Like most animals dogs act like their ancestors. Some traits are just learned and passed down, and cannot be helped. Animals act naturally due to the way they were raised, and their parents act as their parents taught them. Animals adapt certain aspects of their behavior to their surroundings, but some things stay the same. There are some gestures that are passed down from ancestors that cannot be helped; they have become a part of life.
One gesture that was passed down from the wolves through many years to the dog is the showing of teeth. When a dog or wolf shows his teeth his opponent knows that this dog or wolf is not happy. The animal knows that they need to back off or risk getting bitten; the showing of teeth is also a sign that an animal wants to attack. The dog knows when he shows his teeth his opponent will recognize this as a sign of aggression and retreat or come forward to get involved in a fight.
Another gesture that means a dog is on edge or ready to fight is the hair on the back of the neck and shoulders. When this hair is standing up it means that the dog is very alert, and ready to jump at a moments notice. Growling is another gesture that goes with the teeth, and hair and is a good indication of an impending conflict. When a dog does all three of these you know he means business.
Standing tall and at attention is another way a dog will try and intimidate his opponent. This is a tactic that helps the dog feel big and strong, and lets the other dog know this. The behavior of standing at attention is meant to show the opponent who is boss and get them to submit power. If a dog responds by crouching close to the ground, or even dragging himself across the ground he is showing that he does not want to fight.
Dogs as well as wolves have learned over the years what these gestures mean. When one dog sees the other acting in this way they will either back off if they don’t want to fight, or decide to stay and fight. The dogs that can read the signs of their opponent will avoid unwanted, and unnecessary fights.
Being able to read dogs’ gestures can be helpful for humans as well. If you see a dog acting like they want to fight you should probably get out of the way, or risk getting bitten or mauled by the animal. If a dog rolls over onto his back this means he does not want to fight, but would like some attention. Reading dogs’ gestures can be a very useful thing to know. Next time you are around a dog, or you have your own dog, pay attention to the gestures they are making.
By Andi McBreaty of Oh My Dog Supplies