This article, Dog Behavior, will help you to interpret and understand why your dog does what he does.
The ancestor of the domestic dog, the wolf, developed a long time ago to be a co-operative pack hunter. Their bodies and brains, senses and abilities developed solely to serve this purpose and they developed behaviors which helped them thrive in a challenging environment.
These same behaviors and motivations still exist in the domestic dog.
Dog Behavior: Pack Mentality: As pack animals dogs naturally submit to a leader, most often their owner. They are most comfortable when they know their place within the pack. Dogs that are given mixed signals, for example when dominant behavior is sometimes tolerated, sometimes not, tend to be stressed.
Dog Behavior: Body Language: Dogs communicate using body language involving the tail, ears, body posture, eye contact and facial expression. A dog drooping its head and tail when scolded, for example, is indicating submission.
Dog Behavior: Territorial Aggressiveness: Dogs naturally protect what they see as their territory. This can include food, a favorite toy, and in extreme cases, even their owner or other humans of their pack.
Dog Behavior: Socialization: Play and socialization in wolf packs serves to cement relationships and hone hunting skills. This is why play between an owner and his dog is so important. Wolf packs also bond through participating in hunts and patrolling territory. This is simulated when you walk your dog.
Dog Behavior: Pursuit: A wolf’s instinct is to chase anything that moves because it is potential prey. Dog’s also show this instinct, chasing the neighbor’s cat, the mailman or a passing cyclist.
Dog Behavior: Fleeing: Given the choice of fight or flight most wild animals choose the later. Wolves (and dogs) are no different especially around loud, unknown noises like fireworks or thunder.
Dog Behavior: Vocalization: Wolves have a more limited vocabulary than dogs but still rely on howling or growling to communicate. The dog’s vocabulary includes barking and whining to express happiness, fear, anxiety, or to sound a warning.
Here is a quick reference list of some typical dog behavior and how to recognize it.
|Ears||Forward or back, close to head.|
|Eyes||Narrow or staring challengingly.|
|Mouth & Teeth|| Lips open, drawn back to expose teeth bared in a snarl.
Possible jaw snapping.
|Body|| Tense. Upright. Hackles on neck up. Completely Dominant
|Tail||Straight out from body. Fluffed up.|
|Vocalization||Snarl. Growl. Loud bark.|
|Behavior: Before Flight|
|Eyes||Wide open. Possibly rolled back with whites showing.|
|Mouth & Teeth||Slightly opened mouth. Possible drooling.|
|Body||Tense. Shivering. Low, poised to run.|
|Tail||Low or between legs.|
|Vocalization||None. Possible yelp or whine.|
|Eyes||Wide open. Alert look.|
|Mouth & Teeth||Relaxed, possibly slightly open, “smiling” mouth.|
|Body|| Normal posture. Still, or possible wiggling of whole rear
|Tail||Up or out from body. Wagging.|
|Vocalization||Whimpering, yapping, or short, high bark.|
|Eyes||Wide open, alert.|
|Mouth & Teeth|| Mouth slightly open, teeth bared. Snapping or gnashing of
|Body|| Tense. Rigid. Hackles up. Standing very tall in an
aggressive or dominant stance.
|Tail||Rigid. Held straight out from body. Sometimes fluffed.|
|Vocalization||Loud alert bark. Growl. Snarl.|
|Behavior: Happy / Playful|
|Ears||Perked-up and forward, or relaxed.|
|Eyes||Wide open. Sparkly/merry-looking.|
|Mouth & Teeth|| Mouth relaxed and slightly open, teeth covered. Excited
|Body|| Relaxed, or front end lowered, rear end up in the air,
wiggling in a play-bow. Excited bouncing and jumping up and down.
Circling around and running forward and back in an invitation to
|Vocalization||Excited barking. Soft play-growling.|
|Ears||Alert. Held forward or backward to catch sounds.|
|Eyes||Wide open. Staring, focusing.|
|Mouth & Teeth||Mouth closed.|
|Body|| Rigid. Low to ground, ready to spring forward. Quietly
sniffing the air.
|Tail||Straight and low.|
|Ears||Down, flattened against head.|
|Eyes||Narrowed to slits or wide open, whites showing.|
|Mouth & Teeth|| Lips pulled way back from teeth in a “grin”.
Nuzzling or licking other animal or person on face.
|Body|| Lowered to ground, front paw raised. Lying on back, belly
up. Possible urine leaking/dribbling. Possible emptying of anal scent
|Tail||Down, between legs.|
|Vocalization|| None, or low, worried whining. Possible yelping/whimpering
For more on dog behavior read the “Dog Psychology”, and “Dog Language” articles below.