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Don't Get Bit! Part Two: Fear and Aggression – Doggy Social Cues

The Dog Genome Project shows us that there is only a 0.04% difference in DNA between gray wolves and dogs. Dog behavior and social cues are therefore deeply rooted in wolf pack social norms.

To understand what Fido is telling you, you need to do two things. First, do not assume human motivations or social cues when trying to understand Fido. The price of doggy treats at your local pet market is not really going to be of any concern to your dog. Nor will Fido care about how fashionable your suit, gown or spiffy torn jeans are as you walk him. The point here is to focus on understanding doggy motivations as the source for dog behavior and dog social cues.

Second, dogs use different types of body language than humans do and also have social cues for which there are no direct human equivalents. If you think about it, most people focus on another person’s face and especially their eyes to get most of their social cues. Dog’s facial expressions are much more limited and different from human facial expressions. This means you must also look at Fido’s body to get a full read on what Fido’s face is telling you. Reading the entire body is required to understand the rest of the social cues Fido is expressing.

A hard, tense or stiff body usually means something is not right with Fido’s world. Tenseness can be due to fear, pain, possessiveness, worry or protectiveness. A relaxed body usually mean Fido has no intentions of biting any time soon. A tense body combined with any of the following is your cue to be alert and pro-actively avoid being bitten!

  • Hard Eye – This is a direct stare. Here, the dog is being assertive. Combined with a tense, standing body requires your immediate attention.

  • Squint Eyes – In a relaxed body dog, this usually mean happy submissive or subordinate acknowledgment. In a tense body combined with a backing away stance usually means the dog is fearful. Think “cornered”. Back away yourself and let the dog become less fearful.

  • Whale Eye - This is where Fido’s muzzle is pointing in one direction while he’s looking in another. It comes from the white of the eye being exposed while looking to the side. If Fido is stiff or tense, look at what Fido’s muzzle is pointing at. A favorite toy? Think “possessiveness”. Food or a treat? Think “protectiveness”. At nothing in particular? Think “worried”.

  • Ears Pulled Back – This is similar to Squint Eye and can mean happy submissive or fearful. Read Fido’s body for the rest of the message.

  • Stiff Tail – Up or down doesn’t matter. Neither does movement. If the tail is stiff and the body is tense, Fido may be either standing his ground or directly threatening.

  • Lip Licking, Panting, Yawning – These can all be signs of stress. Read the rest of the dog to better know what’s going on.

  • Commissure – Dogs can’t smile like humans. This refers to the corners of the dog’s mouth. A relaxed dog has flat, natural corners. Scrunched and curved forward is the beginnings of a snarl and means offensively aggressive. Pulled back in a ‘V’ means defensively aggressive.

  • Snarl, Snap, Growl – These cues are usually clear even to the most socially awkward.


Your Dog's Facial Expressionswww.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/16_3/features/dog-facial-expressions_20711-1.html

Dog Body Language - pets.webmd.com/dogs/dog-body-language#1


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