Understanding the Secret Language of Dogs: observing the hair or fur of a dog

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Although dogs don’t communicate much with it, you can discern some things from a dog’s hair.

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger,

Many times when your dog is on leash, the only part of it you can observe is their hair.  So knowing what it is doing can help determine if your dog is excited or not.

Dogs stick up their hair to communicate how they are,.  This “raising of the hackles” is called “piloerection.”  Most often the hair is raised over the withers (the area where the tops of a dog’s shoulder blades meet), but many times as the dog becomes more aroused they can raise their hair all along their spine and even fluff out their tails.  It’s comparable to a person having goose bumps. Raised hackles usually means that the dog is highly emotional about something.

While raising hackles is an involuntary behavior, it’s not a bad idea to intervene to allow the dog to settle down, explain Robin Bennett, CPDT and Susan Briggs, CKO in the book “Off Leash Dog Play: A Complete Guide to Safety and Fun.”

Contrary to raised hackles, a scared or stressed dog is likely to shed more than normal. This “blowing of the coat” happens suddenly.  You may have seen this with nervous dogs during boarding stays.  Their kennels are covered with dog’s hair.

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