What is Fido trying to tell you? A 'dog language' lesson

Most dog actions are easy to understand. A dog wagging its tail briskly at you is almost like a human waving hello. Both are most likely friendly. A dog that is paying attention to you may have a wrinkled forehead, because it is holding its ears toward you. If a dog's ears are down and its forehead is smooth, it may be distressed or worried. If a dog jumps up and offers you its forefeet, it's in a playful mood.

Sometimes when a dog wants you to play, it seems to bow by lowering the front part of its body and sticking out its front paws. When a dog lies on the ground or rolls on its back and shows you its tummy, it is saying "you're the boss."

But when a dog becomes stiff-legged with a straight and slowly wagging tail, it may be preparing to attack. This is a display of dominance. The dog is saying "I'm the boss." Other attack signs include, of course, snarling, raised hair, and pulled-back ears.

High-pitched yelping occurs when a dog is afraid or in pain. Puppies' yelps and whines can also mean distress, which can have a lot of different causes. A howling dog may be lonely or answering another dog's howl.

Between the ages of three to 12 weeks, puppies need to be with people, or they may have problems as grown-up pets. Puppies left in a kennel environment beyond 12 weeks without human contact may be permanently timid and shy. And puppies raised away from people are likely to become completely wild by 14 weeks.

Dogs are social animals: They want to be with others. Such behavior problems as too much barking, destructive chewing, or soiling in the house may occur if a dog is left alone all day. Dogs that are not properly trained can also become too dependent, aggressive, or difficult to control as adults.

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