Posted 28d ago
Does your dog lick their lips? Yawn a lot? Expose their tummy? It may not mean exactly what you think, as This Morning vet Dr Scott Miller reveals to TeamDogs.
While a human licking their lips means they are looking forward to a tasty meal, yawning might show we’re tired, and teeth chattering is a sign of wintry cold, dogs may be trying to tell you something different with these behaviors.
These seemingly human-like behaviours may also be warnings that your pet needs some TLC, so it’s best to brush up on your pet’s body language in case of any problems.
Dr Scott Miller, BVSc MRCVS, Veterinary Surgeon and Spokesperson for vetcare app Dogtastic - and This Morning telly vet - has explained some of your dog’s most common behaviours, and what they might really be thinking.
Tail wagging may seem like the universal sign of a happy pup, but Scott explains it can also mean your dog is aroused, overstimulated, or frustrated.
Focusing on just your dog’s tail and not the rest of their body is “like just listening to a part of a sentence,” says Scott.
“The entire body language must be taken into account. If the tail is wagging side to side but your dog seems tense with hard staring eyes, then this could indicate an overly aroused or frustrated dog that is best left alone.
“A slower wagged tail can indicate a canine that is calmly assessing a situation and should be given time and space to do so.
“A helicopter-style tail wag is a sure-fire sign of friendliness, with a relaxed stance and bum wiggling likely to suggest the dog wants to say hello.”
Along with tiredness, yawning is also a common indicator of stress in dogs, so if your dog is yawning away when it’s not bedtime, it might be worth taking a closer look.
Scott said: “Of course, dogs do yawn when tired, but they are more likely to yawn when they are nervous or experiencing fear.
“Take a moment to assess the situation and try to appease your dog’s stress or discomfort, offering a calm approach to help reduce their jangling nerves.”
Lip licking or smacking
Lip licking in dogs actually doesn’t mean they’re hungry, in fact it may mean the opposite, with the behaviour sometimes occurring before a dog vomits.
If your dog is licking their lips a lot, it could be a sign of something more serious, such as a metabolic condition like pancreatitis or liver disease.
Scott also explains that lip smacking (when a dog licks their lips or the tip of their nose) may also be an indication of nervousness around other dogs.
“In cases of social nervousness or fear, lip smacking is a non-threatening behaviour designed to diffuse a situation, avoid injury and is key for survival in wild dog packs,” he said.
Teeth chattering in humans is often seen when the temperature dips in the winter, but in a dog could mean that they’re feeling nervous or fearful.
Scott says: “This displacement gesture helps a nervous dog refocus their attention away from a perceived or actual threat and in essence is a self-calming behaviour.
“Along with sneezing, shaking, sniffing or excessive nose licking, teeth chattering can become compulsive behaviours that should not be ignored, and may need the help of specialist animal behaviourists to understand and effectively address.”
When your dog lies on their back to expose their tummy to you, it’s often taken as a sign they want you to give them a lot of affection, however Scott explains that you should look for other signals before going in to tickle them.
“Often, when this behaviour is associated with a relaxed body, slightly open mouth with tongue lolling out, then it is exactly what you would expect, a trusting signal inviting a tummy rub and some social contact,” he said.
However, if the dog isn’t displaying these happy, relaxed behaviours, it might mean that they’re nervous, so try to stay away unless the dog trusts you and looks in the mood to play.
If your dog’s behaviour is worrying you, however small, it’s always worth speaking to a professional to put your mind at ease and make sure there are no underlying problems.
You can make an appointment with your vet, but there are also several vet care apps available, including Dogtastic.co, which offers unlimited digital vetcare at £24 for a year’s access.
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