What's My Dog Saying?

Getting Familiar with Doggie Language!

I felt I knew a lot about dogs when we chose to adopt our first German Shepherd, Moose, in 1999. After all, I had grown up with six family dogs at one time in our home. I trained and showed dogs in both Obedience and Confirmation. I felt I knew a great deal about dogs and no one could tell me otherwise. That was six years ago. And how wrong I was!

Now I am fortunate to say that my children have not been biten by our dogs or any of the 50 some foster dogs that have come into our home. This is due to supervision, managment, realistic expectations of both kids and dogs behavior, and ongoing EDUCATION! I love to learn about human and animal behavior and I hope that as you view some of our family photos over the years during my learning process that you will learn something too!

Feel free to Contact Us with your feedback and or photos you might want to share.

At the time these photos were taken, I was not aware of the signals my dogs were demonstating to me. I continue to learn every day and am thankful for our dogs' patience with us humans!

Picture of skye,

Notice when your dog flicks their tongue. Were you in their space? Did something stressful just happen? Paying attention to this and other signs will help you become familiar with what your dog is experiencing at that moment. Is it stress? Potential conflict?

Our dog Carin is showing this is stressful by Licking her lips, ears back and turning away from the camara. Hugs confine dogs and take away options to flee. Humans enjoy hugs not dogs. Your dog may tolerate this from you or your children but that does not mean it makes him comfortable or that it is the safest choice of interaction.

There I was asking my son to "pose with Carin honey." Yikes! Look at her eyes. Carin is clearly NOT enjoying this moment. Ears are way back, mouth closed, turning away, half moon look.

There I was asking my son to "pose with Carin honey." Yikes! Look at her eyes. Carin is clearly NOT enjoying this moment. Ears are way back, mouth closed, turning away, half moon look.

Here is Carin's really Happy face! Eye alert, relaxed, ears up. She looks like she is smiling.

Moose our senior gsd demonstrates turning away to avoid conflict and having to look at the tempting kitty clover!

Clover continues to move about in Moose's face while Moose politely keeps turning away.

See clovers green eyes as he settles in next to his buddy. Moose again turning away.

Here Carin turns away from Jack our Feline trainer of dogs. I have not told the dogs these undignified photos are online. shhhhhh! Don't tell!

This foster pup is wanting to play. Notice Carin is turning away with her ears back. The pup is in her space and she is trying to avoid a conflict. She is also up against a wall and it is crowded creating more potential for conflict

Moose the German Shepherd (left) and Joey the Coton de Tulear look different but speak the same doggie language.


Signs dogs use with one another that we often miss.

These Calming Signals are often demonstrated but are missed before a growl or snap ever takes place.

They may be combined or demonstrated on their own. Observing your dog in a variety of situations will allow you to see the following.

  • Licking lips/nose Usually you see this with or before turning away or looking down.
  • Yawning at a time that being tired does not seem to apply.
  • Turning head and/or body away. Dogs use this signal to avoid direct eye contact as that may be interpreted as threatening or inviting conflict.
  • Lifting a paw. This one is often missed or seen as cute. Consider the entire situation.
  • Shaking (like after a bath).
  • Ears back or pinned against head.
  • Closed mouth, tense muzzle and not panting. Dogs pant for many reasons. When hot, thirsty and sometimes stressed. When you are nervous or stressed you may sweat. A dog may pant.
  • Scratching or sniffing suddenly on the ground or themselves.
  • Half Moon Eyes. As if to say " Can't hear ya or pay attention to you I am busy here!"

Here Carin is communicating with a foster pup ENOUGH! Observe her closed muzzle, puffed fur on shoulders,back and tail. This time she asserts direct eye contact forward and broad stance and the pup turns away responding to her definite posture and communication.

NEVER leave children unsupervised with a dog. This picture to me best describes why.

1. Would your child recognize a dog's posture change?

2. Would your child recognize and know to turn away like the pup?

My experiences prove to me that most children do not know what to look for and how to behave around a dog and WHY!

My goal is to help change this.