Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Blog the Change: Learn Canine Body Language

For the past year or so, I have been in my own little world posting once or twice a week about animal welfare organizations and various brands that help promote animal-related causes. But today is special – because today is Blog the Change Day – and I want to share what I have been doing for the past two years as part of my “day job”.

In 2013, I approached Penny Layne, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with 20 years experience in training people and their pets. I became aware through a mutual friend that Penny was doing dog bite prevention training for new and expectant parents, as well as providing free canine body language seminars to the local community. This was something I could get behind!

Penny’s mission is to help prevent dog bites for pet owners and people who work with pets. She has provided canine body language seminars and dog bite prevention training to breed clubs, veterinary clinics, civic groups, firefighters and paramedics, federal and local probation officers, and various corporations whose employees encounter dogs as part of their day-to-day jobs.

Penny owns seven dogs of her own – ranging from a 160 pound Newfoundland to a 20 pound Bichon mix. All of her dogs are friendly and well-socialized, but Penny will be the first to tell you that ANY dog can bite if provoked. Many times people will say a dog bite came without warning, but in reality, dogs send out signals well in advance of biting. The problem is WE don’t know how to “speak” canine body language.

According to the ASPCA:

“Dogs are very expressive animals. They communicate when they’re feeling happy, sad, nervous, fearful and angry, and they use their faces and bodies to convey much of this information. Dog body language is an elaborate and sophisticated system of nonverbal communication that, fortunately, we can learn to recognize and interpret. Once you learn how to read a dog’s postures and signals, you’ll better understand his feelings and motivations and be better able to predict what he’s likely to do. These skills will enable you to interact with dogs with greater enjoyment and safety.”

The ASPCA website also notes:

“The messages dogs communicate with their body language can be subtle, but with careful attention, most people can learn to recognize and interpret the most important meanings. It’s crucial to know when your dog’s happy, when he’s playful, when he’s worried or scared, when he’s feeling uncertain or insecure about something or someone, and when he’s feeling upset and potentially angry. As long as you can recognize these messages, you can interact with him confidently and safely, and you can protect him when he needs protection.”

You can help protect your pet, your kids and yourself by learning to “read” your dog’s body language. For more information on canine safety and dog bite prevention visit: and


  1. An important message! My dog bit someone once "without warning" and I wrote a book about all the things I did before that contributed to it, and everything I did after to make sure it never happened again. People are sometimes surprised when I've said "Any dog can bite." How is this surprising to people?

  2. Such an important post. Education and common sense are key. Great graphic, too!

  3. Education and awareness of a dog's behaviour also brings a better understanding of why dogs behave in certain ways.
    A great post.