Category Archives: body language of dogs

Debunking Common Dog Myths


By Linda Cole

The dictionary defines a myth as a belief or set of beliefs that are false or unproven. Facts and myths have a way of getting tangled up with each other and it’s hard to pull them apart. Dog myths can actually be harmful to the dogs if people believe them. In this article, I will set the record straight for six common dog myths.

If a dog is wagging his tail, he must be friendly. This common dog myth may garner a bite for those who believe it. Dogs wag their tails for different reasons. You can tell by a dog’s body language if he’s friendly. His tail is relaxed and straight out as he wags it, and he looks happy. A more aggressive or dominant dog will hold his tail up over his back and may be wagging only the very end of his tail. A playful dog will also hold his tail up over his back, but it’s swishing from side to side. A dog that’s submissive, afraid or anxious will have a tail that hangs down with a wag that seems uncertain, which is exactly how the dog is feeling. Never approach or pet a dog you aren’t familiar with until the dog has been given a chance to properly check you out.

When a dog does something wrong, they know they’re in trouble. They do know they’re in trouble, but not because of what they did. They haven’t a clue why we’re standing there yelling, waving our arms and getting red in the face. We may not be experts at reading a dog’s body language, but they are experts in reading ours. Plus, dogs can read our emotions on our face by what’s called a left gaze bias. In short, dogs read our moods just by looking at us. When a dog hangs his head and gives us those puppy dog eyes that say, “I’m sorry,” it has nothing to do with the torn up chair or scattered trash on the kitchen floor.

You should never play tug of war games with your pet. This common dog myth will only deprive you and your dog from having fun. Tug of war is one of the more natural games for dogs to play. In the wild, wolves and wild dogs fight over their prey, and the one who wins the tug of war wins the food. A game of tug of war is a great way to teach your dog you’re the one in charge. You won, and that makes you leader of the pack in his eyes.

That dog just tried to bite me. This common dog myth gets canines in trouble all the time. If the dog had wanted to bite the hand next to his head, he would have. A dog’s reflex is much faster than ours. He only sent a warning shot across the bow that says to back off. Dogs snap to send a warning that “the next one will be the real McCoy and I won’t miss.” A snapping dog isn’t trying to bite, he’s just asking you to leave him alone because something is bothering him.

You should never allow your dog to growl. Dogs communicate in different ways with each other and us. Growls are one of the tools they use to signal to us, other dogs and even cats to leave them alone. A growl is a request to back off because something is bothering your dog and he’s uncomfortable. Give him space just like you’d want if there was something gnawing at you. There’s also nothing wrong with a playful growl during a game of catch or tug of war. It’s never wise to take a dog’s voice away because that’s his way of letting you know how he feels.

I can tell if my dog has a temperature by his nose. This is a very common dog myth. A dog’s nose can be dry and warm in the morning, and wet and cold when he gives you a sloppy kiss on the cheek an hour later. It’s normal for his nose to be one way or the other at different times of the day. The only way you can tell if your dog has a temperature is by taking it with a thermometer and yes, you have to do it using a digital rectal thermometer. Never take your dog’s temperature using a thermometer with mercury in it because sometimes it can be sucked inside the dog and break. Mercury can make the dog very sick. The normal average temperature for a dog is 101.5 degrees.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

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.

EmailGoogle GmailBlogger PostTwitterFacebookGoogle+Share

Why Do Dogs Have Hackles?


By Ruthie Bently

All dogs have hackles and they run from the dog’s neck, down their backbone and to the base of their tail, sometimes even the shoulders. One of my dogs actually had hackles that started at the base of their skull and went all the way down their back and partway down their tail. The first time Smokey saw horses, he sniffed the air in their direction and his hackles rose to their full extent on his back. He didn’t bark or growl at the horses as he approached them and he didn’t race up to them, so why did his hackles rise? Put it down to a simple case of curiosity. Smokey saw these huge creatures who smelled funny to him, and he was trying to assess the situation before taking action. Since I wasn’t worried, neither was he.

When a dog’s hackles rise it is called piloerection. It is similar to the hair going up on your arm, your head or the back of your neck and is an involuntary reaction to a situation. It is theorized that piloerection happens when there is a rush of adrenaline through a dog’s system. Hackles may rise on a dog’s entire body or just in one area, depending on the situation. This should not be confused with a Rhodesian Ridgeback’s ridge. This is a particular feature indicative of the breed and even some Ridgeback crosses.

Piloerection can be caused by excitement, stimulation, arousal, being startled, fear or interest. It is rare that hackles are raised in an aggressive manner, though it does happen. A hunting dog’s hackles may rise when they are pointing a bird or catch a whiff of a pheasant in the brush; they are stimulated and react accordingly. An intact male dog scenting a female in heat in the neighborhood may raise his hackles in his arousal. A dog’s hackles can rise involuntarily due to a loud clap of thunder that startles them. Even the excitement of greeting a family member or canine friend can cause the hackles on a dog’s back to rise.

