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Your Dog’s Body Language And What It Means

Dogs use their bodies and paws to express a variety of different things.  Below are some examples and what they mean.

Dog crouches with front legs extended, rear up, and head near the ground: This is the classic play-bow and means simply “I want to play!”

Stiff-legged, upright posture or slow, stiff-legged movement forward: “I am in charge around here!” and “I challenge you.” A dominant dog will use this posture to indicate assertion of authority and a willingness to fight for it.

Body slightly sloped forward, feet braced: “I accept your challenge and am ready to fight!”

Dog rolls on side or exposes underside: “Let us not argue” or “I am not a threat to you” or “I accept that you are in charge here.” This is a submissive response to avert conflict. Many dogs adopt this posture in a fairly relaxed and contented manner when they are around their pack leader. When your dog rolls on his back for a belly rub, he is actually accepting you as leader of the pack.

Dog places head on another dog’s shoulder or places paw on the back of another dog: “I want you to know who is the boss around here.” These gestures are commonly used by dominant dogs, pack leaders, and dogs that have aspirations of becoming a pack leader.

Mouthing: This shows up in dog-human interactions as the dog taking the handler’s hand in his mouth or, while walking, taking the lead in the mouth. Mouthing can be a serious sign of dominance challenging and shows that the dog does not accept the human as pack leader.

Dog places paw on master’s knee: “Look, I am here” or “Pay attention to me.” This attention-seeking signal has many variations. They include pawing the air in front of their master or sliding the head under the master’s hand.

Hair bristles on back and shoulders: This is a sign of anticipated aggression. A ridge of hair bristling down the back is a sign that says “Do not push me, I am angry!” When the bristling extends to the shoulders it means “I have had it with you” and is a sign of an imminent attack.

Dog sits with one front paw slightly raised: This is another sign of stress but is combined with insecurity. It means “I am anxious, uneasy and concerned.”

Dog rolls on his back and rubs it on the ground: This is sometimes preceded by nose rubbing where the dog pushes his face, and possibly his chest against the ground in a rubbing motion or rubs the face with a forepaw, from eyes to nose. They often follow feeding or occur as the dog’s owner begins to prepare food. However they also can occur following or in anticipation of other pleasant activities.

Scraping the ground and ripping the turf with the paws: This is usually after the dog has defecated but may occur at other times. Dogs have glands on the bottom of their feet that provide each with a unique scent. What a dog is saying here is ” I was here and I am leaving my calling card!”

Dog Care Tips for Grooming Your Dog

The best way is start grooming your puppy is when he first comes home with you, but if you have an adult dog who balks at grooming here are a few dog care tips.

The first time you bring out the nail clippers hold the clippers in your hand next to the dog’s paw and give him a treat with praise. The next time hold the dog’s paw and place his nail in the nail clipper but don’t cut. Again praise him and reward with treats. When the dog calmly accepts you holding his paw and bringing the clipper to his nail, and placing the nail in the clipper, then cut the nail quickly and confidently. Don’t be nervous because your dog will pick up on that emotion. Praise your dog and give him a treat.

Do this with the other dog grooming tools as well. The dog will associate being groomed with praise and treats. Keep your first grooming sessions short. Right before his dinner is a good time. Your dog will be alert and hungry which means he’ll be more motivated. He’ll start to associate grooming with dinner as well as treats.

Don’t lose your temper. Keep a smile on your face and the sessions as pleasant as possible.

Most dogs don’t mind having their teeth brushed and actually like it. If your dog struggles, use the same method with the toothbrush as you did with the nail clippers. Your first session, hold a treat in one hand and the toothbrush with a bit of dog toothpaste by his mouth. Give him the treat and lots of praise. Then gently lift his lip, again reward with a treat and praise. Finally lift his lip and gently scrub his side teeth. The dog should get a taste of the toothpaste and your struggles will be over. Don’t overdo the toothpaste, a little is enough.

Veterinarians say that the most common pet health care problem is their teeth. If your dog has tarter it could turn into a serious problem resulting in infection, loss of teeth, and at the very least, very bad breath. Tarter is that yellowish soon to turn brownish hard build up next to the gum line. Prevention by brushing is much easier than getting rid of tarter. Most of the time that means a professional cleaning and it’s expensive. Dogs don’t sit still to have their teeth cleaned like people do, so they have to be under a general anesthetic and that’s costly.

One method that seems to work with some dogs to get rid of a mild case of tarter is gently swapping their teeth with a piece of gauze soaked in medicinal strength (not hair bleach strength) hydrogen peroxide every day.

When brushing your dog’s coat, hold the hair with one hand on the skin side of a tangle and use the brush with your other hand to brush out the tangle. That way your dog won’t feel the pull of the brush as much. Use a people hair detangling spray to make the brushing even easier.

Use these dog care tips for grooming your dog and the sessions should be fun for both of you.

Find more about dog grooming tools. Dee Power is the author of several nonfiction books and the novel “Over Time.” She is the proud companion of Rose, the Irish Setter, and Kate the English Springer Spaniel. Read Rose and Kate’s blog.

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