Dog Body Language (Mouth: Lip Licks and Tongue Flicks)
Dogs are social creatures and as such they have developed a unique communication system.
Let’s observe the facial features of the dog pictured above. Her ears are pulled back, we see some facial tension, her pupils are dilated and the corners of her mouth are slightly pulled back, and she is licking her nose.
Not surprisingly, many dogs lick their noses when a camera is pointed directly at them. Dogs tend to perceive direct eye contact and a stare as threatening & uncomfortable.
When displaying a Lip Lick or a fast Tongue Flick, your dog might be trying to calm herself down, or calm another person or dog out of the camera's reach.
For a dog, personal space is of great importance, and as such, Lip Licks & Tongue Flicks can be used as an indication of a personal space violation. These signals can be used for negotiating space, indicating stress, or as a display of an early warning.
Pay attention to your dog the next time you walk by another dog, or when another dog stares right at your dog, when your dog feels cornered, when she is in a close proximity with unfamiliar people, when being hugged by you or a child, when you or someone else reaches right over her head, etc.
How does your dog react? What signals did you observe? How did the other dog react?
Being able to recognize the subtle ways dogs use their bodies to communicate will allow us to understand them better and to truly honor what they are trying to say.