There is so much you can learn from your dog’s body language. Dogs are very expressive animals and the way they communicate when they’re feeling happy, sad, nervous, fearful or angry can tell you a lot about their emotions and intentions to those around them. Speaking of emotions, have you ever noticed your dog close their eyes when you pet them? What about their body posture? It seems they’re enjoying it so much they could fall asleep any minute. Let’s find out more about why dogs close their eyes when you pet them and what their body language is trying to tell you as well.
The Root of the Behavior
It happens every time: you start petting your dog on the head and his eyelids begin to give in. He looks like he’s about to fall asleep and you might be thinking: “Is he really enjoying himself that much or is he simply tolerating me?” A dog’s body language is an elaborate and sophisticated system of nonverbal communication that can tell you when they’re happy or sad. Luckily, learning how to recognize and interpret this form of communication is not that hard. You can understand how to read your dog’s body language by taking into account all the various components that make up their behavior. In other words, it’s important to look at each of his body parts before deciding on how they’re actually feeling.
Take petting for example… what dog doesn’t enjoy that? Well, it’s all about the way you pet them. There are certain red flags you need to be aware of, especially if you’re petting a dog you’ve met for the first time. You will recognize a friendly behavior by the dog’s body movements and overall reactions. A friendly dog will approach with his ears held back slightly and his tail held out at medium height behind him. Of course, all body indicators vary with context, so petting your pup will be much different than petting someone else’s dog. Think about it… does your pup close his eyes whenever you start to pet him but opens them again immediately after you stop doing it?
Consider the limited amount of attention we can share between various senses and you will have a better understanding of their behavior. It’s just like listening to your favorite music while lounging on a sunny beach. You close your eyes so you can increase your emotions and bask in the moment. You can also recognize their friendly demeanor by the following indicators: they put their head or body under your hand, their face muscles are relaxed, their eyes get droopy, and they flop their body down like a rag doll.
Encouraging the Behavior
Just like in humans, you can learn a lot from reading what’s in your doggie’s eyes. One of the ways you can encourage your pup to feel completely at ease while petting them is to… know how to pet them. Most dogs are comfortable being petted on the chest, the shoulders and the base of the neck. Rather than moving your hand over the top of the dog’s head, you should consider reaching in from the sides and avoid patting, which is a light, quick stroke with the hand.
In general, dogs dislike being touched on top of the head and on the muzzle, ears, legs, paws and tail. If you want your pup to indulge in the moment, think about calming him down with slow petting, which is similar to a gentle massage or light scratching. If your dog leans toward you or actively seeks contact with you, you know you’re doing something right. If on the other hand, he attempts to move away or displays signs of discomfort, such as licking his lips or showing the whites of his eyes, you should give him some space. As we mentioned earlier, think about petting as a therapeutical way that will help them calm down and relax.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Look for signals that display his refusal to be petted and try to put them into context. If your dog is ducking his head away, scratching himself, licking his lips, lifting a paw, or showing the 'whale eye,' it’s best to stop. In the case of these rather ambiguous signals, you need to look for other indications from your dog. In fact, look at the context for all of the signals. Dogs have their own personality and you, as their pack leader, need to be able to decipher it the best. If you teach your dog to enjoy petting, you will also have less to worry about next time you pay a visit to your vet.
By understanding your pup’s body expressions and overall demeanor, you can actually figure out what they are trying to tell you. According to an old English proverb, “The eyes are the window to the soul” and dogs do talk to us with their eyes. So pay close attention to what they’re trying to tell you by observing their behavior and reactions in all aspects of everyday life.