Dogs have multiple ways of telling you what they are thinking and feeling by the way they position their bodies.
Happy, relaxed, content
- Ears are relaxed, or just flop around and they are not on alert (having ears pointed straight up or trying carefully to listen)
- Eyes are normal, not wide eyed or darting around quickly
- Body is relaxed by laying down, breathing is at a normal rate (10-30 breaths a minute)
Excited, nervous, angry, frightened
- Pacing or jumping around the area
- Eyes are wide eyed and may dart around quickly
- For excitement, the ears are full alert, may vocalize and bark, all the while having a body posture that is alert with the body directly over paws.
- For nervous or angry, the ears are flat back, eyes may tend to focus on the item or person, body is either leaning over paws (meaning dog may attack) or body may be driven back (meaning dog doesn’t want anything to do with what is going on)
- Watch for licking lips repeatedly and showing teeth with a low growl
Be sure to read what the dog is telling you
Dogs tell us so much that humans don’t recognize what they are trying to tell us. Some people may think that when a dog approaches, that it is nice. Whether it’s a small dog or humongous dog. Too many times I’ve seen things go wrong when people aren’t looking at the signs and body posture. You have to look and listen to the dog in question.
In my life, I’ve come to wait and look at the dog for what they are trying to say to me.
Are they looking you right in the eye with ears back and teeth barring at a stance that seems they want to attack? These are all warning signs that you may have an angry dog in front of you!!
Or do they come to you with their tongue out slightly looking at you with normal eyes (not wide eyed with the whites of their eyes staring at you) and nudge you with their nose? This dog wants some attention and petting!!
Just Stay Calm
My number 1 rule is STAY CALM!! Access what the dog is saying. Don’t just reach out and hope that it’s friendly. Let the dog come to you on it’s own terms. Pushing a dog may frighten it, making the dog want to attack as defense or run away from you.
Dogs can SENSE, NOT SMELL, people that are fearful. Dogs sense when you tighten up and anxiety starts going up by the person wanting to run away, (which may the dog want to run after you more), fidgeting, and yelling.
You need to hold your ground by turning to the side (this makes you seem smaller and less of a threat) cross your arms over and not make eye contact with the dog. Use your peripheral vision to keep tabs on the dog. Most dogs will lose interest in you and go about their business.