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The Kerry Blue Terrier—the most tailored of terriers!

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800-532-2890

The Body Language of Dogs

 

© 2002 Alon Geva

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from Alon Geva.

Reading the universal language of canine body postures is essential to the safe handling of dogs. By observing a dog's eyes, body, mouth and tail, we can predict a great deal about behavior. This is especially important when a dog may bite.

Remember, be one step ahead of the dog.

Relaxed

  • Ears: Neutral, relaxed
  • Eyes: Soft
  • Body: May be reclining
  • Mouth: May be open or closed
  • Tail: relaxed
  • Behavior: Normal panting, restful

Dominant

  • Ears: Up, erect and pointing forward
  • Eyes: Makes direct eye contact
  • Body: Aloof, stiff, chest out, confident
  • Mouth: Corner may be forward, teeth bared
  • Nose: May be wrinkled
  • Tail: Up, tip may wag slightly
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: May growl, may lift leg and mark

Dominant & Fearful

  • Ears: Back or flat against head
  • Eyes: Wide open with whites showing, pupils may be dilated
  • Body: Chest may be out
  • Mouth: Corner may be back, teeth bared
  • Nose: May be wrinkled
  • Tail: May be up, may be lowered or tucked when approached
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: May growl, may show panic or urinate

Passive Fear-Biter

  • Ears: Back or flat against head
  • Eyes: Avoids direct eye contact, whites showing
  • Body: Slinking posture
  • Mouth: Can change from tightly shut (passive) to teeth bared (active)
  • Nose: May be wrinkled
  • Tail: Tucked between legs
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: May growl, may snap, may show panic or urinate

Active Fear-Biter

  • Same as Passive Fear-Biter
  • Mouth: Can change from tightly shut (passive) to teeth bared (active)

Territorial Aggressor

  • Ears: Back or flat against head, or forward
  • Eyes: Makes direct eye contact
  • Body: Stiff, hovers over object
  • Mouth: Corner may be forward, teeth bared
  • Nose: May be wrinkled
  • Tail: Up, tip may wag slightly
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: May growl or deep bark when approached

Submissive

  • Ears: Back or flat against the head
  • Eyes: Avoids direct eye contact
  • Body: Lowered, groveling or rolling, exposing genitals
  • Mouth: Corner pulled back, submissive grin
  • Tail: Tucked between legs or flat against abdomen
  • Behavior: Licks lips or nose, may urinate

Playful

  • Ears: Up or down
  • Eyes: May make direct eye contact
  • Body: Prancing, paws may be forward, playful
  • Mouth: May be open or closed
  • Tail: Up and wagging
  • Behavior: May growl or bark to solicit play, may mouth

Alert

  • Ears: Up or forward
  • Eyes: Makes direct eye contact
  • Body: Leans forward, stands tall
  • Mouth: Closed but relaxed
  • Tail: Up or neutral
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: Attentive, focused, poised

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