Understanding Canine Body Language

Dogs are communicating all the time and rely heavily on body language. Dogs are great observers of us and each other this is why your dog ‘knows’ when you are leaving the house before you’ve even got your shoes on or perhaps when you are upset. Body Language can be characterised by any movement, conscious or otherwise of the body with the purpose of communicating a message. 

We need to look at the Canine Body Language with the view of observing what our dog’s body is doing. We may observe behaviours such as a high tail, a lip lick, the head being held high or the weight distribution being forwards. We are not predicting how the dog is feeling, although we should look at the emotional side of the dog too, we should mainly be focusing on observing what we see. 

Our aim is to look for the smaller or more subtle signals dogs display. It’s about pre-empting behaviour so that we reduce the likelihood of our dogs practising unhelpful behaviour. We also should look at combinations of behaviours at that might give us the bigger picture, where a signal behaviour may only give us a single piece of the jigsaw.

One other thought is where is the dog, how are they interacting with the environment, are they loose or on a lead? If on lead, are they being handled by their own person or someone else, will changing the handler, change the outcome? Will changing the environment change the outcome? Finally let’s think about the equipment the dog is wearing, any piece of equipment will influence the nervous system, so could the equipment the dog is wearing be influencing the behaviour that we are seeing positively or negatively?

We have made you a short video about Canine Body Language that we would love you to watch, click the button below and we will send it to you.

We should always observe our dogs objectively rather than subjectively and the importance of context, duration, combination, repetition, and evaluation. When we observe our own dogs are we making assumptions about them as we know the dogs or are we looking at them in the same way we might look at dogs that are not part of our own family? Tellington TTouch® Instructor Lindy Dekker always talks about looking with a beginners mind and this is something to really try to do when observing your own dogs.

We can explore the components of the dog individually as well as looking at the dog as a whole. You will notice that when we take this approach almost all the behaviours that we see “could” mean several different things, can we observe without judgment? 

Finally, when studying body language it is useful to look at movement, how do dogs interact with each other? Is this different on lead to off lead? If they are on a collar or a harness? A single connection harness or a two-point harness? Also think about the environment.

Ref: – Dog Training College Canine Body Language Student manual by Leanne McWade and Tellington TTouch® Training

We have made a short video talking about how to observe dogs, complete the form above and we will give you access to this video for free. 

Xtra Dog Training, in conjunction with the Dog Training College offers accredited Canine Body Language courses on Zoom and in person. We are bringing the course to Ipswich on May 1st at 10am

We have made you a short video about Canine Body Language that we would love you to watch, click the button below and we will send it to you.