Things Dogs Hate About Halloween

Halloween for Dogs is For the Birds!

Many of us love Halloween. Do our dogs love it too? Well, some do and some don’t.

Halloween for people can be fun and festive. Halloween for dogs is often another story.

Here are some top things that dogs hate – from the mouths of dogs themselves!

“I Hate Halloween Because….”

Doorbells. That darn doorbell rings and rings. My owners answer it and then it rings again. I get excited, I bark and they yell at me. I don’t get it. Halloween for dogs is ruff!

Scary Costumes. Ugly, evil-looking things come to the door, and they get something. I don’t know what they get, but I’m sure it’s tasty. The whole ritual is scary and just plain odd. Why do they do that? If I did something like that they would haul me off to the “funny farm.”

Screaming Kids. If the noise and the costumes aren’t bad enough, there are screaming kids to contend with. Screaming children chanting little rhymes that only a mother must be able to admire.

I Don’t Get Treats. On top of it all, there is an abundance of candy going from hand to hand, chocolate, candy bars, and goodies that make a real dog drool. And I don’t get any. None. Stingy people.

They Ignore ME. I am there – barking and doing my dog thing – and no one pays any attention to me. I try to join in on the fun but they keep telling me to go away. With all these new people here at this Halloween party, a dog has lots of sniffing to do. I need to get to know these people to make sure they are safe for my family.

Weird Music and Sounds. People play the most ridiculous music – makes me want to howl … or hide! Did I mention that Halloween for dogs is ruff?

Jack-O-lanterns and Candles. Weird shadows on walls and total ambiance of ghostliness. It would not surprise me if Casper came out of the walls and said boo! Halloween for dogs is weird, too!

I hope these thoughts make you understand some of the things that dogs may not like about Halloween and how Halloween for dogs can be scary and frustrating.

What Does That Head Tilt Mean? How to Read a Dog’s Body Language

Do you know how to read a dog’s body language?

Our dogs will never speak to us with the same verbal language as a human, but they do tell us everything we need to know about how they are feeling through body postures and vocalizations.

Using their ears, eyes, mouth, teeth, tongues, and tails, our dogs speak loud and clear. It is our job to learn to speak their language so we can interpret what they are saying, and respond in an appropriate manner.

Ready to learn how to read a dog’s body language? Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Body Language

Every dog, whether Akita, bichon, or beagle, knows the same language. You and your dog probably pick up on each other’s signals without thinking much about it. But if your dog begins to behave differently, if you are getting to know a new dog, or if you encounter a dog you don’t know, it helps to be able to read the universal body language of dogs.

Although a dog can’t speak and has no hands and fingers for gesturing as humans do, you can watch key parts of his body —including face, eyes, ears, lips, teeth, and tongue — to determine how he’s feeling and reacting to the world around him.

When figuring out how to read a dog’s body language, take a close look at his posture. When two dogs meet, as long as their human companions aren’t tugging tight on their leashes, they carry out a series of actions that looks like a choreographed dance. With their bodies tense and tails taut, they circle and sniff each other, silently gathering and exchanging information, ready to defend themselves at any moment if necessary. They hold their ears back and the hair on their back may stand on end. They often avoid direct eye contact at first, sizing each other up to determine if the stranger is strong or weak, male or female, hostile or non-hostile. One dog may place his head on the nape of the other’s neck or nip at his nose. It seems they are getting ready to fight and then, one lies down. Soon, they may separate and urinate. At this point they have agreed on which dog is dominant.

Dogs learn body language from their mothers during the first 8 weeks of their lives and they test out this form of communication with their littermates. If a dog misses out on such training, he will have trouble communicating with other dogs throughout life.

Wagging Tail = Happy?

Yes, dogs wag their tails when they are happy, but also when they are feeling “alert” or “agitated.”

A dog’s tail is part of a complex system of body language that the domestic canine uses (along with “verbal” cues such as barking, growling or whining) to communicate. A wagging tail indicates excitement or agitation — but whether he means it as an invitation to play, or to warn another dog or person to stay back, depends on other body language.

A wagging tail that curves down and backs up into a “U” usually indicates a relaxed, playful dog. If his ears are erect and pointing forward, and he is in the classic “play bow” position, he’s inviting you to play.

A tail that is held higher, whether wagging or not, indicates dominance and/or increased interest in something. If the end of the tail is arched over the back, and is twitching back and forth, you may be faced with an aggressive dog.

