Category Archives: body language of dogs

Why Do Dogs Like to Lean on Us?

By Linda Cole

One of my dogs, Max, is a big guy. When we’re outside in the dog pen, he likes to come over and sit beside me. However, he doesn’t just sit, he leans and if I’m standing up and not paying attention, he knocks me sideways because his lean is more of a flop against my legs. All of my dogs like to lean on me at times, but why do they snuggle up next to our legs or beside us on the couch?

Kelly, the matriarch of my dog family, will either sit beside me on the couch or climb onto my lap and lean against me. Then she lays her head on my arm or chest and melts my heart with her eyes as she gazes into mine. Some of the time, I know she’s trying to butter me up for some CANIDAE Tidnips treats, but usually it’s because she likes to cuddle whenever she gets the chance. Keikei and Riley are fond of sitting on my feet when I’m standing or sitting, which keeps my feet warm on a cold night.

Cuddling is one reason dogs lean against us, but think about how dogs, especially small dogs, see our world. It can be a pretty intimidating place for some canines. A dog that feels unsure of himself or is shy will press up next to your legs for security. A scared dog may move behind you and seek comfort knowing you are there to protect him. It’s his way of saying you make him feel safe.

Dogs communicate with us on all levels and there’s a reason for what they do. We are the ones that have trouble understanding what they are trying to tell us. But when you think about how we communicate with someone we care about, we respond in similar ways as dogs. How many times have you seen a small child hugging his mom’s leg or leaning against her while she’s chatting with someone. A shy child might peek out from behind his mom as he leans against her for safety. What parent hasn’t had their child sit next to them on the couch or in their lap and lean up against them? Whether it’s for security or just to cuddle, it’s the same reason why dogs lean on us – because we make them feel secure, and because they love us.

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Moving in Together: How to Socialize Pets from Two Homes

By Linda Cole

Adding a new pet to a home where one is already residing can be a challenge for some pets, but bringing two or more pets together under one roof when you move in with your significant other can be an even bigger challenge. The goal is to help each pet transition into their new life without breaking up your relationship. It can be a delicate balance, in the beginning, for owners and their pets.

Combining pets from two different homes means both pets’ routine has been changed. They have to get used to new smells, sounds and how each person interacts with them. Pets don’t usually like change, and it can be a reason why some pets develop behavioral problems. It can take time and patience to make a transition, and how to handle the pets is a discussion couples need to have before they move in together. It’s important to socialize pets as soon as possible and it’s equally important for each person to take the lead role with dogs from both homes. Pets are important to their owners and can be a reason for friction between a couple if it’s not handled carefully.

Socializing pets when moving in together is done the same way a new pet is added to a home. However, there is one difference to keep in mind – each pet has a bond already established with their owner. Dogs are more apt to follow their owner’s commands over someone new in the home. The solution is for both people to learn which commands are used and be consistent with them to keep the dog from being confused. Discipline is also a subject that needs to be discussed, as well as what sort of liberties will be permitted by both owners. Are pets allowed to sleep in the bed? Is the furniture off limits? It’s important to have a serious heart-to-heart talk before moving in together to work out a compromise, if it’s necessary.

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Why You Should Involve Kids in Dog Training

By Linda Cole

Whether you have a puppy or an older dog, involving the entire family in the dog’s training is an important part in the dog’s education as well as the child’s. Kids like to be included in family things, and training a dog should be a family affair. Having a role in a dog’s care and training also helps children learn about being compassionate and how to act around a dog.

Socializing a dog or puppy isn’t difficult to do. What’s hard is teaching children not to roughhouse with a dog to the point where the dog or puppy becomes agitated or overly excited. That’s why kids and adults need to understand a dog’s body language to know when the dog has had enough fun for the time being. Involving children in a dog’s training helps them learn how to watch what a dog is saying. It helps them become more aware of the dog’s movements, and it’s one of the best ways to bond and learn who their dog is as an individual.

