Category Archives: body language

Why It’s Important to Be Your Dog’s Leader

By Linda Cole

A strong pack leader knows who their dog is and understands that in order to have a stable and happy dog, it’s the human who needs to take control of the pack. Even one dog makes up a pack with his family. Being the pack leader involves understanding how dogs view their world. Because we domesticated dogs, it’s our job to provide stability and a safe environment for them. Taking the lead role is what dogs expect us to do. If we don’t take the lead they will, and that’s when behavior problems begin.

It’s up to us to teach our dogs how we expect them to act around the home, both with other people and other family pets. According to local and state laws concerning dogs, it’s our role as owners to make sure we are capable of keeping them under control to keep the public safe as well as the pet. Dog owners have their pet’s best interest at heart, but too many people have problems taking the lead role. Dogs are individual creatures and some definitely have a mind of their own. Each one has their own personality, and few dogs are shy about trying to move into the lead spot if they believe their owner hasn’t filled that spot.

Like the wolf pack, dogs also have a hierarchy in their family and one member of their family must be the leader. It’s a simple concept for the dog, but dogs aren’t wolves and our interactions with our pet are different than how wolves interact in their packs. Dogs are considered to be juvenile wolves that are dependent on us for their safety and needs. If we want our pet to be calm and stable, we have to be their leader.

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The Purpose of a Dog’s Tail

By Langley Cornwell

We all know what a dog’s tail looks like. We know the tail starts at the end of a dog’s vertebral column and extends beyond his body. We know a dog wags his tail when he’s happy. Other than that, we’ve probably never thought much about it.

There are some types of dogs that are born without a prolonged tail, and there are dogs whose tails have been altered. Some herding and working dog breeds have their tails docked short when they are young; a long tail can be a disadvantage to a working dog because it can interfere with his specific responsibilities and duties. But we’re talking here about the tails of dogs that are long and unaltered, and the many purposes these tails serve.


I can tell what my dog is feeling by the way she holds or moves her tail. Her ears speak volumes as well, but that’s a story for another day. Her tail tells me if she is happy, stressed, aggravated or scared. When she holds her tail high and wags it back and forth, she’s happy. A CANIDAE dog treat never fails to elicit that happy tail wag! When she’s both happy and excited, her tail is high and she moves it in a circular manner which always makes me smile. When something captures her attention, her tail is parallel to the ground.

When my dog is aggravated or feels challenged, she holds her tail a bit higher than her attentive position but not as high as her happy position. I know she feels especially provoked when her tail is held upright and it’s puffed up and rigid.

Too often, our shy girl tucks her tail between her legs, which lets me know she is scared or feeling submissive. And when she keeps her tail low and wags it quickly, she’s nervous or insecure.

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Does a Dog’s Guilty Look Prove He’s Been Naughty?

By Linda Cole

After a long day at work, you’re tired and all you want to do is go home and put your feet up. But as soon as you open the door, you see trash scattered all over the kitchen floor and your dog has a guilty look. If you only have one pet, the naughty one is obvious, but households with two or more pets may not know which one did the dastardly deed. Before jumping to conclusions, are you sure you’re blaming the right pet?

Like any pet owner, when I come home and find knick knacks lying on the floor I assume one of the cats must have had a fun afternoon dusting the table. I’ve even returned home to find a chunk missing out of the arm of my couch. My first reaction is to look to see who looks guilty. Trying to find the guilty cat is like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack! “Don’t look at me. I’m a cat and we never do anything wrong.” Besides, cats believe everything in your home belongs to them anyway. So, since the knick knacks and table are theirs, it’s a cat’s right to rearrange them if she decides the table looks better without all that clutter.

Dogs sometimes give us a peevish look of guilt that says it all, whether they’ve been naughty or not. My dog Alex will sit in the corner of the couch with all of the guilty signs of a bad dog. Her face is long, her head drops low and she looks at me with the saddest eyes she can muster even though I know she’s innocent. Alex doesn’t get into trouble, but she reads me like a book.

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How to Break Up a Cat Fight

By Julia Williams

If you have more than one feline in your household, there may come a time when your ears are assaulted with the awful screeching noise of two cats fighting. Most of the time, these are merely playful tussles that sound a lot worse than they actually are. The noise fighting cats make can seem like they are in a fight to the death, even if they’re really just engaged in a mock battle or trying to assert their place as Top Cat in your household. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to be able to distinguish between a real cat fight and a “play” fight. Play fights don’t require human intervention, but all-out cat brawls do, lest one or both of your cats get injured in the fight. Learn about the body language of cats and the signals that indicate a fight is for real.

The best way to break up a cat fight is to not let one get started in the first place, and understanding a cat’s body language is a great help. The problem is that with some cats, there is a bit of a “gray area” between play and fighting. Generally speaking, growling, hissing, arched backs, flattened ears, puffed up fur and big fat tails are not good signs. Subtleties aside, if you really take the time to observe your cats’ posturing and sounds, you can usually distinguish between the mock battles and a serious fight.

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Dog Behavior: Understanding Dog Fights

By Linda Cole

Breaking up a dog fight can be difficult and potentially dangerous. If your canine family includes two or more dogs, they may all get into a fight at one time or another. It’s a scary situation, especially if you’re alone and there’s no time to think about what to do in the heat of the battle. Even a dog who is quiet and docile can turn into a raging bull when pushed too far. Breaking up a dog fight is one of the hardest things you may have to do. It’s a good idea to have a plan in place; even better, learn about the body language of dogs to prevent fights before they begin. Dog behavior that might lead to a fight is clear and easy to see, if you know what to look for.

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Taming a Feral Cat

By Tamara L. Waters

Having lived in the country my entire life, feral cats have always been a way of life. They are everywhere, and they multiply at the rate of two or three litters per year. Each litter averages four to six kittens that can begin reproducing at around five months of age. It’s easy to see how feral cat populations grow out of control.

It’s estimated that there are more than 10 million feral cats in the United States. The only difference between stray cats and feral cats is that strays were once someone’s pet. They became lost or abandoned and live wild, scavenging as they are able. Cats later born to these strays have not had close human contact and become feral cats. Feral cats generally stay far away from humans, presenting another tricky issue: how do we cut down on the population?

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