Vocalization, Facial Expression, and Posture
Body language and other nonverbal communication are basically uniform among all breeds of dogs from the mighty Mastiff to the diminutive Chihuahua. An Airedale will instinctively understand the significance of the posturing of the Great Dane, as well as the struts of the Yorkshire. Humans too can learn to interpret these body signs by paying attention to the differences among the various sounds dogs make, and the meaning of the accompanying movements.
A dog at ease will usually have a relaxed posture: the head and ears are up, the tail is at rest. When at attention, the ears point more forward, the tail is more horizontal, and the dog appears more up on its toes. When happy, as when greeting a familiar person, the tail usually moves quickly on a horizontal plane, the ears are up, and the dog may whine or give off some short barks. An upset, aggressive dog will have an angry expression, with its ears either pointed directly forward or lying flat against the side of the head, and it will begin to bare its teeth and emit low, growling tones.
A fearful dog is perhaps the most dangerous, as its agitation is not as apparent as a menacing animal’s. It is highly unpredictable. The face is slightly tensed and the ears lie flat to the head; the overall body position is lowered. lf the dog feels threatened, it can quickly lash out from this position.
Facial expressions are often keys to a dog’s intent. This, however, can be complicated by the length and cut of a breed’s coat around the face. Terriers such as the Yorkshires often have much of their face obscured by the lengthy coat, while Bedlingtons are trimmed to make them appear as lambs.
Tails are usually good mood indicators. but many of the terrier breeds have tails that are docked
quite short, which makes monitoring the tail positions quite difficult. With dogs that have undocked tails, a horizontal position generally indicates contentment, an upward tail indicates excitement or heightened attention. and a low-slung tail position indicates fear.
Many people improperly interpret a dog’s submissive posturing as an indication ol guilt by the dog. This is. in fact, merely a resigned response by the dog to an authority more dominant that it self. A submissive dog assumes a lowered position, tail down and tucked under its belly, ears pointing back. lt will avoid eye contact. ln addition, it may attempt to lick the mouth or hands of the dominant individual. The dog may then roll onto its back or even urinate as further indication of its surrender.
A confused, upset dog may also assume a lowered stance, but it will not grovel or try to lick. lnstead, its message is conveyed by rapid panting, indicative of stress.
Body language is highly revealing. By paying attention to your dog’s signals, you should be able to assess a situation and make a proper response-such are the actions of a leader in the dog’s view.