The tail is a purely social indicator for other living things. A dog doesn’t usually wag his tail when alone. For instance, say you pour your dog a bowl of food. He may wag his tail excitedly at the prospect of eating. But if he comes upon the bowl already filled — without anyone being around — he most likely will not wag his tail. He may still be happy to eat, but there’s no one around to whom he can communicate his state of mind.

Is That Lick a Kiss?

Is your dog kissing you when he slurps your face like a lollipop? Although we may never know, there are several possible explanations for this behavior, not all of which are mutually exclusive. The motivation for face licking appears to vary for different dogs and different circumstances.

Is Your Dog Licking or Kissing?

Do Dogs Lick to Show Love?

It’s a question many have wondered — do dogs lick to show love? Is your dog kissing you when he slurps your face like a lollipop? Although we may never know, there are several possible explanations for this behavior, not all of which are mutually exclusive. The motivation for face licking appears to vary for different dogs and different circumstances.

Background on Dog Licking

Dogs lick for a number of reasons, some of which are purely biological.

  • Bitches lick their newborn pups to arouse them from their postpartum daze. In this situation, licking serves to remove clingy membranes from the pup, freeing him up to move and stimulating him to breathe.
  • Once the birthing and clean-up processes are over, the mom dog’s licking her pups stimulates them to eliminate both urine and feces. It is a couple of weeks before pups will eliminate spontaneously.
  • Licking also serves another more romantic role in the sense that it is a comfort behavior that assists with pups’ bonding to their mom and spurs on their mental development. Do dogs lick to show love? In this case, maybe.
  • From about six weeks of age, some pups lick their mom’s lips when they want her to regurgitate food for them. They lick; she vomits; they eat it. This behavior is a vestige of their wild ancestry and was designed to ensure that they profited from the spoils of the hunt.
  • Licking can also be a signal of submission and so is part of dog’s body language communication system.
  • Pups and adults lick and groom themselves. It is part of normal survival-oriented behavior. Licking their own lips, limbs, and trunk removes traces of the last meal that would otherwise begin to decompose and smell. Quite apart from the hygienic aspects of this behavior, it also serves to keep dogs relatively odor-free and thus invisible to their prey. Domestic dogs retain these instincts even though they are not vital today.

 

Psychology of Dog Licking

Dogs, like people, engage in a number of “displacement behaviors” when nervous or stressed, and many of these behaviors involve self-grooming. You only have to glance to the side the next time you are stuck at a red light to see what I mean. The driver next to you will likely be stroking his hair, looking in the mirror, or trying to pick something out from between his teeth.

Dogs do not experience the stop-go conflict of the traffic lights but they do have their own share of dilemmas. Take going to the vet’s office, for example. We vets expect our more anxious patients to begin nervously licking their own lips as they enter the clinic. They may even lick or nibble their feet or flank. There is no doubt that some dogs lick as a gesture of appeasement and goodwill. They may lick their own lips or may lick a person to whom they wish to signal deference. If the recipient of the licking interprets this behavior as “make-up kisses,” that’s just fine.

Perhaps the behavior is analogous to some forms of human kissing and thus their interpretation may be close to the truth. However, not all dogs seem penitent when they slurp the faces of people they meet. For some dogs, it seems that they engage in face licking because they can get away with it and because it gets a rise out of the person. When licking is performed for such a reason, it may be component of the “center stage,” attention-demanding behavior of dominant dogs. No lick! is a good command to have working for these guys.

Psychopathology of Dog Licking

Some sensitive dogs in stressful environments compulsively groom themselves to the point of self-injury. Licking of this type leads to acral lick dermatitis (a.k.a. lick granuloma). Compulsive licking by dogs is not always self-directed. Some dogs take to licking floors, walls, or furniture. Whatever the outward expression of compulsive licking, the mechanics underlying the disorder are the same. In treatment of this condition, first the underlying anxiety must be addressed though, in some cases, it is also necessary to employ anti-compulsive medication to help break the cycle.

Do Dogs Lick to Show Love?

I don’t believe dogs express their sometimes quite profound feelings for their owners by licking or “kissing.” In fact, I don’t believe dogs really “kiss” at all. Do dogs lick to show love? Perhaps some dogs are so awed by their owners that they feel the need to signal their ongoing deference by face licking. Call it love, if you will.

You Know He’s Your Best Friend, but Do You Really Know Your Dog?

