We all love our dogs and want to make sure that we're doing the best for them, but because we can't communicate with them as we can with people, it can sometimes be difficult for us to understand what they're thinking, and by extension, how we should treat them in that moment. We here at Pet Food Plus More have put together this article on the subject to help you in this endeavour.
First, we shall begin by going over what behaviours your dog will show when they are happy. A happy, relaxed dog will usually stand upright (though not entirely, there will be a bit of slack in their stance) with their head held high and their tail down behind them (though importantly not between their legs). Their face and eyes will show no signs of tension, and their ears will stand up, but won't fully face forward. They may leave their mouth slightly open, or may remain closed, but if they are relaxed their mouths will look relaxed, where as if they are anticipating a play session they will show a 'grin', in which their mouth would be open with muzzle pulled back into a smile. A lot of dogs will also have their tongue poking out, usually to one side. If they're particularly enjoying their social company, they will also roll on to their backs in hopes for a belly rub! There are some other situations where a dog will roll onto their backs, as will be described below, but if it seems to be enjoying itself, this is likely why they are doing it.
When curious about or investigating something, dogs can often be seen focusing very intently upon it. The behavioural difference between their behaviour here, and when focusing on something for other reasons, can be found in head-tilting, and their ears will often be facing the object of their curiosity. Further, the dog often looks like it is prepared to take action on whatever it discovers, with one paw slightly raised and, if it had been opened before, it's mouth now closed. The tail will most often also be raised, and will wag slowly or sometimes stay still, unless the dog is frightened of the object of it's curiosity.
Next, we shall look at how to tell when a dog is anxious. This can be split into two separate categories, as dogs tend to react in one of two ways when anxious, depending on their personality and the situation at hand. First, we shall look at how to tell a submissive dog is anxious. Usually, if the source of their anxiety stems from other dogs or humans, dogs that feel this way will start off trying to placate the threat, and have a range of body language they can use to do this.
When the threat that they are facing is another dog and your dog feels anxious, it will most often resort to trying to appease the other dog. The most obvious behavioural sign of this is when your dog could lay on it's back, exposing it's belly to the other dog. This is a sign of submission - it shows that one dog has fully surrendered to the other and is trying to show that it is harmless, though this will generally only occur when the dog is anxious to the point of distress. A few other signs of appeasement include lip-licking, turning their whole body away, and scratching themselves.
On the other hand, when a dog is anxious of a human, such as when they expect to be told off by their owner, they will often keep their head lowered, and their eyes will widen. They will most often turn their face away from the human's, and will completely avoid all eye contact. The expression on their face is clear to most people, as they have come to understand it as a 'guilty' expression.
Either way, because it can be important to understand when the anxiousness subsides, as it can indicate what had made the dog anxious to begin with, it can be useful to know when a dog feels relief from their anxious state. Dogs tend to react in one of two ways when relieved, and most of the time this is based on their personality, so it's unlikely that they will flip between the two. The one universal feature is that most people will be able to pick up in the reduction in tension across the dog's whole body, with the anxious traits gradually disappearing. For example, if the dog's hairs had been raised, they will slowly lower, and their eyes will generally 'soften'.
And with that this article comes to a conclusion. We here at Pet Food Plus More hope that this article has helped you to understand you pet pooch just that little bit better and can better be sure what some of the basic signs of their various emotional states are. If you have a question on the subject that you feel this article hasn't answered, feel free to contact us by clicking here, and we will be sure to help you however we can.
Hope to see you in-store some time soon.
All the best,
Henry Jackson, Head of IT for Pet Food Plus More