Getting a dog can be a BIG responsibility. Not only are you elevated to the status of a pet parent, but you’re also tasked with ensuring good dog behavior for your new friend.
Once settled in, you start noticing little quirks or behaviors that make your puppy unique. This could be anything, such as getting excited to see you, peeing themselves when scared, or barking when fearful or angry.
Yep, it’s a whole range of emotions.
Dog body language is the easiest form of canine communication. But what behavior is normal, and what should be discouraged?
Dog Behavior 一 Is it Normal?
Picture little Abby casually playing around, and then you turn on the TV for her. What’s this?
Underdog is on. That’s Abby’s favorite movie!
She starts barking, tail wagging, jumping up and down excitedly while getting the zoomies before setting herself down in front of the telly. Abby tilts her head sideways when the dog in the movie does something or starts barking when people cheer on Underdog.
You can quickly tell that she’s excited. Maybe she sees herself being a superhero as well?
This is a common occurrence for most pets. Showing signs of fear, excitement, happiness, sadness, separation anxiety, and so much more. Dog behavior isn’t limited to a dog’s body language but can have far-reaching effects, especially emotionally.
A pleasant, friendly, playful, or cheerful approach is often seen as healthy or normal dog behavior, whereas aggressive barking, biting, whining, or cowering means something wrong. The immediate social environment and the dog’s interaction will determine their behavior.
Unless your dog’s behavior is quite aggressive or problematic, there are often ways to correct the behavior through various forms of training.
How to Read Dog Body Language?
As a pet parent, you often wonder if your dog’s behavior is typical or if there is more to it? How do you read their body language?
If a dog has his tail in between his legs, is he scared? Or if he’s making eye contact with a stranger, is he trying to be friendly or intimidating?
There are way too many ways to read into these situations. But there are some easy ways to understand your dog’s body language:
Eyes are the windows to the soul.
How many times have we heard this? Plenty.
So anytime you notice your dog make eye contact with anyone, maybe they’re trying to analyze them and approach them accordingly. Relaxed eyes indicate that the dog is calm, while wide eyes mean that they are alert or show signs of fear.
A wagging tail often signifies a happy dog or even excitement. But the speeds and position of tail wagging differ in conveying an emotional state such as fear or aggression.
Additionally, if their tails are erect, they are naturally dominant and command respect from other dogs. The tail between a dog’s legs signifies submissiveness or fear.
Ears form an essential part of canine body language. They’re the first thing you notice when you approach a dog.
Be it floppy, long, or small, ears can tell you a lot about a dog’s behavior. If a dog’s ears are tall and erect, they are alert to their surroundings, while flattened or relaxed ears mean fear or submission.
Probably housing the scariest part about a dog, their mouth also tells you whether a dog is approachable or not.
Imagine if you see a dog and wanna pet it, but it starts baring its teeth at you and growling. I’d for sure be the first one out of that situation. Yikes!
A dog’s mouth in a relaxed state means they’re content, while bared teeth are often signs of aggression.
5. Body posture
Body posture or body language differentiates a dominant dog from a submissive one.
Usually, an erect and upright posture means that the dog is confident, alert, or assertive, while a crouching or cowering dog’s body language indicates the dog is cowardly or fearful.
If your dog’s gazing or staring intently at someone, know that they’re showing their assertiveness while avoiding eye contact with another means they’re submissive or scared.
Dogs can be pretty vocal, especially if you consider breeds like Huskies, Chihuahuas, Beagle, or a Pomeranian.
Growling, barking, whining, and even howling are different ways in which dogs express their pleasure or discontent. While it can be annoying hearing a dog howl at 3 am, know that this might indicate something’s wrong, and you must check it out.
The OG inspiration for downward dog play-bow’s a position where a dog has his front end on the ground and his rear end raised. Play-bow usually represents playfulness and signals friendliness.
While yawning is usually seen as a sign of boredom, it can even signify stress or anxiety in your dog. Be sure to look into this behavior closely and monitor their habits.
Gentle nibbling or mouthing, usually by puppies, is just them being playful. However, this can quickly become rough or harsh, which could be uncomfortable, especially during teething.
11. Licking and nudging
The most gentle behavior, licking and nudging, means displaying affectionate behaviors. These are caring and nurturing, especially once dogs become mothers.
After any strenuous activity or exercise, it’s standard for dogs to pant. That’s how dogs regulate their body temperatures when it gets too hot. However, what is not normal is excessive panting.
Excessive panting signifies stress or discomfort.
10 Common Dog Behaviors
Before you go about trying to analyze your dog’s body language, there are a few common dog behaviors that your furry friend might often display. Understanding dog body language and behavior is how you can build a closer relationship with your dog. Here are 10 common dog behaviors:
There are only so many ways in which a dog explores the world. Besides sniffing, it’s definitely by chewing!
Chewing is often a standard behavior ranging from chewing toys to even shoes! Dogs chew saved-up snacks from their meal or can chew things out of anxiety or boredom. However, it can be a problem if they start constantly chewing as a form of anxiety.
Every time a dog starts barking, you know they’ve seen something weird or want something from you. Dogs bark to seek attention, at perceived threats, or when they sense a new element in their environment.
Also, barking can be of all kinds, including barking when excited.