Understanding your dog’s behavior is often closely linked to their intended breed background. Herding, sporting, working, toy, etc. are groups that share very similar personality traits. Knowing your dog’s breed composition may be quite insightful for understanding their behaviors and the best methods of amusing them.

However, mixed breed dogs are often quite ambiguous when it comes to understanding their breed composition. Thanks to the wonderful marvels of science, mixed breed dog owners can find out which breed components their best friend possesses. Metamorphix, a company based in Maryland, will genetically test dogs and report nearly 40 known breeds that your dog is made of.

Finding out your dog’s “ingredient list” has never been easier, thanks to testing based on DNA recovery from a mouth swab.

Studies have shown that the average dog possesses the intelligence of a 3-year-old child. This corresponds to an ability to learn basic commands, express themselves (not always clearly), and interpret some emotions of those around them. Some breeds certainly display character traits much more advanced than this. Herding breeds for example appear to understand and function in complex thinking patterns. It’s clear that many dogs understand certain words, for example recognizing toys on command. Perhaps talking to your dog isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds. Want to know your dogs IQ? Check out the Dog IQ test!

Once you know what your dog is made of and how smart he is, read these tips and learn how to really know your dog.

Body Language

Our dogs will never speak to us with the same verbal language as a human, but they do tell us everything we need to know about how they are feeling through body postures and vocalizations.

Using their ears, eyes, mouth, teeth, tongue, and tail, our dogs speak loud and clear. It is our job to learn to speak their language so we can interpret what they are saying, and respond in an appropriate manner.

Click here to learn how to identify the signs and cues your dog gives when he is happy/friendly, excited, fearful, and stressed.

The Bark

A few years ago, an article in the Smithsonian magazine concluded that dogs may bark for no reason. It’s just something that they do — a function without a purpose, so to speak.

That view is not widely shared. Even dry, dusty studies of wild canine behavior attest to the fact that barking serves a function of long-range communication. It is at least as important to dogs as a marine foghorn warning is to mariners. Even the most elementary interpretation of barking is that it is a non-visual communication signaling the dog’s presence and territorial concerns.

Most dog owners believe that they can recognize their dog’s different types of barking. The dog may, for example, emit an excited, alerting bark when a friend approaches the home but may sound more aggressive and foreboding when a stranger or a would-be intruder draws close. In addition to the different tones of barking, the same tone of bark can be used in different situations to “mean” different things.

If your dog’s ball has rolled under the couch and he wants someone to get it out, he may bark for assistance. A learned communication, like verbal language in people, a bark is used in this context because it works to produce the desired response from you. Once he gains your attention, you recognize immediately what the dog wants by: the barking itself, the dog’s orientation, and the situation. Humans also use a variety of signals to communicate with each other; they speak, orientate, gesticulate, and use facial expressions and other body language.

But could you understand what your dog wants by listening to him bark on the telephone? Probably not. But you might be able to determine the tone of the bark (friendly or hostile), the volume and intensity of the bark (his state of arousal), and the duration of barking — continuous or intermittent (indicating how intent the dog is).

Obviously, barking is not as sophisticated a method of vocal communication as human language but it works to convey elementary messages. Humans probably grunted their wishes to each other and barked orders a few hundred generations ago. It was a start. Interestingly, human consonant sounds are thought to be “hard-wired” from these humble beginnings just as the dogs bark is “hard-wired.” Human language (in any country) comprises different constellations of consonants strung together in creative ways. Dogs have a long way to go to catch up, but some do seem to try very hard with what little hard-wired sound-producing ability they possess by using different intensities, tones, and groupings of barks, growls, and mutters, interspersed with the occasional howl to get their message across.

Understanding Dogs: How Do They Smell, See, Hear, Feel & Taste?

Understanding Dog Senses: How Dogs Smell, See, Hear, Feel & Taste

Your dog’s senses allow him to behave and perform in ways nothing short of magical. Dogs perceive the world differently from the way we do – we share the same senses, but with remarkable differences.

How Dogs Smell

The first thing your dog does when you walk in the door is sniff your legs. Dogs gather a lot of information from a quick sniff of their environment – both physical and emotional details. He smells where you’ve been and even how the experience affected you. Dogs sniff each other and each others’ secretions constantly, monitoring various physiological and emotional changes on an ongoing basis.

