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Just like us humans, dogs use a body language all their own to communicate with one another. They use that language to communicate with us, too; it's just that most of us aren't tuned in to it. In fact, much of their behavior may seem extremely odd to us unless we have the key to unlock their meaning. Learning how to interpret various instinctual actions of your dog is critical to establishing a lasting, emotional relationship built on bond, respect and trust.
Dogs are pack animals. They have a specific way of interacting, which includes an instinctual manner of communication. Learning how to communicate effectively with your dog by understanding his language is the first step toward establishing leadership and control.
Learning how to "listen" to your dog isn't as hard as you might think; you simply have to know what to look for. For example, does your dog stare at you, demanding that you do something, or does he look down when you look at him? Does he carry his head up high or down low? Are his ears forward or back against his head? What about his mouth? Is it open or closed? Is his tongue inside his mouth or outside? When you correct your dog, does his tongue dart in and out?
In order to understand your dog's body language, you need to focus on certain body parts, especially his eyes, ears, mouth, tongue and tail. Because of a dog's instinctive ideas about social structure, he will either see himself as a follower or the leader. Your ultimate goal is to assume the leadership role with your dog, and a key to understanding your progress in this area is by observing the actions of his eyes and ears.
Notice your dog's eyes. If he is staring at you, he may be demanding something from you or seeking confrontation. If his eyes are looking down, he feels respectful toward you and is comfortable knowing that you are the pack leader. If your dog's ears are forward, he may be listening to you or listening for noises. If his ears are back, he is showing respect for your leadership.
His mouth can also hold clues to his disposition. If it is closed, it could mean he is fearful of the situation he is in presently or merely that something has caught his attention. If his tongue is darting in and out while you correct him, he is showing you a sign of respect.
If your dog's tail is up and wagging slowly, he is feeling dominant over you. When his tail is down and between his legs, he could be showing you that he is fearful or respectful.
Learning how to understand your dog's body language can be both fun and instructive. It is very rewarding when you begin to feel a closer bond with your pet, and this only comes by speaking to him on his own terms.