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The body language of dogs (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2011

Why is it so critical to understand body postures in dogs? There are several reasons why this is an important topic with any discussion of dog behavior. By understanding how dogs communicate we can diminish the amount of miscommunication that occurs between people and dogs, it can help us better predict future behaviors in the dogs we interact with, understanding how dogs communicate can help reduce the incidence of dog bites, and it can increase the enjoyment people can have in their relationships with their dogs.

Behavior evolves just as body type evolves. Behavior can change over time as a dog learns what behaviors work in a given situation and which do not. As a result the successful behaviors will flourish while those that are less successful will tend to fade. This evolution can be seen in the individual animal by observing body posture since this is the principle means by which dogs communicate.

The eyes, ears, tail, mouth and overall posture can give us the best indications of what dogs are trying to communicate. These structures can convey relaxation, anxiety, tension, or confidence and by understanding the subtleties of their expressions, much ambiguity can be eliminated.

Because aggressive can greatly influence the bond and attachment we have with our pets, an understanding of the progression of aggressive responses can help in minimizing exacerbation of problem behaviors. The "Ladder of Aggression" serves to provide a good model of how aggressive behavior can develop from relatively benign "calming signals" to more overt aggressive displays culminating in snapping and biting.