The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday

The secrets of doggy body language


h The most important piece of advice Wakefield has for owners is simply to listen to what their dog is telling them. Most of us know that a wagging tail and bouncing gait are the signs of a happy dog, but it’s important to know when a dog is uncomforta­ble, too.

h People who own and live with dogs should learn to understand how they communicat­e, she explains. “Dogs are amazing communicat­ors with their body language and they give off signs when they’re uncomforta­ble about something, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to miss until the dog’s behaviour has escalated to a point where it’s barking or snapping and we realise there’s a serious problem.”

When dogs are starting to feel a bit worried about a situation, they try to avoid it. “They might turn their head away, avert their gaze, or


walk away from what is worrying them,” Wakefield says. “Also look out for a dog who is lifting one paw off the ground or licking the tip of their nose; subtle signs of a dog feeling uncomforta­ble.”

Other signs can be if their ears are back, if they yawn while leaning away from something, or if they approach slowly with only a gentle wagging of the tail.

h Wakefield recommends visiting the Dogs Trust website where you can find more details on body language signs and what they mean. “If owners can get to grips with body language, they can start to identify earlier on when their dog is uncomforta­ble and it’s at that point that I’d start seeking help before it snowballs into something much bigger,” she says.

“If you know what they are scared of or uncomforta­ble around, you can start to train them to increase their confidence.”

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