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This is what your dog’s body language really means

This is what your dog’s body language really means
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Whether they’re running and playing at the dog park or giving a warning growl, dogs seem like they’re pretty good at communicating with one another, but what do your dog’s facial expressions really mean? Over thousands of years of living with humans, dogs have developed a range of facial expressions, and they’ve become pretty good at communicating with us too.

We have a way to go before dog-to-human interaction is fluent in both directions, but fortunately, there are experts out there who have dedicated their lives to figuring out dog body language and dog expressions. It turns out, there’s a big difference between how your dog talks to other dogs and how it talks to you. Some studies even show that dogs prefer happy human faces to angry ones, so maybe they really do know what we’re thinking!

Making eye contact

Making eye contact
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A perfect example of the dichotomy between dog-to-dog and dog-to-human facial expressions is eye contact. Between dogs, eye contact signals aggression, according to dog sitting site Wag. Between humans, eye contact is an integral part of communication. We reward eye contact from other humans as well as dogs. After humans domesticated them, dogs developed an array of facial expressions. They also acquired the ability to use their gaze to win approval from and show love for their humans.

Breaking eye contact

Breaking eye contact
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Understanding what your dog’s facial expressions really mean also involves knowing what it means when your pooch breaks eye contact. When dogs stare at each other, they’re engaging in a power struggle that won’t end until one or the other breaks the gaze – and a fight could break out. With humans, dogs are perfectly comfortable breaking eye contact, and in no way is it a prelude to trouble. Rather, it indicates a comfortable rapport between a dog and its person.

Blinking or squinting during eye contact

Blinking or squinting during eye contact
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If a dog blinks while making eye contact with you, it may be contemplating what you’re thinking, according to veterinarian Danielle Bernal. This dog expression might show up if you’ve just given a command. The same is true of squinting during eye contact, says Michael Schoeff, the proprietor of Premier Pups. “I’d read it as a sign of appeasement,” he says. “And that’s a good thing. Your dog lives to appease his human.”

Squinting or blinking in general

Squinting or blinking in general
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You’ve probably wondered why your dog makes weird faces. It could be because something is wrong. Squinting and repetitive blinking can mean something entirely different when a dog is not looking into your eyes, Schoeff explains. Squinting can signal pain or illness, and rapid blinking can indicate stress or fear.

Fun fact: When a dog opens its eyes wide at another dog, it can signal aggression.

Eyebrow-raising

Eyebrow-raising
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When your dog raises one eyebrow – or both – while making eye contact, it’s a sign of alertness and interest, says Schoeff. Here’s an opportunity for you to engage with your pup, maybe teach it a new trick. Do dogs mimic facial expressions? Try giving them the old eyebrow wiggle and see what happens!

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Avoiding eye contact

Avoiding eye contact
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A dog who avoids eye contact is likely having trust issues. “Dogs are aware that eye contact with humans signals trust and comfort,” Schoeff explains. A dog that avoids eye contact with humans is doing his best to avoid any kind of interaction, whether negative or positive. This can be common in rescue dogs, especially those who have had a tough life before finding their forever homes.

Tilting its head

Tilting its head
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That adorable head tilt? It’s exactly what it looks like, according to Schoeff: It means your dog is curious.

Lowering its head

Lowering its head
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When your dog lowers or bows its head while gazing up at you, it’s an act of submission, explains Schoeff. It’s not all that different from blinking or squinting during eye contact.

Flattening its ears

Flattening its ears

Watch it: This isn’t a good sign. If you see a dog pulling both ears tight against his head, it could be a sign of aggression or of fear. Alternatively, it could be a sign your dog has an ear infection, says Schoeff.

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