Expert Q&A

How can I monitor my dog’s mood by studying its mouth and tongue movements?

How can I monitor my dog’s mood by studying its mouth and tongue movements?

BY: The Dog Daily Expert

All mammals have evolved the ability to read subtle and not-so-subtle facial features. It’s not too hard to tell when a fellow human is really angry, for example. His mouth may be downturned, and his brow could be wrinkled. We can often even tell a fake smile from a real one, just based on how certain muscles affect the way the skin, mouth and eyes look.

Such visual signals differ depending on the species, though. For instance, your dog doesn’t smile like you do. Focusing just on your dog’s mouth, you can glean helpful clues on how your pet is feeling. Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie go over this in their book Good Dog!: Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training. Here’s what they advise to look for:

· Happy: Your dog’s lips will look relaxed and its tongue may be out. Some breeds may even look like they are smiling, even if it’s just a doggy version of a smile.

· Scared: When your dog licks its lips when no food or drink is around, it can be showing signs of fear.

· Wary/Annoyed: If your dog nips at you without tooth pressure, it is doing what’s known as “bite inhibition.” Sometimes, puppies will do this just to investigate things, but adult dogs use it as a warning. It’s as if your dog is telling you, “Stop it, or I’ll bite you for real.”

· Angry: This mood is easier to detect, thank goodness, although a subtle cue can be when your dog purses its lips tightly. Most dogs, however, will tend to show their teeth and combine that with a growl or testy bark.

Your dog pays a lot of attention to visual cues that you communicate. Try to do the same with your dog and you will then both feel more connected -- even without your saying a word or lifting a finger.

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Tags: dog behavior

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