Aggressive behavior is often seen in dogs that are not well-trained, agitated by something, or feel threatened. Some dogs can also get aggressive when guarding their territory or resources.
If you’re a new pet owner, you can check out dog breeds that are least aggressive and easier to train.
If your pet dog isn’t into digging holes, that’s a cat.
Digging is like second nature to dogs and quite instinctive. In fact, digging holes can have multiple reasons besides your dog wanting to get dirty. Digging is used to protect from heat, for hunting, to save favorite treats and toys, or even as an outlet to let out excess energy.
Playing fetch and running after other animals have one thing in common 一 chasing.
Dogs LOVE to chase anything. It’s a great outlet to let out built-up energy, great for playtime, or even to hunt prey.
Jumping is often seen as a behavior displayed when excited (or scared?). And dogs jump on people to greet them, seek attention, or play.
However, only some enjoy this approach. This behavior can quickly become a nuisance if dogs are not trained.
This behavior might commonly be seen in puppies. Mouthing or nipping is often out of boredom, especially during a puppy’s teething process. However, this can become problematic if not curbed.
8. Separation anxiety
Dogs can be fiercely loyal and loving to their owners and families. But there can be downsides, too, especially if the dog owner is out or running an errand.
Separation anxiety is common and can lead to excessive vocalizations or destructive behaviors. Additionally, this can make a dog nervous and fearful of being alone.
Known to be territorial behavior, marking is common among animals. Dogs use marking to mark their territory or leave a message for their group.
This can often be a nuisance if the dog is not trained.
10. Fearful behavior
When dogs get scared, they can start trembling or shaking. If there’s a threat to their environment and the dog is submissive, he may cower and have his tail between his legs.
You can calm your pet down with hugs or shower words of encouragement.
How to Curb Unwanted Dog Behavior?
No matter how much we love our dogs, they may often display unwanted behaviors without proper training and guidance. Other people and animals may not welcome such traits except for the pet parent. These can be pretty embarrassing.
But don’t worry. There are ways to curb such unwanted dog behaviors. Here are some:
Without any exercise or walking, dogs cannot let out excess energy. This can lead to aggressive behavior, lethargy, or obesity in dogs.
Exercising is a great way to provide physical and mental stimulation to dogs. A well-exercised dog is a happy dog!
Dogs need to learn how to socialize at a young age. There are some breeds of dogs that can get quite unruly without this. Socialization is also a great way to make friends at the dog park!
The primary method to curb lousy behavior is training. Various forms of obedience training can help the dog and the pet parent.
Professional dog trainers or academies can help you train your dog to be well-behaved.
4. Address anxiety
Nobody likes clingy behavior. This behavior can be detrimental for the dog and the pet parent (especially if you leave them alone for a couple of hours).
Separation anxiety is common among dogs and can be treated by gradual desensitization or counterconditioning to this behavior.
5. Set boundaries
Learn to set clear boundaries for your dog and not indulge their destructive behaviors. For example, feeding a dog scraps from the table may often lead to them developing begging behaviors.
That’s not a cute look and can lead to overfeeding dogs. Hence, setting boundaries is crucial.
6. Be patient
Patience is the foremost virtue you need if you’re a pet parent.
Puppies can often be quite energetic and curious about the world. This behavior doesn’t change much in adulthood. In case your dog misbehaves, instead of scolding or mistreating them, be patient and teach them better behavior.
7. Provide mental stimulation
An idle mind can be pretty dangerous. The same goes for dogs.
Not only do they need exercise, but they need to be mentally stimulated as well. Physical and mental stimulation go hand in hand, especially when training dogs.
8. Redirect behavior
There are ways in which you can redirect unwanted behaviors in dogs. If your dog feels anxious, you can get them a toy or spend quality time with them.
In cases of excessive chewing, give them a treat or toy to help them redirect their energy toward it instead of chewing up shoes and furniture.
9. Regular check-ups
Unwanted behaviors can often signal that something is wrong with your dog. You should take your dog for regular check-ups and consult with a veterinarian for a solution.
10. Positive reinforcement
Everyone likes to be appreciated. If your dog listens to your commands and is on his best behavior, you can treat them to encourage such behavior.
This helps the dog understand that these behaviors are good and get a treat if they’re good.
Dog behaviors are often more complicated than we may think. If we’re able to decipher their body language and understand their needs, not only do we get a well-trained dog, but a happy dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
Dogs can often display various behaviors. As social and playful animals, these behaviours can range from chewing, barking, digging, to even marking territories. A lot of behaviors can be unwanted and require training to resolve.
5 abnormal behaviors of dogs can be excessive vocalization, altered posture, restlessness, aggressive behavior or inappropriate elimination. These behaviors can be modified with professional help and training.
Friendly dog behaviors to look out for include tail wagging, playful nudging, licking, and play-bow. However, dogs can sometimes get way too excited and that may be a problem.
Puppies are energetic and may require dog owners to be patient with them. Mouthing or nipping, vocalization, sniffing or tail wagging, all signal playful puppy behavior.
Excessive barking, chewing, aggressive behavior, unwanted elimination, or chewing are often seen as difficult dog behaviors. However, with professional training and patience, these behaviors can be curbed.