Dogs communicate using a system of body signals that tell us what they’re thinking and feeling. Licking their lips? Unsure. Tail is tucked? Fearful. Ears perked? Interested.
We talked with 2 Hounds Design founder Alisha and picked her brain about the link between training your dog and their body language. Learn how paying attention to your dog’s body language can help you better understand, bond with, and train your dog.
How can paying attention to body language make my life easier?
Your dog only has so many ways to communicate with you, and body language is one of them. By paying attention to their body language, you can see what’s going on in their mind and interact with them accordingly. It can also help you avoid a lot of frustration and make training much easier.
How does body language tie into training?
Dog trainers are trained to watch for body language. They can tell when a dog isn’t up for a training session, like when they’re distracted or stressed. And they can figure out what will really motivate the dog according to how they look, act, or move around different stimuli.
Training can be a fun game for you and your dog. It can strengthen your bond and help you understand each other better — especially when you pay careful attention to their body language. For example, a dog who perks his ears at the sound of a squeaker may prefer that as a reward over treats. And if your dog’s body language says they’re anxious (licking their lips, half-moon eyes, lifting one paw), it’s probably best for both of you that you postpone your training session.
What body language should I look for when it’s time to start training?
Before you start training, you should make sure your dog is relaxed and alert. You can spend some time bonding with your dog before beginning training to get them in a good mood and focused on you.
Some signs your dog is ready and eager to start training include:
- Their mouth is slightly open and relaxed
- Their eyes are soft or blinking
- Their body, face, ears, and jaw are relaxed
- They do a play or prey bow, putting their butt in the air
- They’re “smiling”
They may be feeling anxious, nervous, or stressed (meaning they’re not up for a training session) if:
- Their face, jaw, or ears are tense
- They have “Whale Eye,” their pupils are dilated, or eyes are glassy
- Their tail is tucked between their legs or it’s low and only the end is wagging
- They’re yawning when not sleepy
- They’re licking their nose or chops (without the presence of food)
How does my body language affect my dog’s training?
You transmit your emotions to your dog via your body language, the tone of your voice and also with tension on the leash or in your body. Your dog can tell when you’re frustrated, and that could potentially distract them from their training or even cause them to get nervous or stressed in response.
Training should be fun for both you and your dog. Make sure you are relaxed and enjoying yourself. And if you find yourself getting frustrated, go back to a skill your dog knows how to do well. Then, try again!
Am I sending my dog mixed signals when I’m training them?
Possibly. Are you holding the leash tight, or are you relaxed and loose? Are you praising them the minute you see the desired behavior? Is the tone of your voice aligning with your facial expressions? These are ways that you can make sure you and your dog are on the same page and communicating well.
How can you I tell when it’s time to stop training for the day?
If you or your dog feel tired, hungry, or distracted, you should probably stop training for the day and try again tomorrow. Remember, training is fun! If it feels like a chore, you’re not doing it right!
By paying attention to their and your body language, you can make training your dog a whole lot easier. And with our Freedom No-Pull Harness, you can turn walks into something you both look forward to.
Ready to learn more about training and walking your dog? Check out these five ways to teach your dog to behave by taking them for walks.