Canine body language

Canine body language can sometimes be subtle and difficult to read, especially in breeds that appear far more stoic than others.

It’s important to note the natural carriage of the dog’s components. Some dogs have naturally pointy ears while some have floppy ears. Some dogs have short tails versus those with long tails. Some dogs even have curly tails. Some breeds have flat faces while others have long snouts. Now compare all of the above to a Sharpei or a Puli! Also, consider that some dogs are cosmetically altered – ear cropping and tail docking procedures are still legal in many countries. This can prove challenging when trying to read body language. 

The components we are observing are: 

  • Ears 
  • Eyes 
  • Body weight 
  • Hackles (fur along the spine) 
  • Mouth (includes muzzle / whiskers) 
  • Tail 

All the dogs in this image are showing signs of stress. When attempting to build a fantastic association, we are looking for a soft, relaxed face, almond-shaped eyes, normal sized pupils, relaxed ears (not flattened), a relaxed tail, and a soft, relaxed mouth and tongue (not hanging out too far past the teeth and wide).A tucked tail, pinned ears, showing the whites of their eyes, yawning, licking their lips, panting, or ducking their head are are all signs that the dog needs relief from a stressful situation.

If your dog shows signs of stress during any step of this program, please stop and go back to the last successful step and repeat that a few more times before moving on. You might also try a “split” where you create a step that is slightly more challenging than the successful one and slightly less challenging than the one that they are struggling with.