Dogs are unable to use speech to express feelings like uncertainty, fear, aggression, pleasure or playfulness. But every dog has a range of “body signals” that it can use to express these emotions. Visible signs of how your dog is feeling can be shown by its whole body and also by its face. Barks, growls and whimpers give other clues.
As a dog owner, it is important that you should be able to read these signals. Be alert and “tuned in” to recognize signs based on body posture, vocalization ears, eyes, lips, tongue, tail, hair, standing on end.
The dog’s voice
Most dogs are fairly vocal. They can produce a range of sounds ranging from whimpers, through rolling growls to proper barks. Dogs use their voices to express themselves, raising the pitch or volume of their bark to indicate frustration or emotion. Barking isn’t necessarily aggressive. It is more likely to mean “hurry up, come and play!” or “nice to see you!” than “one false move and I’ll tear your throat out”
Growling is more often aggressive in adult dogs than puppies. Some dogs play growl, but their mood is always obvious. Many can make a rolling sound like a growl, fluctuating in pitch. The pitch of an aggressive growl may be constant or increase with the aggressive body posture.
The “normal” dog
A happy, alert dog carries its tail well, with no tension in its body. It moves freely and holds its head high. The tongue may loll out and the jaws are relaxed.
Asking to play
When it wants a game, a dog often dips down at the front into a crouch. It gives little yips and barks or rolling growls with high notes. It may raise one foot and lean to one side, its head almost on the ground. It may jump backwards and forwards, the head looking up at you with relaxed jaws.
The invitation to play may quickly change into a submissive posture with the dog in a lower crouch. It still raises its front feet in a mild play invitation, teeth are hidden. There is no tension in this posture and the dog is probably silent. As it crouches lower it may lick a little. A submissive dog often turns side-on to present its flank.
Now the dog’s ears are folded down. It drops it’s tail and folds it round one leg, very nervous animals will tuck it right under. The head is down to avoid eye contact, with reassurance it comes up . The final stage in submission is rolling over, one hind leg raised. Unless afraid, the dog usually raises it’s ears a little to show the submission stems from trust.
The dog shows its teeth, emits a constant low growl or snarl, or even barks. The ears are laid back. The whole body is tense, with the back legs held ready for rapid movement. The hair down the center of the dog’s back stands on end. The tail is held down and rigid.
Rather than simply warning you off, the dog advances confidently with its tail and ears held high. It will look straight at you, teeth bared, snapping and ready to bite.
Like ourselves, dogs are blessed with facial muscles capable of giving different expressions to the face, although these muscles and their control system are not as efficient as man’s.
The lips can be curled back to expose the teeth. Baring the teeth is not always aggressive – some dogs seem almost to laugh, and when very pleased, their lips are drawn back to expose the incisors. In aggression, the lips are drawn back further, often exposing the pointed canine teeth as well.
The Ears are extremely mobile and can turn to follow sounds – even drop-eared dogs such as spaniels can move their ears into an alert position, although they don’t have the range of expression of those breeds with erect ears.
The eyes are expressive too. When a dog is happy, there is a distinct brightening of the eyes. Some dogs raise their eyelids when surprised or quizzical – this is often exaggerated by a tilting of the head.
Staring Fearful aggression may give the dog a wild, wide-eyed look; the skin is drawn back, exposing the whites of the eyes and often the pupils are dilated. But in dominant aggression, the pupils will probably be constricted, daring eye contact and fixed on your every move.
To a dog, a fixed stare is a challenge. Usually, a person staring at a dog will cause the dog to look away and become submissive. A dog sure of itself and its relationship with the owner may simply react with a questioning look. However don’t try to “stare out” a dog unless your confident that you can handle the potential attack that may follow your losing this eye-to eye contest.
A dog’s tail is an integral part of its communications system. The dog wags its tail to show pleasure or as an invitation to come for a walk or to play. It can be lowered as part of an aggression display, or tucked under in fear and submission. Apart from its use as a tool of communications, the tail has physical uses. For example, water-dogs use their tail as a rudder when swimming.
Many breeds suffer the indignity of tail docking. But the importance of the tail for self- expression is obvious from the attempts docked dogs make to wag their stumps. Some of them wag their entire rear end in joy, but the more subtle signals aren’t available to them.
This can cause problems – they may find it impossible to signal submission adequately and end up in a fight. In fact, the initial aim of docking in breeds like Dobermanns, and Rottweilers, was probably to force aggression by preventing adequate expression of submission. It is difficult to justify the idea of tail docking, although many breeds’ official standards require it.
Removing a dog’s tail does not make it easier to judge in shows, but there is no argument for removing the tails of working dogs. Responsible grooming will ensure that feathered tails of working dogs such as spaniels are kept tidy.