Dogs live in a world of odors. Their sense of smell is their most refined sense; in fact, it is so refined a bloodhound can identify scales of skin shed by humans three days previously. They can also detect drugs in hidden in body cavities, can sniff out rats, termites, bombs, missing persons, bodies drowned or buried in snow or rubble, and even the presence of melanoma cancer. Their noses are about as sensitive as our eyes.

The scrolled, scent membrane inside a dog’s nose is about four times greater in area than the equivalent smell organ in humans. In the dog’s nose, there are over 200 million scent receptors in the nasal folds compared to our 5 million. Moisture on the nose helps to capture scent and transmit it onto odor-sensitive nasal membranes, which cover the nose’s wafer-thin turbinate bones. These bones comprise of convoluted folds, ensuring that the tiniest amount of scent is captured within them.

How Dogs See

Have you ever noticed how your dog acts when you are approaching him from a distance? He sees you immediately, and he stops and stares; but it’s obvious that he doesn’t know who is coming toward him. You start talking to him, perhaps calling his name, but he is still unsure, although he will act interested. Finally, when you get close enough to him that he picks up your scent, he will run to you happily.

Your dog trusts his sense of sight the least. However, while smell is his most refined sense, sight is his strongest. Dogs have no good biological reason to identify different colors. Though they can distinguish between certain colors, their color vision is limited and the colors may appear muted to them. Dogs see more clearly than humans do in dim light. This allows for increased movement definition of prey animals. Although their ability to see detail is limited, they are quite exquisitely sensitive to movement, and are able to pick up even very slight movement of hiding prey. A stationary object may not be noticed from a distance, but the dog will see it as soon as it makes a move.

How Dogs Hear

You must have experienced the result of your dog’s super hearing ability. You are sitting in your favorite chair reading or taking a nap, with your faithful pet lying at your feet. It’s blissfully quiet – not a sound to be heard. Suddenly your dog leaps to his feet and begins barking loudly, his protective bark, and you run to the window to see who is approaching. But there’s no one there. At least not at first. It takes moments before someone actually comes into view and walks by the house or into the yard.

The dog’s ability to hear is incredibly acute compared to humans. They can hear sounds over a wider range of frequencies and a greater distance than we can. Also, experiments have shown that a dog can locate the source of a sound in about six-hundredths of a second. Their highly mobile ears capture sounds and funnel them down to the eardrum. You might see your dog cock one ear to capture the initial sound, and then use both ears to catch the maximum number of sound waves. Protection and guard dogs use their sense of hearing, along with their sense of smell, to detect possible intruders, sometimes from great distances.

Understanding Dog Touch

Touch is the first sense the dog develops and remains a powerfully important sense throughout his life. Mothers begin touching newborn puppies almost immediately after birth by licking and nuzzling. Touch-sensitive hairs called vibrissae, which are capable of sensing airflow, develop above the eyes, on the muzzle, and below the jaws. The entire body, including the paws, is covered with touch-sensitive nerve endings. The physical sense of touch is very sensitive, although dogs do have a high threshold of pain. 

Body sensitivity varies among dogs, but most enjoy being stroked around the head, chest and back. The most sensitive nerve endings are along the spine and towards the tail, and dogs show great enthusiasm in pats or extended rolls and slides on the grass.

Why Do Dogs Smell Crotches and Butts?

Why Do Dogs Smell Human Crotches and Butts?

Dogs can have some pretty strange behaviors but one really takes the cake. Why do dogs feel compelled to sniff human rears and crotches? It’s so embarrassing! You’ve probably had it happen to you; maybe it was your dog acting up when a friend comes over, immediately zeroing in on their private region for a quick sniff. Perhaps you’re out and see a friend with a dog when the dog comes over to you and smells your crotch. You try to hide your embarrassment but seriously, it’s so annoying!

Dogs don’t know that this greeting is unwelcome to humans. In fact, dogs commonly smell the rear of another dog upon meeting as a sort of handshake. Butt sniffing is a very natural, instinctive, and basic form of dog-to-dog communication that helps share information, kind of like a status update. When dogs meet, this quick sniff is how they say “hi” or get reacquainted after time apart.

 

Dogs have a very keen sense of smell, which some experts estimate is anywhere from 40 times to 100,000 times more sensitive than the human sense of smell. People have approximately 5 million odor receptors in their dose, but dogs have a whopping estimated 220 million.

