Home
Studies & Research
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Understanding Dogs' Body Language
Understanding dogs’ secret language
The stiff, braced posture of the Fox Terrier is entirely focused on the game of tug with his human.

Speech is probably the most important means of communication for humans. Dogs are different: “speech,” in the sense of barks, whines, howls and other sounds is less crucial for them than many other aspects of their communication.

Instead, they use tails, ears, whiskers, mouths, and posture to tell us what they are thinking, and, once you have some idea of what to look for, they are astonishingly eloquent. For example, you can read a lot of basic information about a dog’s mood from how he or she is standing, and the shape of his or her back.

Legs and paws are also used expressively, and both backs and legs are relatively easy to “read” for the onlooker; they give broad information that you can augment by looking at what the ears, mouths, tails and eyes are doing. A square, stiff stance on four braced legs is forceful, the sign of a dog that is highly reactive for one reason or another; “easier” poses, with legs placed rather than braced, are more relaxed.

From Tail Talk: Understanding the Secret Language of Dogs by Sophie Collins, with foreword by Dr. Karen Overall © 2007 by iBall Press Ltd., published by Chronicle Books. Used with permission.

Print|Email
This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 45: Nov/Dec 2007
Sophie Collins is a writer, editor, and pet lover. She and her talkative terrier live in the south of England.

Photography by Calvey Taylor-Haw & Simon Punter

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.

More From The Bark

By
Sheila Pell
By
Karen B. London
By
Julie Hecht
More in Studies & Research:
Great Thinkers on Dogs
Breeds and Behavior
How to Figure Out Your Dog's Mood
Step into Spring
At Long Last Love
For Dogs, What We Do is More Important Than What We Say
Do Dogs Understand Our Words?
Do DNA Tests Reveal Genetic Secrets?
Why Dogs Fear Thunderstorms
Do Animals Have Emotions?