Canine body language is fascinating in its simplicity; your dog could say more in under a second than many humans could in hours!
Body language is 100% instinctual! Unlike humans, needing to (at least subconsciously) form our sentences and gather together thoughts, dogs leave everything out there without putting an ounce of thought into it. Canine communication is extremely efficient!
Paw Lift in Anxiety
In non-hunting dogs, this can sometimes be a sign of anxiety, stress, or fear. Ask yourself- what other body language cues are being shown? Is the dog approaching cautiously, perhaps with its tail held at half-mast? Are his ears low to his forehead? Is he sort of crouching? But- why is your anxious lifting his paw? Likely in subconscious preparation to move.
Paw Lift in Anticipation
We’ve all seen this! I’m sure the paw lift this Jack Russell is performing is easily recognizable! He wants something, or is anticipating something coming his way. Perhaps this little fellow is playing with an unseen photographer! Its ears are somewhat held back, but not low; it isn’t showing any signs of anxiety or fear.
Is your dog trying to get your attention? Is he staring at you, perhaps whimpering, ‘pawing’ you every so often? Though their coordination isn’t nearly that of a human’s, dogs will sometimes lift their paws to alert us as to their desires.
Fearful Paw Tuck
When a dog is fearful or submissive, he will sort of ‘cower’, trying to make himself seem as small and non-intimidating as possible. He will avert eye contact, tuck his tail, crouch low to the ground; the difference between a dominant animal and a submissive dog is a huge one!
Our dogs use body language as their primary form of communication; it is up to us to learn to ‘read’ them. Believe it or not, Canine body language is really quite simple to read- by far simpler than human sign language (for instance). Even so, many human handlers don’t bother to try and understand their dogs.
Nearly every dog bite that has ever occurred probably could have been avoided had the human heeded the animal’s vocal ‘warnings’. Dogs don’t bite out of the blue; there are almost always warning signs.
-Of course there are always exceptions.
Dogs who have bitten children would have given off cues as well; ‘Leave me alone’. Unfortunately, children either nearly never heed these warnings, or don’t know how. It should be up to the adult to offer adequate supervision in this case; the animal is acting as nature intended, and can’t be blamed for not thinking like a human.
Remember- dog’s lack the ability to comprehend advanced human reasoning; they often simply can’t understand why they are being ignored or punished. Humans, on the other hand, are vastly more capable of understanding dogs. The problem is- very few of us bother to try.