Another major part of canine communication is the presence of apocrine scent glands on each side of dogs’ rectums. These organs, called anal glands, produce strong-smelling secretions that communicate the sex of the dog, what the dog is eating, and even some clues about a dog’s emotional state or readiness for mating. Although it is difficult for humans to completely understand this kind of communication (since we don’t share it), the “sniff” is thought to also tell dogs if the encounter is likely to be friendly or not friendly.

Some dogs interact with humans as they would another dog, greeting them with a crotch or butt sniff. Humans also have many different scent glands in their genital area, so it’s not a surprise that a dog’s highly tuned nose would find the smell intriguing.

 

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Dogs will crotch- or butt-sniff more frequently with people whose bodies express complex smells, such as those who have recently had sex or given birth or are menstruating, pregnant, or in poor hygiene. Studies have suggested that many dogs are sensitive to human ovulation and even that of other species. Researchers have trained Australian shepherd dogs to find cows that are ovulating, a practice that aids farmers in breeding practices.

So, in short, what does a butt- or crotch-sniff from a dog mean to humans? It means that a dog is just being a dog and seeking information about someone they are meeting. Do you have a dog that does this behavior and you want him to stop? Go to How to Get My Dog to Stop Sniffing Crotches to put an end to this behavior.

 

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What Is Your Dog Saying? A Key to Canine Body Language

Keys to Understanding Canine Body Language

Every dog, whether Akita, bichon, or beagle, knows the same language. You and your dog probably pick up on each other’s signals without thinking much about it. But if your dog begins to behave differently, if you are getting to know a new dog, or if you encounter a dog you don’t know, it helps to be able to read the universal body language of dogs.

If you and your dog landed in Tokyo or Timbuktu tomorrow and were greeted by a local person and his dog, it would take only a few minutes for the two dogs to understand each other. Hours later, you would still be wondering if you were bowing properly, making acceptable hand gestures, or using the right table manners. The dogs, on the other hand, would know just what to do – the lead dog eats first.

Signals Dogs Use to Communicate

Although a dog can’t speak and has no hands and fingers for gesturing as humans do, you can watch key parts of his body to determine how he’s feeling and reacting to the world around him.

 

 

  • Face. Although the dog’s facial muscles are not as refined as a human’s, he can wrinkle or straighten his forehead to show confusion or determination. If your dog wants you to give him further direction, he may raise his eyelids quizzically and tilt his head to one side.
  • Eyes. A dog’s eyes brighten when he looks at a creature he considers friendly and when he wants to play. If he is afraid, his pupils dilate and he shows the whites of his eyes. He averts his eyes to avoid confrontation. But if he is angry or ready to defend himself, his eyes narrow and follow your every move. At this point, it’s particularly important not to look the dog in the eye because he sees that as a challenge to defend his position.
  • Lips, teeth and tongue. A relaxed dog in normal posture may let his tongue loll out of his mouth. If he wants something from you, if he is happy or wants to play, he may pull his lips back in what appears to be a smile and show his teeth, an expression, by the way, dogs show only to humans and not to other dogs. But beware the dog that bares his clenched teeth and wrinkles his nose. He is ready to attack.
  • Ears. The dog’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours and even dogs with floppy ears have the ability to move and turn them to follow sounds. If a dog’s ears are raised, he is relaxed, listening, or showing acceptance. If they are back, he may be signaling submission and deference or may be frankly fearful.
  • Tail. A dog wags his tail when he is happy or wants to play. It is really an energy indicator. When he is submissive, he tucks it between his legs. A taut tail, held down rigidly behind him, may show that he is prepared to spring since he uses his tail for balance when jumping.
  • Voice. Dogs are vocal animals. They yip, bark, whimper, howl, and growl. The pitch or volume of their sounds can increase with their level of emotion. A bark may be playful or aggressive. Unlike body signals, dog noises can mean different things from different dogs.

 

 

Dog Posture Speaks Volumes – What Your Dog is Saying

When two dogs meet, as long as their human companions aren’t tugging tight on their leashes, they carry out a series of actions that looks like a choreographed dance. With their bodies tense and tails taut, they circle and sniff each other, silently gathering and exchanging information, ready to defend themselves at any moment if necessary. They hold their ears back and the hair on their back may stand on end. They often avoid direct eye contact at first, sizing each other up to determine if the stranger is strong or weak, male or female, hostile or non-hostile. One dog may place his head on the nape of the other’s neck or nip at his nose. It seems they are getting ready to fight and then, one lies down. Soon, they may separate and urinate. At this point they have agreed on which dog is dominant.

