Becoming fluent in “dog talk” is the most important thing you can do for your pup because it will prevent a life time full of misunderstandings. Often times, your pup is trying to tell you that he is STRESSED OUT! Because most owners don’t understand what he is saying, they fail to help the pup feel comfortable or address his fear. This convinces the pup that the situation is indeed scary (the trash truck, housekeeper, or new neighborhood dog could all be intimidating for your pup) and that he is on his own in the world because you’re not listening to him! As a result, he is more likely to act out or become aggressive instead of looking to you for guidance. Keep in mind that all these behaviors are normal and none of them happen in a vacuum so you must look at the whole dog to decide what he is trying to tell you. As long as you look (aka listen) to your dog, he will show you exactly how he feels.
Yawning – A common way for dogs to relieve stress. If your pup is not just waking up from a nap when he yawns, then he is telling you he is stressed.
Teeth chattering – Seen both when dogs are stressed or highly aroused with excitement (i.e. right before play).
Lip Licking – With no treat in sight, tongue curls up and licks front or side lips to signal stress.
Excessive panting – If your pup suddenly starts panting like he just then he is nervous about the change in his environment.
Pacing – Constant walking in circles or back and forth even as you stand still, indicates an inability to settle and is therefore a sign of stress.
Tucked tail and pinned ears – This is in relation to the normal tail carriage of your puppy. If your dog does this it means I’m scared! Please don’t hurt me.
Hackling – Rising of the hair on the neck, shoulders, and back. This means a dog is aroused. It doesn’t mean he is always aggressive he could just be very excited.
Look Away – A deliberate turn of the head away from an item, dog, or person. It means “I am no threat and I’m trying to do what you ask.”
The list above is just a few things your pup does to try and communicate with you! There are many books and videos on the market that can provide you even more guidance. The Other End of the Leash by Tricia McConnel, Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor and the DVD The Language of Dogs are all great resources.