Small dog or dogs that are fearful may raise their hackles when they meet another dog and it is thought they do this to try and make themselves look taller to the approaching dog. It reminds me of what my cats did when I brought my first puppy home. They puffed themselves up and looked so huge the puppy backed up in terror. While it was funny to watch, I had my hands full trying to calm the poor puppy and soothe the cats. A dog smelling an unfamiliar wild animal in their territory at night may raise their hackles and growl a warning to “stay away.” A puppy raising its hackles may do so because it is unsure how to react to a situation or change in its surroundings.

The best thing for a responsible pet owner to do is to be aware of your own dog’s body language and be in charge of any situation you and your dog are in. The next time you go walking with your dog or to the dog park, watch your dog and how they react to other dogs they meet. Watch both the dogs and their communication with each other. Watch not only their hackles, but their tail, eyes, ears, body posture and facial expressions. For more helpful tips on this topic, read Linda Cole’s Body Language of Dogs. By understanding your own dog and their body language, you are a step ahead of the game.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

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.

Signs That Show Your Dog Respects You


By Linda Cole

The loyalty of our dogs cannot be questioned; they will stand by us through thick and thin. Dogs can be well behaved and guard our homes and property, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they respect you. You can tell if your dog respects you by how they interact with you.

Happy tail wagging, ears laid back and submissive body language when you return home is one sign your dog respects you. Lip licking, grooming you and even a kiss on the cheek are signs that they recognize you as their leader and respect you.

In the dog world, the leader always goes first. A dog who races to the door ahead of his owner is showing disrespect, and doesn’t see the human as the alpha of his pack. When your dog respects you, he stays calmly behind you and waits for you to walk through the doorway first. Whether you are going outside for a walk, up or down steps or someone has knocked on the door, a respectful dog will never push ahead of his owner.

The alpha always eats first and never gives out scraps of food while eating. The dog who recognizes you as his leader and respects you will never steal food from your hand, the dinner table or your plate. He will wait until you decide it’s time for him to eat. Anytime you feed your dog, if you haven’t eaten beforehand, take a snack and eat it in front of your dog and then feed him. If you can leave your food unattended for a short time, that’s a big sign your dog respects you.

The leader of the pack always takes the prime places for sitting or lying down. The respectful dog will move out of your way anytime you claim a spot on the couch, your chair or in your bed. There’s nothing wrong with allowing your dog on the furniture or in bed with you, but never allow him to push you out of your spot. When you get up, the dog should take a position on the floor and if he is lying in your path, he will get up and move if he respects you. Never walk around your dog. Make him move out of your way.

We need to groom, bathe, trim toenails, give medication, put on flea control and do things the dog may not like. A dog who respects and trusts his owner will not growl while things are being attended to no matter how much he dislikes it. Dogs use eye contact to challenge and intimidate subordinates in the pack. If your dog respects you, he will break eye contact with you first. Never look away from your dog first if he is staring at you.

A dog who completely ignores your commands to sit, drop it, stay or lie down is showing they are the ones who decide when and what they will do. Following your rules and basic commands not only shows your dog respects you, but it’s important for them to learn and obey commands because they don’t understand the danger a moving car can present to them if they ignore it.

Being the leader of the pack is an awesome responsibility. Your dog is giving you his trust that you will provide him with what he needs and do so in a respectful matter as his leader. But you have to earn your dog’s trust and respect. It’s not automatic and you do have to prove yourself to your dog. An owner who appears weak as a leader, is inconsistent, unfair, shows that the dog intimidates them and allows their dog to be dominate has lost the battle for control, and the dog will not respect them.

When a dog doesn’t respect his owner, it can open the door to an out of control, unhappy dog and owner who clash every day. An owner who has not taken full command of his dog will have an unstable and potentially more aggressive pet that is difficult to handle. These are the dogs that often end up in shelters or even abandoned.

It’s not difficult to earn a dog’s respect and trust. By taking the alpha role and showing your dog love, kindness and your own respect for him, your dog will gladly follow and obey you. Be consistent in your training, fair in your punishment if and when it’s needed and give your dog lots of praise. Set aside playing time to bond, and stay in control to earn your dog’s respect and the right to the best places to sit and sleep.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

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.

How Well Do You Know Your Pet?


By Linda Cole

Our pets are as individual as we are. They have their own little quirks and preferences. They don’t always follow what the experts say and they may or may not come when called. Understanding your pet on an intimate basis is important because during times of stress, you have a better idea of how they might deal with events that upset their normal routine. Our pets are creatures of habit and getting to know them well is as important as knowing a close friend. It’s possible your intimate knowledge of your pet’s personality could actually save their life during an emergency or if they were to ever become lost. Do you know your pet well?