Dogs learn body language from their mothers during the first 8 weeks of their lives and they test out this form of communication with their littermates. If a dog misses out on such training, he will have trouble communicating with other dogs throughout life.

The Danger of Pet Bites: What You Should Know an How to Avoid Them

Pet Bites – What You Should Know

Dog and cat bites can be extremely dangerous to you. If you have been bitten and are reading this, the safest thing to do is to call your physician or go to your local emergency room.

Pet bites are dangerous for a few different reasons. The mouths of pets harbor several organisms that can cause serious infections. Cat’s mouths are known to carry an organism called Pasteurella multocida that can cause serious, life-threatening infections when deposited deep into tissues. These organisms combined with sharp teeth that can either puncture or tear though flesh easily make a dangerous combination.

Dog bites are generally considered crushing wounds due to their exceptionally strong jaws and rounded teeth. Historically, animals teeth are made to kill and tear flesh therefore can cause a lot of damage. Adult dogs can exert 200–450 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure with their jaws. Damage to muscle, tendons, vessels, nerves and even bone are all possible concerns with any dog bite.

In addition, infections from dog bites commonly occur from Staphylococcus and Streptococcus organisms, and some bites can deposit an even more dangerous organism C. canimorsus (DF-2). This organism carries an increased risk of sepsis, especially in immune-compromised individuals. Any dog or cat bite can cause local infection and cellulitis, but other serious concerns include sepsis, meningitis, osteomyelitis, and septic arthritis.

Both dog and cat bites are dangerous. In some ways, cat bites may be worse because they can appear less damaging. They are often small punctures causing those bitten to blow them off and not seek medical help. However, the bites are often deep and bacteria are essentially injected into the wounds.

Not every dog or cat bite is malicious. Some bites occur when a pet is injured, in pain or disoriented and they happen to lash out at the thing closest to them, which may be you.

In addition, infections from dog bites commonly occur from Staphylococcus andStreptococcus organisms, and some bites can deposit an even more dangerous organism C. canimorsus (DF-2). This organism carries an increased risk of sepsis, especially in immune-compromised individuals. Any dog or cat bite can cause local infection and cellulitis, but other serious concerns include sepsis, meningitis, osteomyelitis, and septic arthritis.

Both dog and cat bites are dangerous. In some ways, cat bites may be worse because they can appear less damaging. They are often small punctures causing those bitten to blow them off and not seek medical help. However, the bites are often deep and bacteria are essentially injected into the wounds.

Not every dog or cat bite is malicious. Some bites occur when a pet is injured, in pain or disoriented and they happen to lash out at the thing closest to them, which may be you.

Tips on How to Prevent Dog Bites

  • Pay attention to a dog behavior
  • Don’t approach Dogs you don’t know
  • Never put you hand into a yard or car with a dog you don’t know
  • Approach injured dogs with a great deal of caution
  • If you need to move an injured dog, make a muzzle, tips on how to do that.
  • If a dog is in pain, acting disoriented or abnormal, even if you know this pet or it is your dog, be cautious. Their mental status at that time may not be normal and they could lash out.
  • Don’t put your hand into the mouth of a seizing dog.
  • If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog or a cat, call your physician right away. Some infections can be delayed and require extensive surgeries for repair. Even small punctures may look like “nothing” can develop into something very substantial. It is also important for your physician to know the rabies vaccination status of the animal that bit you or your loved one so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. Just remember, when it comes to bite wounds it is always better to be safe than sorry.

 

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

An old joke about wagging tails goes like this: A young boy is afraid to pet a dog. An adult says, “He’s friendly – look, he’s even wagging his tail.” The boy responds, “Yeah, but he’s barking and growling – I don’t know which end to believe!”

This poor excuse for a joke contains a lot of truth, because a wagging tail does not necessarily mean a dog is friendly. So, if a wagging tail does not always indicate friendliness, what does it mean?

A dog’s tail position and motion is incorporated as a component of a complex system of body language that domestic dogs use, along with “verbal” cues such as barking, growling or whining, in order to communicate. A wagging tail indicates excitement or agitation. But whether the dog means it as an invitation to play, or to warn another dog or person to stay back, depends on other body language.

A slowly wagging tail that curves down and back up into a “U” usually indicates a relaxed, playful dog. If his ears are erect and pointing forward, and he is in the classic “play bow” position, he’s inviting you to play.

