Monday, July 6, 2009

Canine Body Posture

Canine Body Posture

Dogs actually assume that we understand their communication system.  Considering this, it is important to understand what a dog is saying to you with his body language.  Recognizing these simple, and sometimes subtle dog signals can help train your dog more easily.  Although dogs do communicate somewhat through vocalization and facial expressions, body language is most important.  The following is a list of basic dog body postures.

Relaxed Body Posture
The dog's tail is down, but the head is up.  The ears are up but not forward and the head is high.

Alert Body Posture
The dog's tail is straight out and he stands tall on his toes.  His ears will be forward and the mouth closed.
A dog that is engaging in the body posture is indicating interest.  This posture can be helpful to notice in training, because this posture means the dog is aware of something, but has yet to decide what to do about it.  That's where you would come in.

Offensive Threat Posture
The dog's tail is up and stiff and he stands forward and tall on his toes.  His hackles will be up, ears forward, and nose wrinkled.  Look for the stiffness and stillness in the dog's body.
A dog that is demonstrating this posture is aggressive and ready for attack.  This position will often be accompanies by a growl.  When around a dog displaying this type of posture, avoid physical corrections and try and use a food reward to regain his focus.

Defensive Threat Posture
The dog's tail will be tucked, and the body lowered.  His hackles will be up, ears back, and nose wrinkled.  The dog's pupils will be dilated and the corners of his mouth back.
A dog engaging in this posture is being self-protective.  Dogs displaying this posture are showing fear.  These dogs would prefer to run away, but may bite if cornered or provoked.

The dog's tail will be down, ears back, and body lowered.  The dog will be panting with the corners of the mouth back.  He may sweat through his pads.
It is important to know when your dog is experiencing stress.  When this happens during training, it is a sign to take a break, and then continue at a slower pace.

Passive Submission
The dog's tail will be tucked, his eyes looking away, and he will roll onto his back.
You often see this posture in young puppies greeting other dogs.

Active Submission

The dog's tail will be down, ears back, and the body lowered.  The dog will lick at the corners of the mouth of the superior human or dog and make groveling movements with his forepaws.
It is actually a good thing to have a dog that is generally submissive.  I reward submissive behavior with a nice belly rub.
(Dog on left in picture is showing Active Submission)

Play Bow
The dog's tail is up and wagging, ears up, with his mouth open.  The dog's front end is lowered as if bowing.
The Play Bow indicates that a dog would like to play.

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