Understanding breeds compassion, and when children train a dog using positive reinforcement, they are learning a life lesson that teaches them positive techniques which help with their human relationships. They learn they don’t have to intimidate or use fear or bullying to get things they want, and they learn that giving respect to a dog returns trust to them.

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The Right Way to Greet a Dog

By Linda Cole

Dogs are naturally curious when someone new comes to visit. Some dogs will react positively to a stranger with a friendly approach, but may feel threatened as soon as the person reaches down to try and pet them. There are rules to keep in mind when greeting a dog, and knowing what they are can be the difference between a friendly encounter or one that becomes tense. Meeting new people can be exciting for some dogs, while others take longer to warm up to someone. Understanding the “Body Language of Dogs” can make a meeting smoother and safer when you know how to interpret what a dog is saying. You can then take that information and use it in your favor.

A dog can appear friendly, until you get too close; then he may feel intimidated. He may back off, cower or give you a low warning growl. It’s just like when a person stands too close while talking to you and it gives you an uncomfortable feeling. The person may not realize their close proximity creates tension if they don’t notice your body language. When greeting a dog, regardless of whether he knows you or not, ignore him when you first walk into someone’s home. No eye contact, don’t talk to him and don’t try to pet him. From the dog’s point of view it’s not being rude, it’s being polite. He’s more likely to stay calm when you don’t acknowledge him until the human greetings are done.

If the dog jumps up on you, turn your side or back to him each time he jumps up. If he continues, walk away from him without looking at or speaking to him. Avoid pushing him down with your hands because dogs use their front paws in play and when you push him away using your hands, he thinks you’re trying to play with him. Fold your arms or put your hands in your pocket if the dog tries to get your attention by nudging your hand. Pet a dog only when he’s calm and has all four feet on the ground.

Sudden moves can startle a dog. If you try to suddenly pet a dog from above with your hand moving down towards his head or if you move too quickly towards him, a timid dog can feel threatened and may snap or growl. Watch the dog’s body language which will tell you if you need to back off and leave him alone. A shy dog is more likely to approach you if you aren’t paying him attention. A handful of CANIDAE TidNips™ treats can help make friends after the initial greetings; just be sure to ask his owner first.

Sit down on the couch or in a chair, or kneel down on the floor making sure to avoid eye contact with the dog. Hold some treats in your hand and offer them to the dog. If he won’t take the treat from your hand, put it on the floor. Give him space while he gets to know you. His body language will tell you when he’s ready for you to pet him. A dog can become excited just because someone came to visit, even when they know who the visitor is. When you consistently greet a dog the right way, it teaches him to be polite and helps to keep him calm.

Anytime you greet a dog, ask for permission before petting him. The owner knows their dog best and some dogs would rather you left them alone. If a dog looks tense or scared, he probably is. Don’t try to pet a dog who is giving you an intense stare, especially if he’s standing stiff and motionless, looking at you out of the corner of his eye or licking his lips. This is a sign he’s agitated. Give him space and allow him to greet you on his terms when he’s ready.

When greeting a dog, what you want to see in his body language is his tail wagging or hanging down in a relaxed manner. This is a friendly dog. Never force yourself on a dog. Not all dogs like being hugged, especially from someone they don’t know. Not all dogs like being petted on the head either. It’s best to pet him with your hand coming up to meet his head rather than coming down. Understanding how to greet a dog can make life easier for you and the dog.

Photo by Ben Radlinski

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Tips for Preventing Dog Bites

By Julia Williams

Since this is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, we thought this would be a good time to discuss why dogs bite and offer some tips to avoid getting bitten. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, and one in five dog bite injuries require medical attention.

One very important part of responsible pet ownership is doing everything you can to make sure that you, your family, visitors to your home and strangers on the street are all safe in the presence of your dog. Although there is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone, there are things you can do to lessen the probability. First and foremost, it’s vital to arm yourself with knowledge about dog behavior.