A tail that is held higher, whether wagging or not, indicates dominance and/or increased interest in something. If the end of the tail arches over the back, and is twitching, you may be faced with an aggressive dog.
Tail position and movement is simply used as a social indicator for other living things. Dogs generally don’t wag their tails when they are alone. For example, if you pour your dog a bowl of food, he may wag his tail excitedly at the prospect of eating. But if he finds the bowl already filled – without anyone being around – he will usually not wag his tail. He may still be happy to eat, but there’s no one around with whom to communicate his happiness.

When Your Pup Turns Adolescent – What You Should Know

Understanding Canine Adolescence

He tears through the house, leaving a mess in his wake. She’s suddenly shy and her happy personality has dissolved into moodiness. Sometime after your dog reaches 6 months, he or she will plunge headlong into canine adolescence – where hormones rule.

Like people, dogs react differently to puberty. Some have an easier time of it than others, but a “teenage dog” of any breed can display unpredictable, even uncharacteristic behavior – which can last an entire year. Behavior seems to depend more on the individual dog than on the breed.

If you visit your local pound, you’ll find a disproportionate number of teenage dogs in the kennels: Many folks become so disillusioned with their pets at this stage that they put them up for adoption. To make matters worse, these rejected dogs often make the worst impression on potential adopters because they are deprived of the attention, guidance and stimulation they need.

Physical Changes in Adolescent Dogs

The onset of puberty will be most recognizable in your male dog. He’ll begin lifting his leg to mark territory and mounting other dogs, humans, and even furniture.

It’s not unusual to discover a puddle of urine, left by a formerly housebroken adolescent dog. Females use urine to attract mates; males use it to mark their territory. In adolescence, such tendencies may remain even though your pet is “fixed.” (A neutered dog is never an “it” but simply a hormoneless, toned-down version of its biological sex).

A non-spayed female experiences her first heat around 8 months of age. A neutered male reaches sexual maturity at about the same time. Spaying or neutering before seven months evens out the vicissitudes of youth somewhat, but you can’t avoid them altogether.

The urge to chew also drives your teen-puppy‘s actions, and often is the first evidence that your dog is getting his secondary teeth and is coming of age. If you’ve let your strict crating rules lapse, you may well arrive home one day to find some significant damage done to a sofa, wooden bedpost, plastic toy chest, or other similarly chewable object. As teeth first erupt, and even after they’re beyond the gum line, they need a good workout to ensure strong and accurate placement. All that gnawing helps align a dog’s teeth in his jawbone. So, replenish your supply of rawhide and chew toys and hang on for the ride!

Also around this time, your dog goes through an intense period of shedding his fuzzy puppy coat and acquiring the type of hair distinctive to his breed. Be prepared to brush him and vacuum your home often.

The fact that your dog’s skeleton and muscles are growing by leaps and bounds during his teen months can be a blessing for your relationship. You can admire the enthusiasm and perseverance he applies in trying to coordinate his gangly limbs and get a chuckle out of his efforts, same as you did when he was a cuddly little puppy.

Keeping Your Adolescent Dog Active

Your teen-age dog will benefit and learn from distractions – exercise, play, toys, and the company of other dogs. If you alone can’t keep up with his high energy level, arrange for him to frolic in a dog park with other canine teens. In their absence, find a few animal-loving human teens who don’t mind the company of a non-stop dog, as they rollerblade around or shoot baskets. 

It’s easy to get into the practice of endlessly telling your dog “no” when you observe unwanted behaviors. But it’s not a good pattern to adopt. Instead, distract the dog from learning the unwanted behavior in the first place by providing enough toys, trips to new places and other stimulation. That is, teach your dog what you want him to do, not simply what not to do.

Taking Charge of Dog Adolescence 

Brace yourself for dealing with the many moods of adolescence. If your teenager frequently becomes submissive, don’t scold her. Kneel down on her level and praise her when she responds positively. If he becomes aggressive, frightened, or anxious, don’t rush to calm or comfort him, because that reinforces the behavior, by giving him the attention he wants.

Even when it seems hopeless and your dog seems to have forgotten all he has learned, don’t give up on training your dog. In fact, obedience classes are just what your dog needs. He’ll be around other dogs and learn to relate to them. He’ll develop confidence and self-control that will serve him throughout his life. And, at a stage of life that can be confusing and difficult, he’ll get a chance to spend lots of time interacting with his favorite companion – you.