Understanding Your Dog

Girl and Her Dog“If you want the best seat in the house, you’ll have to move the dog.”

Boy, when I brought Lucy dog home, it wasn’t exactly the cuddles and kisses I  thought it would be. When you bring home a new puppy and start with that gigantic task of house training, you still have to deal with those chewed up shoes, clothes, fingers, and last but not least, those toes. Manners are things that little furball hasn’t learned.  Moving to a new home can stress him out and might make that pup fearful and anxious.  Developing a bond with good communication is crucial between you and your pet.  Your pet will be extremely perceptive to your visual and verbal cues.  So, reciprocate and take an interest in his.

There are many, many tips for translating your dog’s language and might be very helpful to learn, according to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

If he moves away when you pet his head it could be a sign of dominance.  They prefer petting on their chin, front of chest or side of the face.  Moving in circles before going to sleep makes a cozy nest.  Barking at someone he knows well is showing his power over that person.  When puppies are happy and content, they grunt.  If they whine, they are feeling cold, hungry or lonely.  Cover him with a warm blanket, feed him or give him attention regularly. (Worse than an infant, isn’t it?)

Your dog yawns when he’s tired but also when feeling stressed.  After giving a command and he is blinking, he just might be trying to decide whether or not to follow your orders.  Licking his lips is a nervous or anxiety sign and also a sign of submission.  Now if that little tongue licks you, he wants some positive attention from you, but in some cases it might be used as a sign of dominance.  Puppies might show a sign of dominance by trying to sit on the couch even after being told not to.  But then again, he may just like that soft cushion rather than a hard floor. When he paws the ground after eliminating, he is marking his territory by leaving a visual sign and scent.

The bigger one is, why does he eat that poop?  It is known as coprophagia and is common in puppies that might have witnessed their mother eating their feces in order to keep their living quarters clean.  In older dogs it may indicate a medical or behavioral problem like stress. Rolling in stinky stuff allows him to advertise where he’s been.  When he eats grass it is used as a purgative, and then again, just because he wants to.  He will usually sniff around before urinating in search of other scents.  A dog’s behind generates pheromones to show his identity, so they sniff each other.  If he pants he is regulating his body temperature or feeling anxious. He’s playful and happy when he puts his head and paws close to the ground and his behind in the air.  He loves sticking his head out the window just because it’s fun.  A sign of dominance is when he barks at another dog with his head held high.  If his ears are pressed to his head, it’s a sign of fear or submission.

If he’s excited he wags his tail fast and slower when he’s interested, but not raring to go.  A sign of submission, uncertainty, anxiety or fear is when he puts his tail between his legs.  Holding the tail straight up is a sign of interest.  When chewing those shoes or socks, he will just think it’s a game when you chase him to get them away.  When your dog is in the fight-or-flight state, it causes muscles to contract and that raises the hairs on his back.

So learn some of these simple little signs that your dog is trying to tell you and make life easier for all of you.  Good luck. A new puppy is a chore but well worth the love you will get in return.

-Dr Fredda Branyon