You may not think that a dog could possibly communicate emotion through their hair, and to a certain extent you would be correct.
Not much can be read from your dog’s hair, however if you pay careful attention some information can be deduced.
For instance, when a dog is scared or stressed they will actually shed more hair than normal.
And believe it or not, this can happen very quickly. If your dog becomes stressed during visits to the veterinarian, just take a look at the examination table after they have finished. It will likely be covered with your dog’s hair.
Raising Their Hackles
One of the more well known ways a dog can communicate emotion via their hair is when they raise the hackles, (technically known as piloerection,”)
This of course happens when they are showing signs of aggression. However, it may also happen when they are nervous or excited.
Although the dogs’ hair will most often raised over the withers (the area where the tops of a dog’s shoulder blades meet), the hair can also raise along the entire spine.
The physiological response in dogs is akin to when us humans get goose bumps.
Overall Body Posture
As with most mammals, a lot can be communicated in the way that a dog holds its body. If you pay attention to their overall body posture, you will certainly have a clearer idea as to how they are feeling at any given time.
To break the three main postures down, dogs either try to look normal, smaller or larger.
The reasons for this follow a simple logic.
Normal Body Posture
When your dog is feeling happy and content, they will be comfortable with their normal body posture.
His muscles will be relaxed and his weight will be evenly balanced on all four feet.
The same applies when your dog is playing. Although he will be bouncing around or running about like a mad thing, his facial expression and muscles will be relaxed. The body posture will not look unnatural.
The Body Posture of a Scared Dog
A scared dog will look far from natural. When your pooch is troubled and feels under threat he will be hunched in order to look smaller.
He will lower his body and even cower to the floor. His head will be held low to the ground too.
When frightened by something or someone, your dog will recoil away, his movements rapid and disjointed – all signs of a very nervous animal.
Where your dog is uncertain but curious about something, he will approach it tentatively. His weight will be centered over his rear legs. This is an instinctive approach that allows the dog to spring away quickly should he need to.
A Submissive Dog
If your dog is acting submissive, is body posture will also make him look smaller. He may even roll onto his back. Although his head will cower, if he is acting submissive in a non-threatening situation, (i.e to his owner while in play) his head may be raised.
An Assertive Dog
If a dog is acting assertive, he will try to make himself look large. His muscles will tense and he will stand as erect as possible, lifting on tip-toes in some instances.
An assertive dog will have his neck and head raised above his shoulders, with his weight centered over all four feet for maximum stability. This is a dog standing his ground.
An Angry Dog
An angry dog will look similar to an assertive dog. The body posture will all be directed towards making the dog look bigger.
A significant difference however is the balance of weight over the legs.
An angry, aggressive dog is looking to spring into action. This means his weight will be centered over his front legs ready to lunge forward.
These are just some of the signs that can be read from your dog’s body. When combined with signals that can be communicated via other areas such as the nose, eyes and mouth you have a very handy tool kit with which to better understand your best friend.