How many times have you heard someone say, “He just wasn’t acting like himself?” Most likely he was, it was just a side others hadn’t seen before. Pets are the same way. It’s easy to learn and understand a dog’s body language and what their bark is saying. Your cat’s swishing tail will tell you it’s time to leave them alone and you know by their yowls if you are late with their supper or if they want inside or outside. It’s also important to understand their moods and the subtle looks they give you that sets them apart from other dogs or cats. When you know your pet well, it’s easier to understand why they do specific things.

Does your pet have a favorite room in your home? If they are upset, scared or not feeling well, do they hide under the bed, in a closet, under the recliner or someplace where you can’t find them? Does your cat like to catch up on what’s going on in the neighborhood from a certain window? What’s your pet’s favorite game or toy? Do you know when they want to play or go outside? Did you notice how much your dog enjoyed going on a hike with you? Is your pet comfortable around strangers or in unfamiliar surroundings? Do loud noises or storms make them nervous?

Some pets are more sensitive than others. They do get hurt feelings and will pout. They can also get mad at us and can display their anger via behavioral problems. If you know your pet well, it’s easy to see how things you do or changes you’ve made can affect them. They don’t have a vote in our decisions, but they do let you know how they feel about it in their own way.

My twelve year old cat, Taylor, decided one day she didn’t want to eat with the other cats anymore. She started to hide under the bed at meal times. The other cats intimidated her and meals had become traumatic for her. She would hiss and growl and wildly attack anyone close to her, including me. After a checkup with the vet revealed no medical reason for her actions, I was able to help her best by changing where she ate her meals. Some cats just prefer to eat alone. My work schedule had also changed and she wasn’t able to curl up next to me like she’d been accustomed to. She now eats in peace in my office while I work which is in a room away from the other cats, and she’s able to get the extra attention she craves.

When you know your pet well, there is a bond that continues to strengthen. The trust and loyalty your pet gives you is special. They will be by your side no matter who you are, where you go or what you do. Rich or poor, they will give us everything they have and expect nothing in return. Pets are always happy to see us no matter how long we’ve been gone.

Our pets do have feelings and fears, and we can hurt their feelings and miss their fears. They look to us to be their rock in good times and bad. Pets can sense our emotions and read our body language, and they love us unconditionally in spite of our faults. They react like children to our outbursts and cower or hide if they think they’re in trouble. They don’t reason the same way we do, but they do understand more than they are given credit for.

When you know your pet well, you see them for who they are – imperfect beings just like us. If you haven’t gotten to know your pet, there’s no time like the present. You might be surprised by what you learn. Having an intimate relationship with your pet says a lot about you, and benefits both you and your pet.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

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.

The Difference Between Dog Aggression and Protection


By Linda Cole

My Terrier mix Kelly (pictured) is my protector. It’s been a challenge teaching her it’s alright if a family member, friend or my other pets want to approach me. I have no problem with her actions if I need protection and she is as loyal as she could be, but protection can turn into aggression. And protection and aggression are not the same thing.

We have dogs for different reasons. They may be our hiking partner or a friend on our daily run or walk. Some want to own a dog who loves playing in water, competing in obstacle courses or snuggling next to you on the couch. Without thinking about our dogs protecting us, most owners would admit that’s one of the advantages to owning a dog. My dogs are great at alerting me to noises and smells they detect coming into the house from outside.

Protecting the pack is done without even thinking for most dogs. A female dog will protect her pups, and it’s as natural to a dog as it is for us to protect our family. A dog will protect what he feels is his, but only if he feels threatened. If a dog moves in front of his owner when an unfamiliar dog or a person approaches them or quietly steps between his human child and another kid fighting, that is protection. A dog who is assuming a protective position will do so silently with no growling or snarling. He will reserve judgment to decide if a more aggressive response will be needed. A dog who is being protective will only become aggressive if it is necessary to do so. Once the threat has passed and he determines the dog coming up to you is friendly or the person means you no harm, he will back down.

Aggression is a response where the dog will use force or needs to display dominance in every situation they encounter. It’s important to remember that aggression is not protection. A dog who is displaying aggressive tendencies may not have been properly socialized with other dogs, could be a dominant dog who is trying to show his dominance over others, or a dog who is fearful. That’s why it’s important to make sure a puppy is properly socialized when most aggressive tendencies can be avoided.

One way to tell if a dog is being aggressive is if they are growling when there’s no reason for them to do so. When your dog steps between you and another dog or person and they are growling or seem to be upset, it’s time to take him away from the situation. An approaching dog or human should not garner anything more than your dog paying attention to them. Growling is a warning sign that the dog could initiate a fight or bite. A dog that’s in a protective position will have the good sense and judgment to understand each situation and you most likely won’t even know he was in protection mode.

