Understanding Canine Body Language
By understanding even the most subtle signs and signals we can understand a dog’s motivations and intentions. The first unit explores how dogs communicate, the purpose of body language and communication, and how to read and understand the dogs we work or live with.
Communicating with Dogs
Learn about the low level and overt stress signals and what we should do when we observe these. Learn how human body language affects dogs and how to improve how we communicate with dogs.
Advanced Canine Body Language
The Advanced Canine Body Language Certificate course is relevant for dog owners and dog professionals.
Learning how dogs communicate is essential for anyone who is around dogs including dog walkers, animal hydrotherapists, veterinary nurses, veterinary receptionists, kennel staff, canine massage therapists, dog trainers, and behaviorists.This course is also relevant to dog owners wanting to learn more about dog body language
Canine Body Language
It is often said: “if only dogs could talk”. Well, in many ways, they can. Body language is at the core of intraspecies, as well as interspecies communication.
A dog’s entire body forms part of how they communicate; from nose to tail. Some of this communication may be intentional, others are unintentional – instead simply an expression of an emotional state not under the dog’s voluntary control.
Dogs have lived in close contact with humans for at least 30,000 years and as a result, have developed specific skills enabling them to communicate effectively with us. A dogs’ behavioural repertoire with humans employs the same signals as used in their dog to dog communications, but certain signals may have been modified. For example, eye contact in dog-dog communications signifies threat. When a human and dog have soft eye contact with each other, oxytocin (the bonding hormone) is released into both bloodstreams – quite a difference from a threatening gesture. Dogs appear to have come to see eye contact with humans as having a different meaning to eye contact with other dogs.
Dogs communicate through various methods:
– Visual communication – modifying different parts of their body
– Tactile communication – particularly with humans, dogs may nuzzle a humans’ hand
– Auditory communication – vocalisations
– Olfactory communication – through scenting stimuli
The aim of communication is for the sender to change the behaviour and/or inner state of the receiver, by means of specific behaviour patterns or signals. Communication can be loosely segregated into distance increasing body language, or distance decreasing body language:
Distance increasing communications are those behaviours that a dog uses in order to gain more distance from another animal; such as snarling.
Distance decreasing communications are behaviours that a dog uses in order to gain less distance from another animal; such as a sweeping wag of the tail. In terms of evolution, communication is about the sender gaining some degree of advantage. For example, a dog communicating distance-increasing signals to ward off a perceived threat, or communicating possessiveness over a resource such as food. This behaviour is being demonstrated for reasons of survival.
Importantly, dogs are not capable of manipulation, or giving dishonest signals, in order to gain something. When a dog expresses an emotion it is honest disclosure of what is going on for them internally.