Now in New York City at Instinct Dog Behavior and Training

Forget Everything You’ve Heard About Dominance

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If your dog tries to ask nicely for space, and no one listens they may learn to eventually resort to “screaming” for their requests for space to be heard. In dog language screaming for space equals barking, lunging, growling, and sometimes aggression.

These insecure dogs often get labelled as dominant and well-meaning owners are told to alpha roll or pin their dog, which only makes them lose trust in their person even more.

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about dominance – it’s probably false. Your dog is likely needing to feel safe or too excited – or a mix of both.

What are some ways dogs will ‘ask nicely’ for space or show that they are nervous? Some of the most common ones you will see and can start to watch for in your own dogs are:

Lip Licking

Lip licking can be a sign of stress.

Lip licking can be a sign of stress.

 

Head Turn

Your dog turning it's head away from a person or dog is a signal that they are non-threatening and may be uncomfortable with the interaction.

Your dog turning it’s head away from a person or dog is a signal that they are non-threatening and may be uncomfortable with the interaction.

 

Pinning Ears

Your dog's ears being pinned flat back can be a good sign that they are nor comfortable. Not that the dog here is also licking it's lips.

Your dog’s ears being pinned flat back can be a good sign that they are nor comfortable. Not that the dog here is also licking it’s lips.

 

Yawning

Your dog yawning when they are not tired may be a sign that they are feeling stressed or in conflict.

Your dog yawning when they are not tired may be a sign that they are feeling stressed or in conflict.

 

Tucking Tail

A dog tucking their tail under their body is a sign that they are fearful or not confident.

A dog tucking their tail under their body is a sign that they are fearful or not confident.

Paw Lift

A dog lifting a paw can be a sign that they are uncomfortable in a social interaction.

A dog lifting a paw can be a sign that they are uncomfortable in a social interaction.

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Does this dog look comfortable?

 

Whale Eye

Eyes can tell you a lot about a dog's emotional state, if you know what you are looking for. Whale is refers to the dog looking sideways so you can often see the white of their eye. It is a sign of discomfort, stress, and can often be a pre-bite warning.

Eyes can tell you a lot about a dog’s emotional state, if you know what you are looking for. Whale is refers to the dog looking sideways so you can often see the white of their eye. It is a sign of discomfort, stress, and can often be a pre-bite warning.

 

These are just some of the many body language signals your dog will use to communicate stress, conflict, and discomfort. Remember all behaviour is fluid and must be taken in context – emotional states cannot be judged by a still photo. However, this will give you a good idea of what to start looking for in your dog’s body language.

Here are some videos that are a great starting point for reading dog body language signals. You can find a lot more great resources on YouTube as well: