Sunday, May 3, 2009

Do You Understand What Your Shih Tzu Is Trying To Say?

All dogs have the ability to tell you exactly how he/she feels – or perhaps more accurate - he can convey his emotions - whether he is happy, sad, bored, excited, disgusted, puzzled, confident, uneasy or frightened.

Even dogs that are not quite as intelligent as some others will still demonstrate emotional body language. Shih Tzu, of course, are very intelligent little dogs and they use movements of the eyes, ears, body and tail as emotional body language. This is also your Shih Tzu's primary means of communication. Researchers are finding that, rather than being limited in their means of expression, animals are attuned to an extremely subtle and refined system of communication.

Wild dogs of Africa were studied by Jane Goodall and wolves were observed by Dr. Michael W. Fox. Both researchers are recognized authorities on canine body language. They found that the animals communicated to each other a wide range of attitudes, including anger, dominance, submission, joy, interest, disgust, dismay, affection and fear – using only the slightest body movements.

Domesticated dogs have evolved throughout time - becoming increasingly comfortable ith human companionship and the domesticated lifestyle. Through this 'evolution' our Shih Tzu may have lost some sensitivity to this subtle and refined language. But it is still true that in their dealings with humans, they still use most of these instinctive, inherited forms of communication. With practice, a sensitive observer with a keen eye can learn to read his dog's body language.

As he becomes more skilled at identifying subtle changes of mood in his pet, his communication and companionship with him will grow deeper and more pleasurable. Obviously this is a worthwhile skill and because it can be learned and sharpened over time every Shih Tzu owner should work toward mastering the skill.

Veterinarians with long experience often read canine body language well, noticing the smallest nuances. Dr. Theodore Stanton, a veterinarian who has practiced now for more than forty years, has become an expert at it. He frequently acts as interpreter for his patients when their owners bring them in for treatment and ask him why their dog is doing certain peculiar things.

“Among Dogs, as among most animals, a hierarchy exists in every group,” says Dr. Stanton.

He goes on to say, “From the most dominant 'top dog' to the lowest 'under dog,' each dog works out with each other in the group which of them will be dominant and which will be submissive. Much of a dog's body language is used in the context of establishing these dominant-submissive relationships with other dogs and also with people.”

A dog uses every part of his body in some way to express his feelings and intentions. The appendage he uses most conspicuously and expressively is his tail.

“You can tell everything by a dog's tail,” explains Mr. Stanton, “He holds it up when he is alert and expecting something. If he has met a strange dog or heard an unusual sound, it quivers a little. He is saying, 'I'm ready for danger; I'm ready for anything!”

The Doctor finishes with, “A tail held very high – almost vertically – or arched over his back says he feels aggressive and dominant, and intends to do something about it if necessary. The dog with his tail tucked tightly between his hind legs is saying, 'I'm scared, and I'm getting out of here!'”

Most of us have seen all of those emotions in our Shih Tzu at one time or another. But it is also important to remember that your Shih Tzu is an individual that may or may not be like the next Shih Tzu. Get in tune with your shih Tzu and learn how to determine the subtle signs he/she demonstrates as a means of communication. Consider joining Just Shih Tzu for much more information about dog psychology, their emotions, health, training, and various other topics.

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