Most dogs who get regular road exercise need little attention to their nails, but dogs who get little exercise or who exercise mostly on grass do need them cut about once a month.
This cutting should either be done by an expert or at home with proper nail clippers. It should never be attempted with scissors. The nail might break and cause severe pain to the dog.
The length of the nail varies considerably according to the breed and also among dogs of a particular breed.
When the nails are white, the quick can be easily seen and the nail can be then cut to about one-sixth of an inch off the quick. If the dog finishes, don’t cut it so short.
If a dog should break or split a nail, wrap the nail round with an adhesive bandage, and it will soon be all right again.
The cutting of a puppy’s nails is really an expert’s job. The breeder usually cuts them short before selling you the puppy, but if they are long, take him to a dog-groomer or to a vet. Both these people should be able to do it and show you what to do in the future.
Exercising a puppy on the pavement should keep the nails down. Only if the puppy never gets this road work should they need cutting; under those circumstances, I have known them to need cutting every three weeks or so. It is best done with proper nail clippers. Cut only the curved over a piece that protrudes beyond the thick part which contains the quick.
If you look at the nail from underneath it you will see that the end is almost transparent. That is part to trim off. Cut the nail to within 1/6 inch of the end of the quick-this allows sufficient protection.
The paw should be held firmly and the nail cut straight across. You can then file the roughened tips with an emery board file.
If by any chance you do cut the quick, wrap the whole nail up in a piece of an adhesive bandage, and it will soon grow out again.
Labrador Retrievers (Labs) are wonderful pets. They are very loyal and obedient dogs who are highly intelligent and easily trained. They are loving and gentle and often get along wonderfully with children.
Dogs should be kept inside with their humans as they are pack animals and are much happier with constant human companionship. They need to have a space in your home that is theirs. A crate or cage that is the appropriate size for your dog works wonderfully.
The crate should have a blanket inside for the dog to cuddle with. Doggy beds are another item that will work as your dog’s space. The blankets and beds should be cleaned frequently to keep them from harboring parasites such as fleas.
Dog BowlsQuailty hard food is an important part of your dog’s diet. It helps reduce tartar build-up and helps control weight better than soft foods. Talk to your vet about what type of food is best suited to your particular dog’s needs. Human foods should be avoided as some are toxic to your dog and table scraps often cause weight and digestive problems among others.
Dogs need a clean, constant supply of water. Make sure your dog’s water dish is always full and clean it regularly to avoid build-up.
Labs need twice weekly grooming to keep their coats healthy. Use a stiff brush to remove loose hairs. A flea comb is also useful for flea control. Your dog should, however, be on flea preventative you can get at your vet. Avoid over the counter flea medications as they can be deadly. Fleas, if left untreated, can be deadly, slowly draining the life from your pet.
If brushed regularly, they should rarely require baths. If your Lab does need a bath be sure to use a dog shampoo and not human shampoo. Dogs have sensitive skin so leave the people products for people. There are many kinds of dog shampoos to choose from, flea shampoos to control parasites, odor control for the stinky dog, hypoallergenic for those with allergies, medicated for those with itchy skin, and a host of others.
Take your dog’s condition into consideration when choosing the proper shampoo for him. In cooler months you should use a blow dryer on a low setting to dry your dog in order to keep him from getting too cold and becoming ill.
Labs are a very active dog and need daily exercise. A daily walk is neccessary to keep your Lab in top condition. A few hours of fetch in the yard is also a wonderful way for you and your dog to exercise and bond. Labs are natural retrievers and usually excel at a fetch.
Whether your labrador retriever is out in the field or just in your backyard, there is always the risk of being sprayed by a skunk. Here are some home remedies in case your dog gets sprayed by a skunk.
Home remedies for skunk sprayed dogs:
- Tomato juice (4-8 large cans and soak for 20 min.), then season to taste…oops! I mean rinse off. Groomers warn that lightly furred dogs might turn pink.
- Vanilla extract (2 cups) combined with a gallon of water. Use shampoo after 15 minutes to rinse out.
- Feminine douche (2-4 ounces) and 1 gallon of water. Use shampoo to rinse out of the dog after 15 minutes.
- 1-quart hydrogen peroxide (3% USP), 1/4 cup baking soda, teaspoon dish soap.
Preventing Skunk Encounters:
Don’t draw skunks to your home by providing a food source such as trashcans they can get into or dog or cat food outside.
Some sources estimate that dogs have up to one million times the sense of smell of humans. Man has about 5 million sensory smelling cells. A dachshund has about one hundred twenty-five million, a fox terrier about one hundred forty-seven million and dogs bred for scenting count in at about two hundred twenty million sensory smelling cells. If you think the skunk spray is unbearable, imagine how bad it is for your dog.