Non-verbal communications signaling “let’s play,” “leave me alone,” “who do you think you’re talking to,” “I’m not going to cause you a problem, I promise,” are going on all the time between dogs but many dog owners don’t realize it. It’s amazing what can be conveyed with the odd glance or posture. Some dogs are masters at such subtle language.
The worst canine communicators are those dogs that have been raised without the company of other dogs during a critical inter-dog socialization phase of their lives (3 to 6 weeks). Hand raised orphans provide an extreme example of what may be lacking. Many of these dogs are socially inappropriate having not learned canine communication and social etiquette. They may attack and continue to attack another dog when the psychological war is already won. They may not know how to signal defeat when they are being attacked themselves. And that’s just the (extreme) tip of their communication failures.
Most dogs are not this “dyslexic” and can communicate what they need – as with humans – but the good communicators usually have the edge. Fully functional body language is a beautiful thing that can help resolve uncertainties at a glance. Humans communicate in body language too. We’re just not so good at it and some of us are positively stiff. If dogs could talk they’d probably categorize us as “dumb animals.”