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Dog Body Language: What You Didn't Know Your Dog Was Trying to Tell You [Part 2]

Have you ever taken one look at your child when they walked in the door and said, “What’s wrong.” Of course you have. Because you know your kids, and you know when they’re having a bad day. You’ve been watching them from day one, for crying out loud. With practice, you can do the same with your dog, and in turn, that helps protect your kids. In Part 2 of our body language series, we’re going to dive into how you tell when a dog is NOT happy and they need a break from an interaction.

1. Eyes: harder, like they’re staring

Hard eyes are a sign of stress or potential conflict. They’ll be open wider than normal, like the dog is staring at something. Usually there will be tension in the face along with hard eyes.

2. Ears: held back

When a dog is nervous or uncomfortable, you’re going to see her ears pinned back against her head. Also, if a dog’s ears are held far forward, that likely means the dog is on alert or intensely excited, which is not a good time for a child to interact with the dog.

3. Head: turned away

This is a huge signal in dog language, but it’s one we tend to miss. Despite the fact that this would also be a huge signal in human body language. I mean if the person you were talking to suddenly swiveled her head the other direction and avoided your eyes, you’d probably guess there was a problem. You’d know she was trying to make a point, and something needed to change fast. Same thing with dogs. If you see your dog continually turning her head away when your child is trying to interact, you know something isn’t right about the situation.

4. Mouth: closed

A dog closing his mouth might not seem like a huge deal, but if you read Part 1, you know by now that happy dogs open their mouths in big goofy grins. Dogs who are stressed or uncomfortable usually close their mouths and get tight lipped – kinda like we do when we’re not happy. If you look closely, you’ll literally see the corners of your dog’s mouth tightened and drawn forward to make “short lips.”

5. Tail: tucked

When you see your dog’s tail tucked where the tip is under her belly, know that she’s scared or stressed. Even if that tail is wagging, I can guarantee 99.9% that she’s doing it as a way of saying, “Please stop, I really wish you wouldn’t do that.”

6. Overall body: low

If you need to know at a glance if your dog isn’t happy, look at body posture and position first. Overall you’ll see that her body is lowered, like she’s slightly crouched, and she’s pulling back from whatever is making her nervous. She may even be trying to escape and hide, because dogs will try to avoid conflict if at all possible. It’s important to step in and give them a break so they don’t feel like they have to defend themselves, ever.

Want to see all this body language stuff in action? Check out this brilliant video from The Family Dog!

If you learn these signs and act when you see them, you will be your dog’s ultimate superhero. Because it’s completely frustrating for dogs when they communicate so clearly in their language, but no one pays attention.

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