There are a few behaviors demonstrated by dogs that lead you to think you know exactly what they mean. The truth is that, unless you really know the dog, it is often difficult to determine what some behaviors indicate.
- Tail wagging means the dog is happy. Pay attention to the type of tail wag before interpreting the meaning. A slow back-and-forth wag may mean the dog is anxious and unsure about you. Wild wagging with a tail that is winding around in circles generally means the dog is feeling pretty good!
- If a dog lies on his back, he wants a belly rub. This may be true for many dogs, but for some it means that he’s nervous and wants to be left alone.
- Punishing a dog for bad behavior. It is generally not effective to hit or shout at a dog when he is too wound up, has an accident or is growling at someone. This only instills fear in a dog. You are encouraged to calm the dog down and/or try to reinforce other good behaviors.
- Sometimes we look at a dog that is calm as being a great personality characteristic. For example, the shelter dog who quietly sits in the corner and doesn’t make a fuss. If a dog you do not know is very calm, this may mean he is an unpredictable dog. Sometimes this means a dog is overwhelmed with distress.
- Dogs almost always show some sign of distress before attacking someone. This sign may not be immediately apparent, like the dog takes a step away or pulls his head away. More obvious signs would be teeth baring, flattened ears or growling.
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