These curious and bizarre dog behaviors are very often misinterpreted. Understandably, we humans tend to see animals in human terms.
When an animal has its mouth open
and is showing its teeth, for example, humans often interpret it as smiling. On
the contrary; humans are just about the only animals that show happiness by
showing teeth. For most animals, it’s a sign of aggression.
This is just one example of human error in "reading" animal's behavior. Learning the meaning behind these behaviors doesn't require any sort of "dog whisperer" magic touch; it only involves identifying physical behaviors and understanding what they mean. Here are five curious and bizarre dog behaviors that most people don't interpret correctly.
Raised Tail or Lowered Tail
The height of a dog's tail is usually equal to their confidence. A tail high in the air is the sign of a confident dog, while a lowered tail is the sign of an unconfident dog. Dogs with very high or very low tails can both be dangerous: an overly-confident dog may play too rough with others, while a dog with its tail between its legs is feeling very scared and apprehensive. Scared dogs, in their fear, will sometimes bite.
This may be an unfamiliar term. The "hackles" are a feature of many mammals; they are the hairs right at the back of the dog's neck that puff up when the dog is feeling threatened. In humans, this same instinct causes the hairs on the back of our necks to stand on end when frightened. A dog whose hackles are raised is feeling actively threatened. Raised hackles can also be seen as a sort of warning to predators and other perceived threats.
A wagging tail is the most well-known way to understand how a dog is feeling, but people often get it wrong. General knowledge says that tail wagging indicates happiness. This is close, but not quite correct. Tail wagging indicates excitement and energy. This means that a wagging tail does not necessarily mean that a dog is safe to approach.
Rapid lip licking is another curious and bizarre dog behavior, a classic sign of canine nervousness. This is often misinterpreted as a sign of hunger. While dogs do sometimes lick their lips when hungry, nervous lip licking is more rapid. If a dog is doing this, they are feeling apprehensive about something in front of them -- maybe a person, maybe an animal, or maybe just a noise.
This behavior may seem a bit goofy to humans, but it is totally normal,
common and natural in dogs. This is an instinctual behavior, a way of evening
out or flattening out an area. In the wild, a dog or wolf would use this
maneuver to flatten tall grass. Indoors, it's the dog’s equivalent of fluffing
a pillow before a long nap.
Dogs are individuals, and no two will act exactly the same. But these behaviors are common across dogs of all breeds and ages. Learning about these curious and bizarre dog behaviors is very useful for dog owners and non-owners alike.
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