If you want to become really good friends with your dog, it is essential
that you get to know its facial expressions and body language so that
you can understand it.
As the dog is a pack animal, it has a certain status or standing in
the pack. This order is maintained by means of signs and signals. Observe
your dog carefully and notice its posture at different times. For example,
watch your dog's ears when its fawning over you; when it senses something
suspicious and again when it is attacking. In each instance, the ears
are positioned differently. The same goes for the teeth; when the teeth
are bared and the nose is wrinkled, this means a threat; when the nose
is not wrinkled but the curves of the mouth are drawn back, this is
an expression of fear or uncertainty. (See diagrams above).
Canine body language
Many things can also be expressed by the position and movement of your
dog's tail. We all know what it means when a dog wags its tail or puts
its tail between its legs.
In the wild, the most important gestures for self-preservation in a
pack are those of superiority and subordination. Even in the most vicious
of fights, as soon as one dog shows any sign of subordination, the fight
will usually end. For the victor, it is usually enough that the adversary
admits its position of inferiority. There are very few exceptions to
this rule in the wild - the human being, however, unfortunately being
one of them.
Like most other carnivores, the canine marks his territory with scent.
These signs are used to indicate to other canines, as well as to other
members in the pack, territorial boundaries. Normally, canines mark
their territory with urine.
This behavior has been carried over into the domestic arena and male
dogs also like to mark their territories, using protruding or conspicuous
objects to do so. They will then sniff these objects very carefully
to ascertain what other dog or dogs have passed their way. Obviously,
the dogs who make their marks first, so to speak, are the males enjoying
the highest social order. Interestingly too, the higher the mark is
placed, the greater the marker's standing. That is why dogs try to
urinate as high up as possible. As there are often many objects to
mark, the dog has to be sparing with his urine and so releases only
a few drops on each object.
Besides using their sense of sight and smell extensively, dogs also
have a well-developed sense of hearing and use sound to communicate
too, although this is to a lesser extent. Puppies, for example, will
whine and growl to express feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
The mother and other pups in the litter respond to these sounds accordingly.
Barking and howling, on the other hand, make it possible for dogs
to establish contact over greater distances.
By observing your dog carefully, you will begin to understand your
dog and learn its language. For example, watch a bitch with her pups
and you will discover, for instance, that the severest punishment
she metes out is taking the misbehaving pup by the scruff of its neck
and shaking it. Try this with your own pup (but only if it deserves
this very severe form of punishment!) and you will see how effective