How do dogs communicate and what can they tell us? Why is it important to understand the "language" of dogs?
Ekaterina Kastritskaya, psychologist, specialist in animal therapy, consultant on animal behavior and well-being
I think everyone who has ever interacted with dogs will agree that it is very important to understand these animals. How do dogs communicate with each other and with us and what can they “tell” us?
How do dogs communicate with each other and with people?
In communicating with relatives and people, dogs use four main methods:
- Acoustic. Dogs whine, bark, howl, squeal, squeak, grumble and make other sounds. Moreover, barking, for example, may also differ in different situations. For example, there is one barking to attract attention, and when guarding the territory, it’s completely different. With the help of howling, the ancestors of the dogs marked the boundaries of the territory, tuned in to each other before a joint hunt, transmitted information from a distance. A growl can be both a manifestation of aggression, and a warning, and a game roar. When the dog whines, it is possible that something hurts her or she discomforts, or maybe she is too excited, lonely, or impatient. A sharp squeal or squeak is a signal that the dog is hurt, as well as an attempt to block aggression from another animal or person.
- Visual. These are different signals from the arsenal of the dog’s body language: head, tail and ears movements, postures, “rearing” of hair, etc.
- Tactile. Dogs communicate by touch, which is why early handling and grooming are of great importance to them - and no, this is not the case with exhibitions. Early handling means that a puppy is picked up from birth and accustomed to various touches, stroking, scratching. If tactile communication is not enough, socialization suffers.
- Chemocommunication - the use of odors. With the help of smells, dogs mark the territory, look for sexual partners and, in general, tell their relatives about themselves. This is a kind of questionnaire from which you can find out the sex of the animal, age, approximate size, readiness for procreation and state of health.
What can a dog tell us?
First of all, in communicating with relatives and people, dogs show different emotions. And understanding what emotions a dog experiences gives us an idea of what it is going to do.
What emotions does the dog express?
- Pleasure and tranquility. The dog is relaxed, and sometimes its mouth is slightly opened, soft eyes, relaxed ears and tail. If the dog is resting, his eyes may be squinted. The body as a whole is not tense.
- Interest, curiosity. The head is slightly tilted, the ears are upright or slightly protruding forward, the mouth is closed or slightly ajar, the eyes are open, the tail is relaxed, but elongated horizontally, sometimes slightly wagging.
- Nervousness, discomfort. The dog looks away, sometimes the whites of the eyes are visible, the ears are pressed or slightly lowered, the lips can be slightly raised. The dog can yawn or lick, sniff the ground, itch, brush off.
- Fear. Ears are pressed, mouth is closed and tense, tail is tightened. The dog breathes heavily, sometimes it rolls over on its back (the tail holds between the legs), bends its legs or raises its front paw, and sometimes freezes.
- Aggression. The eyes of the dog are wide open, the gaze is fixed on the object of aggression, the corners of the mouth are taut, the ears are directed forward, raised or slightly parted to the sides, the tail is tense, the hair is raised at the withers. The dog crags, freezes for a short time with the body pointing forward, and emits a low roar.
- Pain. The dog can grumble, screech or whimper, lick a sore spot or bend its paw, the pose and gait change, the movements become different. Pain also affects behavior: the dog may become lethargic or irritated, restless, or seemingly aggressive for no reason, dirty at home or “stubborn” (for example, refusing to stick its head in the collar).
The ability to decipher the signals of the dog’s body language is the key to safe and comfortable communication with the pet, so do not neglect its study.