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Dogs are masters of communication. Dogs talk almost all the time, but unfortunately, their owners often don’t understand what their four-legged friends are trying to say. A big reason for their excellent communication skills is that dogs are animals used to living in groups, hunting, breeding and protecting each other.

The first sign of communication in newborn puppies, which occurs as soon as the eyes open on day 14, is the wagging of the tail. Tail wagging is often misunderstood as a sign of joy. The explanation for this first tail wag is that small puppies begin to compete with their siblings for a better place by sucking their mother’s milk. When a puppy finds the best spot, it is afraid of being pushed aside, so it starts to wag its tail.

So, needless to say, this wagging is not out of joy, but more out of anxiety. Adult dogs continue to socialise, useby giving a tail, no matter how long it is. Dogs that do not have a tail can groom their entire rump. The tail can be used to say many words without opening the mouth. A wagging tail can indicate excitement, anxiety or stress. A high tail indicates confidence, while a low tail or tail tucked under the legs indicates fear.

The most obvious signals of canine communication are ear, muzzle and tail flicks, nose wrinkling, eye blinks, yawning and various sounds. The natural survival instinct makes animals living in groups able to assess the behaviour of the group as a whole and the behaviour of their prey.

First of all, when two unfamiliar dogs meet, part of their normal communication consists of a succession of postures in which they talk to their new friend. Dog fanciers who have seen a lot of dogs know that the best way to introduce two dogs is in neutral territory and off the leash, which only causes tension. Typically in this situation the dog will stand calmly at a distance, allowing the other dog toto observe him and his movements.

Turning the body sideways and not looking directly at the new dog helps calm them both down. The approaching dogs usually do not go straight ahead but make a small arc. Dogs with good communication skills may lick their nose, turn their head to the side, wag their tail slightly or yawn to show they are in a peaceful mood. Playful bows, running in circles, slow approaches or sniffing have become part of the normal familiarisation procedure.

Less so, straight posture, ruffled back hair, excited rhythmic barking, jumping and thumping on the ground with front paws are all part of the routine. Movements of the lead dog indicating dominance include placing its head on the neck or back of another dog and jumping on top of a dog, whatever its sex.

Marking the territory is also a way of showing other dogs who is the master. Dogs urinate on vertical objects to do this. The dog that is able to markplacing a vertical object at its highest point has the most impact. We often see small dogs lifting their leg to urinate so high that they almost fall over; these seemingly tiny dogs have authority in their neighbourhood.

Dominant dogs also start to dig on the ground after they have relieved themselves in order to leave their scent behind. Dogs sweat through their paws, so by digging vigorously, they literally bury their scent in the ground. It is often thought that dogs do this to try to hide their urine or faeces in the ground, as cats do, but in fact it is simply one of the dogs’ methods of communicating with one another.

When humans learn to understand dog behaviour, communication between them reaches its peak. Most of the conflicts that arise between humans and dogs are due to differences in our mental and psychological perceptions. When the owner of a small dog catches it urinating on the kitchen floor and exclaims: “No! the owner thinks he has said: Don’t do it here, do it outside when while the dog understands: Don’t pee. To nowhere!

We can learn from dogs that if we approach and they lick their noses, we should back away or approach more slowly. If the dog turns its head and looks away from us as we approach, this may be a signal that it would prefer us to stay away from it. If the dog suddenly tenses up when you pet it, it has had enough. The behaviour of a dog when it puts its belly out or shows its teeth is often misunderstood.

Most dog owners perceive a belly rub as a request for a scratch. Even though this is a sign of obedience, we still bend down and scratch the belly. In fact, that is what the dog says: I give in, which means: Please go away and don’t scratch me. Dogs learn to use their body language to get attention from us, but this must not be encouraged, as they may learn to demand things from us or misbehave.

When a dog shows its teeth, it does not mean anything good, because the opening of the lips is a reflexive reaction

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