more they may become aggressive.
An important point to understand is that some people are quick to punish their dogs for aggression when the dog is simply what it deems necessary to survive the seemingly threatening situation. This will just make the dog even more scared of you, and it's not good for the dog and owner relationship to have that kind of negative association, where the dog fears the owner.
Unsure how to read the signs? Don't misunderstand your dog, it could make things worse! We're here to help you create the best dog and owner relationship possible. Just shoot us a message and we can get working on creating that perfect bond for you and your dog.