5 Top Tips to Help You Read Your Dog's Body Language
1. Observe dogs’ body language: You can watch your own dog in the home, when out on walks and during play sessions. See how they interact with you and the world around them. Observe well socialised dogs interacting together and look at the way they communicate too. Video recordings are useful to pick up on subtle body-language and things that you might have missed.
2. Watch how dogs’ use their senses: The dogs’ sense of smell is 10,000 times better than ours. See how they take in information using it. Encourage them to use it with scent games and give them time to have a good sniff when out on walks.
3. Apply up to date methods of communication: It is now well known that trying to act like an alpha dog is an outdated method of training. Alpha rolls and muzzle grabbing only makes your dog think you are unpredictable and someone to fear. This can lead to self-defence aggression. Instead use positive reinforcement alongside quiet, non-threatening body language.
4. Know how to respond if a dog chases or charges towards you in a threatening manner by following these tips:
Avoid direct eye contact
Present a side-on, closed stance, using your peripheral vision to assess the situation
Keep your hands and arms close to your body
Quietly and very slowly move away backwards but DO NOT run
5. Watching dogs’ play is great fun but sometimes things go a bit too far. Knowing when to step in and call a halt to the session is important. Look out for:
One dog controlling the play session
One dog doing all the chasing with the other trying to escape, crouching or cowering
A dog displaying a high body stance – tail held high and ears erect
Stiffness in the body and locked eye contact
If you observe any of these signals immediately distract the dogs by calling them away. Reward the recall and put them both under control.
Understanding canine body language is like learning a whole new language so invest time and practice in getting it right.
Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling. Further informative canine related advice can be found on Caroline's site www.peteducationandtraining.co.uk
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I am a qualified Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) and Association of Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC) Registered Clinical Animal Behaviour Counsellor. I am also a full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC). I have a special interest in education and hold a recognised professional teaching qualification. I am available for one to one behaviour consultations, covering problems with dogs, cats, rabbits and parrots. I also offer CPD courses to the veterinary profession, pet professionals, local RSPCA centres and pet owners. Courses include: Animal First Aid, Animal Behaviour and other animal care related topics.