Dog Emotions

September 6, 2018

Did you know that a wagging tail isn’t  always a sign that your dog is happy? Did you know that sniffing the ground doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hungry and looking for food scraps? Dogs give us lots of signals on a daily basis to communicate different emotional states. Whether it be happy, scared, stressed out, angry, etc., your dog is trying to tell you how he feels. Different body parts may act similarly to indicate different moods, so it is your job as an owner to know your dog and pay attention to him and his environment.

A big misconception is that a wagging tail means your dog is happy. While it is true that a loose, wagging or thumping tail means your dog is feeling happy and playful, a tail wagging in a smaller, rapid motion is an indicator of stress. Similarly, panting isn’t just an indication that your dog is hot and needs some shade; slow or normal panting is an indication of happiness. Your dog is calm. Rapid panting, on the other hand, is another sign of stress or worry.

Stress is a big emotion that our dogs try and communicate to us. Before we look at the signs of stress in dogs, let’s see what can cause it. Some big causes are exposure to unfamiliar things, being left alone, lack of physical or mental stimulation, other people or dogs nearby, specific environments (car, vet’s office), poor nutrition, and punishment-based training. Some physical signs to look for in a stressed out dog include pinned back ears, whale eye (a sideways glance where the dog is avoiding direct eye contact), lip licking, rapid panting, stiff body posture, and trembling, among others.

Dogs will also engage in behaviors to try and escape a stressful situation, such as backing away or hiding behind their owners.

A happy dog will have soft facial expressions, playful barking, loose body posture, an open mouth, and will actively seek your eye contact. Knowing your dog’s signs can ensure he has a happy, comfortable life and avoid anything negative that comes his way.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

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