Dog body language - affection or dominance?

Narrated from: Curious Dog Facts

Quite often, people make the mistake of attributing human qualities to their dogs.

Now, don’t tear me apart! I am not saying that dogs are dumb or anything – I just want to imply that dogs have dog qualities, not human ones! So more often than not, if you believe that your dog is thinking like a human, you would be wrong – a smart dog should think like a dog, shouldn’t it?

So, what are some of the most common misinterpretations in human-dog communication?
Well, let us start with hugging.

When you hug your dog, you are showing affection. You want to express your love for your dog, no matter how smelly a breath you have to suffer.

A dog would see a hug in a different way though – at least in the beginning. For dogs such a physical invasion of their space is a sign of dominance. When you hug your dog, you are affirming your social position as leader of the pack (or at least leader of the dog). That is not a bad thing though – from a dog’s point of view, social ranking is very important. A dog that is confident in his master’s leadership will be a happier dog.

But when you hug your dog, try to be on top, and always hold the higher ground. Otherwise your dog might get mixed signals. It is never a good idea to let a dog think it is YOUR master!

Similar social meaning could be seen in the daily walks in the park. You should always hold the leash firm – do not let the dog lead! It is an especially bad idea if you are raising a puppy. A dog that leads assumes it is the leader the pack – and that is a lot of pressure as it is responsible for you as well! A puppy should not be allowed to believe it is leader of the pack under any circumstances.

Many people also believe that when they correct their dog for bad behavior, it gets sad, upset, hurt or so on. That is usually not true. The signs that a human would interpret as “sulking” – averting the gaze, leaving the room, avoiding physical contact – are actually signs of submission. The dog is acknowledging your status. So, if you try to “soothe” the dog, you would actually be giving mixed signals and your dog would be confused!

Of course, these observations are not always true, and they are no reason to change the routine you have developed with your dog in any way – unless the dog has behavior problems.

However, if you see your child trying to hug an unknown dog – it would be a good idea not to allow that. Not all dogs accept human dominance that easily!

to top of the page

Other articles that might interest you::