Nearly 90 percent of dogs communicate silently. Vocalizations and bites represent only 10 percent of their language. So, how do you know what your dog is saying in his silence?
Here are some common signals and their meaning:
Turning the head away: Peaceful intentions. Avoiding possible conflict. Prevents eye contact, which most dogs find threatening.
Lip licking: Peaceful intentions. Calms a social group, eases tension. But it also may precede a bite from a fearful dog.
Yawning: Stress reducer. Commonly observed at the veterinarian’s office or at the groomer.
Tail positions: Up means confidence. Down signals a relaxed or submissive state. Between legs means fear. Wagging with entire body signals joy. Wagging without the body indicates stress, interest or excitement.
Raised hackles: The dog feels threatened or is overstimulated.
Shivering: Fear, tension or overstimulated.
Paw lift: Forward weight distribution signals a friendly state or begging. Rear weight distribution could indicate fear or distrust.
Closed mouth: Precedes bite. Helps gain scent, conveys seriousness.
Open mouth: Relaxed.
Grimace: Tense jaw muscles with mouth pulled back at corners exposing canines or all teeth signals fear, excitement or aggression.
Whale eye (whites of eyes visible, dilated pupils): Conveys fear or aggression.
Presenting stomach: Laying squarely on back with paws over center of chest signals submission or trust. On side, lifting one hind leg indicates fear, apprehension or fearful submission.
Sneeze: During or after enjoyable activity signals happiness.
Bowing: Means the dog is playful.
Breathing: Through stomach signals a relaxed state. Through chest indicates excitment or stress.
Sniffing ground: This is a calming signal that shows peaceful intent, relief of stress or an attempt to gain a scent.
Freezing: Signals the dog is contemplating a fight or flight.
Drooling: During the presence of food means the dog is hungry. During stressful situations signals fear and, for dogs that suffer car-sickness, often precedes vomiting.