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What is the Dog Trying To Tell Us?

As we have talked about, paying attention to our dogs' faces, bodies, and sounds can help us "hear" what they are trying to tell us.

  • What could it mean if a dog's head is held high? Lowered?
  • And what if a dog's ears are up? Down and flattened?

When a dog's head is lowered and his ears are down, flattened or relaxed, it may signal that he is calm and approachable. However, when a dog's ears are up, it could be a sign that a dog is alert and feeling confident. A dog's body and stance can also give us clues about their energy and what they are feeling. A dog who is trembling, shaking, or has raised hackles (the area around shoulders and down back, before tail) could be afraid or uncertain/ nervous. When a dog is afraid, he may feel threatened if you approach him. A dog also communicates via sounds, including barking and breathing. A dog who has heavy or rapid breathing could be simply tired. Or, he could be anxious or excited. A dog who has its mouth or lips drawn back/rolled up or its teeth bared might be trying to tell us that he is feeling agitated or threatened. When a dog is yawning and looking away from you, he might be saying he is finished playing.

Barking is also used to communicate and can mean many different things. It's important to listen to the type of bark (volume, frequency, duration, tone) in trying to figure out what a dog is trying to communicate. Just like people, not all dogs display feelings in the same way. But, we can observe and use our skills to find clues and cues that will help us "hear" what dogs are trying to tell us.

  • How might a dog try to show or tell you that they are afraid?
  • How might a dog try to show or tell you that they are happy?

Objective:

Children will learn how to pay attention to, and interpret, a dog's facial expressions, body language, and sounds. Learning to read and decipher the signals dogs use to convey intention and emotion will help children interact with dogs in a more assured and confident manner.

Vocabulary Words to Highlight:

Body Language, Calm and Approachable, Alert, Confident, Nervous

Click here to see the what is the dog trying to tell us video with Cesar Millan...