Sunday, 14 August 2022
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How to tell if your dog is having a bad day – and what to do about it

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people love dogs.

They’re cute, fluffy and barrels of fun – what’s not to love?

But just like us humans, man’s best friend also have their off days.

While you might be inclined to think every day as a dog is a good day, that’s simply not the case.

But as they can’t speak, it’s very difficult to work out what it is they really want.

So we’ve had a chat with an expert in dog language to shed some light on the tricky topic.

Sometimes dogs have an off day too (Image: Getty)

Qualified international dog training instructor Sarah Bartlett has revealed the important signs you can look out for to work out how your dog is feeling.

She said: “Just like us dogs have their own language, they don’t speak like we do but they have their own body language.

“They communicate about 90 percent of it through their body and their positioning.”

Sarah, who runs Hound Helpers Ltd , recommends keeping an eye out for three key things – the dog’s ears, mouth and tail.

She explained: “If the ears are very upright and forward, combined with forward posture, being heavy on their two front feet, then I’d be wary of that – it could be a sign that they want to chase a squirrel or it could be a sign of attack.

“If dogs ears are pinned backwards and their body is low, the dog is probably unsure about something and is scared, so you should back off as some scared dogs will bite.”

There are certain signs you can look out for to tell what your dog is feeling (Image: Moment RF)

She added: “You can tell your dog is happy and having a good time if they’ve got nice relaxed body language, even on all four feet, ears in a neutral position and a wagging tail. This is them giving you an invitation to interact with them.”

Another of her top tips is to check out what the dog is doing with their mouth.

In particular, look out for yawns.

“Like us dogs yawn when they’re tired, but a yawn can also be a sign of stress,” says Sarah.

She adds that lots of lip licking can also be a sign that they are unsure of something – unless of course you just gave them a treat.

The third important feature to look out for is the dog’s tail.

One important feature to look at is their ears – they use them to communicate (Image: The Image Bank)

Sarah said: “Not all tail wagging means happy dog. A high position tail, doing stiff, short wags means the dog is on high alert and he or she could actually be feeling highly aggressive.”

Other signs that your dog could be having an off day include a whole body shake off, like they would do when wet, which usually signals that they are shaking off adrenaline after a period of high excitement or stress, and if your dog turns its head away from you – this means it wants some space.

“It takes time to learn dog language,” commented Sarah. “It’s just as hard as learning any other language, like Spanish or French.”

Her advice for owners of dogs is simply to let the animal be.

“Not every dog wants interaction all the time, not every dog is feeling okay every day, allow them that space, give them some freedom, let them approach you for attention.”

She also shared her top tip for winning a dog over.

Let your dog approach you for attention

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“Don’t go over it’s head – patting them on the head can be seen as a rude gesture in the dog world.”

Instead she recommends going round to the side of the dog, putting out one hand and allowing it to sniff it.

If it approaches you, give it attention for a few seconds, then draw back.

If the dog approaches for more attention, repeat the process. If not, leave it to do its own thing.


The Bark Box

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