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Healthy Dogs

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Dog Body Language

Overall Body Posture continued...

A submissive dog looks very similar to a frightened dog because he makes himself look small to convey that he’s not a threat. If your dog is submissive, he’ll lower his body or even cower on the ground. His head might be raised, though, if he’s greeting a person or another animal.

An assertive (dominant), alert or aroused dog tries to make himself look large. His muscles will be tense. He’ll stand erect, sometimes even on his tiptoes, with his neck and head raised above his shoulders. His weight will either be centered over all four feet or he’ll be leaning slightly forward on his front legs.

An angry, aggressive dog also makes himself appear larger than life to be as intimidating as possible. If your dog is aggressive, he’ll look very similar to an assertive, alert or aroused dog, but his posture will be accompanied by aggressive threats. Typically, his weight will be centered over his front legs so that he can lunge or charge forward rapidly.

Putting It All Together-The Whole Dog

The messages dogs communicate with their body language can be subtle, but with careful attention, most people can learn to recognize and interpret the most important meanings. It’s crucial to know when your dog’s happy, when he’s playful, when he’s worried or scared, when he’s feeling uncertain or insecure about something or someone, and when he’s feeling upset and potentially angry. As long as you can recognize these messages, you can interact with him confidently and safely, and you can protect him when he needs protection.

Happy, Contented

When your dog is happy, he has relaxed body language. His muscles are relaxed, his tail and ears are held in their natural positions, and he looks neither large nor small for his physique. He might wag his tail from side to side or in a circular motion. His facial expression is neutral or he appears happy-the muscles in his face are relaxed, his mouth is closed or slightly opened, and he might be panting with a regular tempo. The corners of his mouth (called the commissure) might be turned upwards slightly, as though he’s smiling.

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