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The Top 5 Tips on How to Speak Dog


What works for humans, doesn’t necessarily translate over to dogs. When we are affectionate, we hug. We even gaze into each other’s eyes. That’s great for humans, but not for dogs.

Hugging or staring into the eyes of a dog can be perceived as downright aggressive. Even patting a dog on the head can be taken the wrong way. Yes, they put up with us. That tolerance is partly why we care for them so much. Following are five tips on how to speak dog.

1. Don’t pat his head.

This is a threatening gesture to many dogs. Although most family pets have gotten used to it, they don’t find a heavy-handed pat very enjoyable. Try it on yourself and you’ll see why. A scratch behind the ears or on the chest is much more satisfying.

2. Don’t stare a dog in his eyes.

Remember your parents telling you to look people in the eye when you speak to them? Good manners in human company is often considered a challenge among canines. This is why experts don’t recommend staring contests with an unknown dog.

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3. Defuse tension by looking away.

Just as staring at a dog can fuel aggression, looking away can help defuse a tense situation. It is also a good way to tell a persistent dog to buzz off. An alpha dog who’s being pestered for attention by an underling will signal her disinterest by looking to the side.

4. Approach a dog from the side rather than head on.

Walking straight up to a dog is in very poor taste. Dogs move in an arc when walking toward other canines. While most socialized dogs are use to the more direct human approach, you can make a very submissive dog more comfortable by angling towards her.

5. Get on his level.

You’re probably thinking, “Cute doggy, I’m gonna give you a pat,” as you lean over a pooch. But in the dog world, standing over someone is a way of showing your higher status. Tower over an aggressive dog, and you may get a growl warning you to back off—if you’re lucky. Stand over a submissive dog, and she may cower or roll over. If you want to say hello to a timid pooch, turn sideways, squat, and let her approach you.

Check back next week to learn how to speak cat!

Michele C. Hollow writes the pet and wildlife blog Pet News and Views. She works as a freelance journalist and author.

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