The danger of misunderstanding dog body language 

As pet owners, we often think we know what our dog is telling us better than anyone, however new studies have shown that a general misinterpretation of dog body language is linked to a rise in cases of dog bites.
close up image of smiling fluffy dog

A study by Edge Hill University asked over 1,535 people about their perceptions of dog breeds, bite risk and dog behaviour. They found that many respondents ‘struggled to identify dog body language, failed to recognise prohibited dog breeds, and believed their own dogs were better behaved than dogs in general.’ 

Why is it important to understand dog body language? 

At the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, we’ve seen an increase in the number of dogs coming to us with established behavioural issues.  

And we’re not the only animal welfare organisation to notice this. According to the PDSA: ‘60% of veterinary professionals say they have seen an increase in dog behavioural issues in the last two years.’ 

On top of this, the PDSA have reported that 66% of these veterinary professionals believed this was due to owners not being able to understand canine behaviour and communication. 

Dogs rarely attack without warning.  

Professor Parkinson, Co-Director of Edge Hill’s Centre for Human Animal Studies (CfHAS) says she was ‘alarmed’ by some of the responses to their survey: ‘many dog-owning respondents couldn’t discern a dog’s communication cues, and even worse, some said they would react by attempting to cuddle or stroke a worried dog, increasing the risk of being bitten.’ 

She added, ‘Owners need to gain a better understanding of how to react to a dog’s behaviour.’ 

Be wary of common misconceptions.  

There are many common misconceptions about a dog’s body language and behaviour, and misunderstanding these can lead to difficult or even dangerous situations. 

These include commonly believed but discredited theories around ‘Apha dogs’, dominance and aversive training techniques.  

small dog looking sad under chair

What can you do to understand your dog’s body language? 

There are many ways you can educate yourself about your dog’s behavioural cues to help you improve your relationship with your dog and avoid any escalation of issues.  

When reading about dog behaviour or training online, be very careful about your sources. We would recommend sticking to advice given by established and credible organisations such as the PDSA, or the RSPCA.  

Book a course for a more hands-on approach.  

If you’re looking for a more intensive or hands-on approach to learning about dog body language, sign up for one of our dog body language courses.  

Taught by accredited experts, this course is for anyone with an interest in dog welfare but it’s especially useful for dog owners or those who work with dogs. 

Topics covered include:  

  • Dog senses 
  • Vocalisation 
  • Body Parts and what they communicate 
  • Breed Variations 
  • Emotions including fear, stress, aggression, happiness and contentment 
  • Behaviours including displacement, dominance, resource guarding, play, pain, ageing and compulsive disorders 
  • Common misconceptions such as the Alpha dog myth, tail wagging and more 

3 hours | £35 | 26 Seafield Road E, EH15 1EH 


Dog Body Language Training

Book now