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A Guide to Dog and Cat Body Language

For many, pets are a joyful and enriching part of life. We develop profound attachments to our pets, often considering them our “fur babies” or best friends. In fact, a common wish among children (and adults) is to be able to talk to animals, especially our beloved canines and felines. While we are not able to achieve that (yet!), scientists and researchers have delved into the complex language of dog and cat communication. Dog body language and cat body language is a lot more subtle and intricate than many of us realize. This infographic provides some insight into how dogs communicate and how cats communicate. With better understanding of dog body language and cat body language, we can be more responsible and caring pet owners and be more comfortable at the dog park too!

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A Guide to Dog and Cat Body Language - - Infographic

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What Does it Mean When a Dog Licks You?

The jury is out on what dog licking actually means. While many of us want to believe that it is affectionate, the reality may be that your dog is simply encouraging you to regurgitate some food for them. Research on wolves, coyotes, wild dogs, and foxes shows that puppies lick the muzzle of their mother in order to get her to throw up food from the hunt for them. Another possibility is that they merely enjoy the naturally salty taste of our skin. However, licking may have evolved into a form of affection as humans and dogs have coexisted. Some wild canids lick pack members when they return, so it may be their way of expressing happiness at being reunited. It may give dogs a sense of comfort and security, especially as mother dogs lick their newborn offspring. Another theory is that dogs lick us as a sign of submission.

What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks You?

A cat’s tongue is one of their most versatile tools; the tiny barbs across the surface act as both a grooming comb and a “scrubber” to get every last bit of food off of bones and bowls. Animal behaviorists believe that cat licking may be because they want your attention, they’re “cleaning” you because they consider you a member of their group, they enjoy the taste of your salty skin, or they are showing you affection. Social grooming is a crucial affectionate and accepting gesture between cats, so it is no wonder that cats would bestow the honor upon cherished humans as well.

What Does it Mean When a Dog’s Hackles Are Up?

Are raised hackles always a sign of aggression? No! The cause of piloerection (the scientific term for raised hackles) is a lot more circumstantial than that. Fundamentally, raised hackles indicate a heightened emotional state or emotional arousal. It’s an involuntary reflex, much like how we get goosebumps. Raised hackles may communicate that the dog is scared, excited, insecure, anxious, or angry. It’s important to interpret the dog’s entire body language to determine how your dog is feeling and therefore the best course of action. This guide can help you better understand raised hackles in context.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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