Most of us who nurture family pets, know exactly how they behave when they try to express their emotions. They may not always howl or growl to get things done, but body language and gestures are more than enough to give an idea of their needs.
However, we need to tune in our minds to differentiate between positive and negative emotional expressions. For that, let us list some common emotions seen in pets and their expressions therein:
Key features of a happy dog are: • Ears perked up and forward • Eyes wide open • Mouth relaxed and slightly opened and teeth covered • Body and tail relaxed A happy dog does not attempt to look one in the eye and will probably go through the typical sniffing pattern. It is advisable to offer the dog the back of one’s wrist to smell before attempting to pet it.
This includes both "active" and "passive" submissive postures.
Passive submission: This is when the dog lays down on its back, belly up. It is a pacifying gesture that is offered to a more dominant individual (the owner or a close family member). The dog appears to want to have its belly rubbed in this position.
Key features of this behavior are: • Ears back • Exposed belly • Tail tucked in • Head turned away with an indirect gaze.
Active submission: A pacifying pose when the dog acknowledges another dog or human's higher ranking, or to inhibit another dog's aggression.
The key features are Ears back • Tail hung low, wagging slowly • One paw raised • Eyes half closed • Mouth nearly closed with just the tip of the tongue darting out.
Aggression in dogs includes "defensive aggressive" behavior in addition to becoming aggressive.
In a defensive aggressive posture, a dog is fearful and is giving warning signals to indicate that it does not want to be approached, but if it is, it will attack to protect itself. The key features of this pose are: • Ears back • Pupils dilated • Mouth is tense, wrinkled and snarling with exposed teeth • Tail is down and tense • Posture is mildly crouched with the weight over rear legs.
Aggressive behavior is indicated by open snarling mouth with exposed teeth; ears up with tail up and tense; eyes making direct contact; and growling.
Playfulness is the body language a dog expresses when trying to initiate play. It bows down in front, which is a combination of submissive and dominant gestures. This stance is offered to invite another (dog or human) to play or as part of a courtship behavior.
Identifying features are: • Front end of dog lowered, as if ready to leap forward; • Mouth open and relaxed with tongue exposed.
- Why are we concentrating so much on these gestures?
- What has it got to do with separation anxiety in dogs?
For starters, getting used to common gestures and body language is essential to gauge what a pet wants to express, especially for a person who has newly acquired a pet. It is very important to understand day-to-day expressions of emotions in our pets. This will help you to differentiate abnormal activity or behavior from normal expressions. In the next chapter, we will formally introduce separation anxiety in dogs and get a basic understanding of its implications.