Understanding the Secret Language of Dogs: How to translate dog language to English

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How does one translate dog language to English? By understanding dog body language

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger

Much of the information that dogs send is through their body language, specifically their facial expressions and body postures.  By knowing what a dog is trying to tell you, you will know how to respond appropriately, whether it’s backing off or accepting a friendly greeting.

Where to start?

It helps to first learn the various components that make up dog body language. Dogs use facial expressions, ear set, tail carriage and overall demeanor to signal their intentions and feelings to others. Breaking their body language down into components is a great way for building your observation and interpretation skills.

The terminology

Behavior: A dog’s actions, manners or actives.  Behaviors can be modified and changed.  They are the response to some stimuli. Behaviors include barking, jumping, running away or towards something, growling…

Temperament: the aspects of a dog’s personality that are general thought to be innate. These can be classified in many ways but the dog’s activity level, mood, attention span, curiosity, drives, adaptability; or ability to be change/ be trained, social tendencies, and fight or flight response are some of the more common measures of temperament.  A dog’s temperament shapes a dog’s behavior but does not determine the behavior.

Personality: the combination of all the attributes; behavioral, temperamental, emotional and mental; that create a unique individual.  Dogs have a combination of 6 personalities:  overconfident, fearful, hyperactive, sluggish, reserved and outgoing.  Every dog has an individual personality which may or may not be representative of his breed so training for the breed may not always be the best training method.

Your goal

As you learn the differences of a wagging tail or quiet stance the next step is to be able to observe the entire dog and the situation or context he’s in, in order to accurately determine what he’s trying to say. It’s not possible to understand your dog’s feelings and intentions by looking at just one aspect of his body language.

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Welcome to Spike’s Dog Blog by Acme Canine. Throughout the site, you will find a variety of helpful dog training articles, insightful dog behavior tips, and truthful product reviews from nationally-recognized canine trainers and professionals.