My mom had a medium sized mixed breed dog, Ben. Late one night someone jimmied her front door open. Ben was in the back of the house with mom as she was getting ready for bed. He heard the person trying to break in. Without a sound, Ben raced from the back bedroom and hit the front door just as the person was about to enter. The only time Ben let out a snarling bark was when he caught sight of the man in the window of the door before the man ran away. I have no doubt that if the intruder had made it inside, Ben would have protected his home and his person. A dog in protection mode should stop once the intruder or reason why a dog felt his protection was needed has passed or the dog or person surrenders and leaves. That was exactly what Ben did.

Aggressive dogs bite people and other dogs every year. Knowing the difference between protection and aggression can prevent a lawsuit or the possibility of having a dog declared a danger to society. Having a good knowledge of a dog’s body language can aid a dog owner in knowing if a dog’s reaction is protection or aggression. It’s always easier and safer to avoid a dog fight to begin with and no one wants to have the worry of a lawsuit if a dog bites someone. Knowing your dog can help you understand if he’s being protective or aggressive. To defuse a situation if you are outside or at a dog park and you have doubts, the best thing you can do is to calmly leave the scene. Dogs do signal their intent and it’s our responsibility to learn and understand how to listen to and watch what they are saying and showing to us.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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.

Is it Possible to Read Your Pet’s Mind?


By Linda Cole

Pet psychics believe the average owner can read their pet’s mind if they really want to. Animal Planet ran a series called the Pet Psychic that was popular for awhile. I watched each episode wanting to believe Sonya Fitzpatrick’s claim that she could read animal’s minds. I guess I was one of the skeptics and yes, I have tried to communicate telepathically with my pets. But is it as farfetched as it sounds? Is it possible to read your pet’s mind with the right knowledge and practice?

I would love to know what my dogs and cats are thinking. It’s possible that the times I tried to talk with one of my pets they just didn’t have anything to say to me. After all, I have times when I don’t feel like talking. Maybe our pets don’t talk to us because we are skeptical about having an ability to read a pet’s mind. I suppose it’s possible pets could refuse to establish telepathic communications with us because we have to hear it to believe it and they figure it’s just a waste of their time. Whatever the case may be, pet psychics do believe all of us have the power to read our pet’s mind, but we have to truly believe before it can happen.

If you want to try to read your pet’s mind, find a quiet place where you can concentrate with your pet in front of you. Even though you may not be able to read their mind, it’s a fun exercise to experiment with and you and your pet can spend some quality time together – and that’s never a bad thing.

Pet psychics pretty much all agree that there are steps we need to follow to open up the mind to all that’s possible. It’s important to clear out all the clutter in our head so telepathic communications can take place. I was once told by a friend of mine who is a pet psychic that animals are more tuned into our thoughts than we are to theirs. We just aren’t very good at listening for their call. That may be true, but I don’t necessarily agree that we can’t hear them because we aren’t listening.

If you’d like to try reading your pet’s mind, begin by believing in yourself and your psychic abilities. This is how my pet psychic friend instructed me. The human mind is complex, and we don’t use all of our brain power. Who knows what’s lurking in the shadows of our minds just waiting to be discovered.

Begin by thinking of your pet as being on the same level as you. Don’t assume that just because they aren’t like us they don’t have something to say we might understand. Before trying to read your pet’s mind, meditate for a good 15 minutes to focus your mind. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress, so it’s something good to do regardless. Sit back, relax and let your mind take you to a place that’s peaceful.

When you’re ready to start, sit with your pet in front of you and notice their expressions, their body language and their reactions. This is supposed to help you focus into your pet’s thoughts. If you do hear what they are thinking, it can be in thoughts, feelings or pictures that are projected from them to you. At this point you should only ask simple questions and expect a simple answer in return. If it turns out you do discover you can read your pet’s mind, keep going on a daily basis for best results. Don’t forget to tell them goodbye when you are ending the conversation so they know you are finished talking.

I have to admit, I’m a skeptic even though I personally know a pet psychic. We were coworkers for a time in the same company. I do think she believes she can read a pet’s mind. Maybe there are folks who have an acute sensitivity to pets most of us don’t have or they are just better at taking their minds to a place we can’t. Whatever the case may be, I have tried many times to read my pets’ minds and have never been successful. Some people may be able to read a pet’s mind, but I’m not one of them. Maybe one day one of my sessions will pay off. Nevertheless, I don’t need to have a conversation with my pets to understand them, and they know by how I treat them that they are respected and loved – and that’s good enough for me!

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

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.