Dog Body Language (Eyes: Look Away)
This body signal is versatile and can be used in a number of different scenarios. In order to decode the meaning of it, we need to look at the situation as a whole.
Let’s start with a few important observational questions!
Is the dog holding any tension in her face? Is the mouth open & relaxed; or closed? Are the eyes looking in the same direction the nose is pointing at? What is the position of the ears — are they pointing forward; looking relaxed; or pulled back and down? Is her body looking relaxed and happy; or can you notice some tension? What is the position of the tail — held up and over the dog’s body; half-mast and relaxed; or is it down or tucked between the dog’s legs?
Observing your dog’s body in this manner will give you an idea of the dog’s overall emotional state.
Signaling Friendly Intentions
Mouth: open, no tension in the jaw.
Eyes: soft gaze; eyes pointing the same direction as the nose.
Ears: floppy and held with no tension; or slightly back.
Tail: relaxed; held at body height or a bit higher.
Body: no tension.
If your dog is approached by another dog and they both Look Away in a relaxed manner they mean “I am no threat” and the Look Away signal can be used as an invitation to come into their personal space to play.
Face: some tension.
Mouth: closed; could be panting; could be combined with another signal, such as a Lip Lick or a Tongue Flick.
Eyes: still pointing the same direction as the nose; could show the whites of the eyes (Whale Eye); possibly furrowed eyebrow.
Ears: held with some tension; down; held back.
Tail: held with some tension; could be lower than body height, or between legs.
Body: some tension.
If your dog is stressed, she will often look in the opposite direction of the stressor. This can be read as “Avoidance”.
If someone invades your dog’s personal space, and it makes the dog uneasy, she will use a “Look Away” to communicate that.
Face: some tension; head could be lowered.
Mouth: closed; tension in the jaw.
Eyes: eyes hard/staring directed at the threatening/approaching party + nose is oriented away from the eye direction.
Ears: ears held up, flattened or drawn back.
Tail: held with some tension; could be higher/lower than body height, or between legs.
Body: some tension.
Your dog may have an object that she’s guarding, or she could express a warning that the human/animal is invading her personal space. It is important to assess the amount of tension your dog is holding in her body, as well as look out for moments of Stillness. Sudden Stillness almost always ends up in some sort of sudden release - an explosion of activity. In such situations, you can expect an emotional Reaction, rather than a thoughtful Response.
It is important to carefully observe your dog in order to determine her intention. Is she Friendly; is she trying to Avoid someone; is she expressing Concern in regards to her space; or Guarding something? Becoming aware of how your dog communicates through her body language is the key to a healthy, happy & respectful relationship with your dog.
Some of the information was taken from Brenda Aloff’s wonderful book “Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide”. It’s a must read for any dog owner and pet professional striving to “speak dog”. You can get your copy here.