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How to read what a dog is trying to tell you

Many people don't like to be around dogs because they assume the dog wants to bite them. Dogs don’t usually interacti with humans intending to bite, but sometimes it does happen. What most people don’t realize is that dogs will usually try to communicate that they’re uncomfortable long before showing their teeth.

Because they can’t speak, dogs use several forms of body language to try to tell people to back off. These are a few of the earliest signs dogs will give to show that they are uncomfortable and want to be left alone. If you or your child does suffer a dog bite, be sure to speak with a personal injury attorney – they will go over your options for getting the resources necessary to make a full recovery.

Learning to speak dog

Dogs have several ways of letting humans and other dogs know that they are becoming uncomfortable with what’s happening. You may have noticed some of these behaviors when meeting a new dog. These behaviors tend to ramp up as their discomfort grows.

  • Yawning – An exaggerated yawn is one of dogs’ earliest indicators that they don’t understand what’s happening or are becoming nervous.
  • Lip licking – Similar to yawning, exaggerated lip licking is another early sign that a dog wants to resist what is happening.
  • Avoiding eye contact – A sign of greater discomfort or fear, dogs will often quickly look away or avoid eye contact entirely when feeling anxious.
  • Showing whites of eyes – Avoiding eye contact but allowing someone to see the whites of their eyes, as though they are looking from their periphery, is a sign that a dog is feeling very uncomfortable.
  • Flat ears – When a dog flattens their ears back against their head it is usually a sign of anxiety or fear. While not always dangerous, a fearful dog is more likely to feel pushed into a corner an potentially bite.

These are just a few of the most common types of body language cues dogs use. This is a general overview of what these cues mean. Like people, each dog speaks slightly differently, so getting to know a dog is key to reading what it’s really trying to say.

How to keep a dog from being anxious

When a strange dog becomes agitated, it is often the best course of action to simply leave it alone. Each dog is different, but these are a few ways to keep a dog from becoming fearful in the first place.

  • Pet their chest – Don't try to pat a dog on the head, go for the chest instead. From the dog’s point of view, a stranger is casting a strange hand at their face and pushing their nose down. Patting their chest keeps their face safe and keeps them feeling confident.
  • Don’t tower over them – People are much taller than dogs and looking down at a new dog can be intimidating. If you’re meeting a new dog, consider taking a knee and calling to them. This way you’re much less imposing, and you let the dog come to you on their terms.
  • Don’t be over-familiar – Stranger danger is a factor for dogs too. If a dog decides they are done interacting, don’t try to keep hold of them. Grow your relationship with the dog according to their comfort level.

A typical dog wants to be friends with humans – most dogs were bred for that specifically. Keep an eye on their body language when you or your child are interacting with a dog, and remember these guidelines on how to keep them calm in the first place.

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