UNDERSTANDING DOG BODY LANGUAGE
A dog’s weight distribution can tell a lot about mood and intention. Consider a cowering dog that is hunched toward the ground. That’s a sign of fear or stress. The dog may be trying to get away from something and the posture makes the dog appear smaller. In other words, it says, “I mean no harm.” The extreme of this posture is a dog that rolls onto their back exposing the belly. This may look like a dog soliciting a belly rub, and in a relaxed dog, it often is. But it can actually be a sign of considerable stress and anxiety. The dog may even urinate a little in appeasement.
The opposite posture is a dog with his or her weight shifted forward. This dog is trying to get closer to something. This might simply indicate the dog’s interest. But it could also indicate offensive intentions, particularly paired with other aggressive body language cues like a twitching tail held high. In this case, the dog is trying to appear larger.
An easy-to-read aspect of dog body language is the play bow. This is when dogs place their chest on the ground with their rump in the air. As the name implies, it’s used to initiate play with other dogs and even with people.
A less easily understood signal is the paw raise. In the pointing breeds like the English Setter, the paw raise is part of pointing behavior where the dog indicates nearby prey. But outside of this context, a raised paw often indicates a dog is uncertain about a situation or perhaps feels a bit insecure.
Source: American Kennel Club
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