However, there are occasions when this enthusiasm may be perceived as happy, but your dog is not totally happy at that time. You may have read their body language incorrectly. Recognizing some subtle differences in body language will help you to understand if your dog is showing you moves that do not really signify canine enthusiasm.
Book First Walk Free!
Signs a Dog is "Faking" Enthusiasm
The obvious signs of enthusiasm are tail wagging and a wiggly body. Play bowing says "come and play with me," and this looks enthusiastic, especially if it is accompanied with a ball or frisbee. Sometimes dogs can be faking their enthusiasm and if you know the signs that say, ‘I don’t feel so good right now,’ you will be able to tell if your dog is genuinely enthusiastic.
We all know a dog wags their tail when they are happy and excited. If your dog has a low stiff tail wag, they are not feeling so enthusiastic and may be feeling a bit angry or anxious. A stiff, curled tail does not show a happy stance. Look at other body language signs, like ears pinned back or sneaking across the floor in a low crawling position but with the tail wagging.
This could signal a dog who thinks they may be in trouble. They will try to signal they are enthusiastic. However, they are uncertain of the consequences of their actions, and they will lie rather low, but wag their tail, for good measure. Watch for other signs like panting, shaking and lip licking at the same time as the enthusiastic tail wag. This is a sure sign that the tail wag is not really showing off an enthusiastic dog.
- Wag tail
- Lip licking
- Furrowed brow
- Dropped Ears
- Crawling with the tail wagging
The History of Dogs Faking Enthusiam
One of the main reasons dogs have become domesticated is their ability to read our body language and become our best friend. Dogs slowly integrated into family life many centuries ago. They may have felt very nervous, but their ability to fake enthusiasm and want to be part of the humans' lifestyle has helped enormously to make them part of family life.
Dogs are childlike in many ways and enjoy being able to show their owners that they are happy to be with their human families. Dogs can look people in the eye to attract attention and fake enthusiasm by tail wagging and seeing how to please their owners. When animals look each other in the eye this is a sign of aggression, but a dog will look their owner in the eye and signal an eagerness to please and be part of the action.
This is probably how dogs pretended to be enthusiastic as they learned how to understand the body language of the human pack they wanted to be part of. The gentle tail wag and the soft eye of the dog as they tried to become part of the human family were keys to showing enthusiastic body language. This was the important factor that attracted dogs to humans and showed enthusiasm to be in the human pack, even if there was an underlying apprehension.
The Science of Dogs Faking Enthusiasm
Scientists have hypothesized that dogs have a similar reaction to the secure home environment that infants have with their parents. Dogs put on a show of enthusiasm when their owners come into a room to play with them. Dogs want to show enthusiasm to stay close to their owners and be accepted.
Scientists have identified a genetic trait making dogs friendlier than wolves, their counterpart in the animal kingdom. This trait is linked to the William Beurans Syndrome, a developmental disorder, making some humans friendlier and more trusting. It is believed that similar DNA leads dogs to be able to show more friendly enthusiasm, while wolves were not able to show the same enthusiastic characteristics.
Training a Dog to Fake Enthusiasm
Training dogs to be enthusiastic usually requires some form of treat that will motivate a dog to appear eager and follow your instruction with enthusiasm. A food treat reward will encourage winning behavior and a dog will soon learn that certain behaviors are going to lead to getting the treat.
During the training process, you may notice your dog’s tail wagging, yawning and lip licking. Your dog will sit alertly or even get down to the "stay" position and look eagerly up at you for the treat. Does this signify real enthusiasm, or is your dog just performing for the treat? Dogs do enjoy the boundaries that obedience training offers. Dogs will show enthusiasm for the training program even if initially they are not that interested. The treat at the end of the good behavior sequence will encourage the enthusiastic behavior.
Some breeds of dogs are more enthusiastic than others to follow their master’s lead in training sessions. They may fake their eagerness to participate, but their breed or temperament may not be that keen on obedience. However, they will be happy to receive a treat for their enthusiastic behavior.
Dogs entering the show ring would need training to show enthusiasm to perform in front of judges and an audience. It takes careful handling and showmanship to train a dog to be part of a show ring. Show dogs start from a young age to be socialized and take part in junior championships before entering the more serious competitions. A pedigree dog, expecting to win awards at these high-powered shows, will need to be trained to exhibit enthusiastic behavior and appear well-rounded while they are put through their paces. They will have their teeth looked at and are made to run around a ring. These well-trained show dogs appear enthusiastic as their owners have trained them to show off good temperament and fine form.
How to React to a Dog Faking Enthusiasm:
Realize that the dog's only motives are to gain your approval.
Reward wanted behaviors and ignore unwanted ones.