Learn to “Speak Dog”

A good place to start is the educational website Doggone Safe, which has a wealth of information about dog bite prevention, including recognizing signs of anxiety, arousal, aggression, signs that a bite is imminent, and signs that a dog is happy. The site also has photos and a slideshow of different canine body language signals, which can be a very useful teaching tool for parents. Since dogs can’t verbalize how they feel, they use their body language to tell us whether they want attention or to be left alone. Learning to recognize signs of aggression will help prevent dog bites.

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Teaching Kids How to Approach an Unfamiliar Dog

By Linda Cole

When I was a kid, old enough to know better, I saw a dog chained to a parking meter. The owner was nowhere in sight. Kids raised with dogs have a tendency to view all dogs like their pet at home. That’s exactly what I did. As I approached the dog, it lunged at me and I had to jump back to avoid getting bit. It was a good lesson to learn. Kids can learn how to look at a dog and understand what the dog is telling them before they approach it. A child is more at risk for dog encounters because of their small size. A more aggressive dog isn’t as intimidated by a child as they are with adults.

It’s just as important to teach your children what to do when meeting an unfamiliar or stray dog as it is to teach them what to do if a stranger approaches them. Dogs are everywhere and sooner or later, kids will find themselves face to face with an unfamiliar or stray dog. The dog could be a family or friend’s pet, a dog in the back of a truck or a stray dog who’s trying to find his way back home.

Teaching kids how to read a dog’s body language is their best defense. Most dogs mean us no harm and they are experts at reading our body language. If a child shows fear or aggression towards the dog, it can lead to an unwanted and unnecessary confrontation, even if the dog and kid know each other.

Avoid direct eye contact with an unfamiliar or stray dog. Teaching kids how to look at a dog is as important as understanding the dog’s body language. To a dog, direct eye contact is perceived as a challenge. It’s alright to keep an eye on it, but don’t stare. If a stray dog starts to walk towards you, walk away from the dog, but do keep an eye on him to see what he’s doing. Even a friendly dog can bite if we give wrong signals.

Never run away from a dog, because running will activate his prey drive. A friendly stray may give chase because he wants to play, but it can be frightening to a child or adult when a dog is chasing them. Don’t kick at them or try to push them away with your hands. Teach kids to stand completely still with their arms held straight down next to their body if a stray dog approaches them outside. Stay calm and try not to tighten up because the dog can tell if we’re frightened. Most dogs will give a few sniffs and then be on their way if they’re completely ignored.

If knocked down by a stray dog, curl up in a ball with your hands over your head and remain still and quiet. Excitement from us will create excitement in the dog. The best way to keep a situation under control is by staying in control and remaining calm.

Enter a home with a dog as if there is no dog. Even if there’s a comfortable and safe relationship between kid and dog, the dog should be ignored until the greetings are over and everyone has calmed down. Dogs get excited when company arrives and the best time to give them attention is when everyone’s in a relaxed state of mind. Encounters with dogs happen because we don’t always understand them. They have days when they aren’t feeling up to par, just like we do.

When meeting someone’s dog who is unfamiliar to them, kids should be taught to always ask before approaching the dog. It’s only natural for kids to want to pet and play with a dog. However, even laid back, friendly dogs don’t always like having a child pull on their ears. Injuries can be avoided with one simple rule. Never try to pet a dog you don’t know. Dogs react the only way they can and will use a growl and bite, if necessary, as a warning to us to leave them alone.

Teaching kids how to approach an unfamiliar or stray dog, even if it looks friendly and is wagging its tail, can help protect them from negative dog encounters. As long as they aren’t threatened by us, most dogs will leave us alone. A stray dog doesn’t know we want to help them and we don’t know what they may have been through while living on the streets. A stray dog can be defensive, fearful or friendly depending on how it’s been treated by people it has met along the way. Teaching kids how to look at a dog and understand the dog’s body language is your child’s best defense when meeting an unfamiliar or stray dog.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.