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Does my dog like me? With animal behaviour expert Karen Wild


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by animal behaviour expert Karen Wild writes her regular column.

I saw a meme the other day about lockdown, saying that all the dogs are celebrating as we are meant to stay at home.

To a dog, you hugging them tightly can be seen as scary and confrontational
To a dog, you hugging them tightly can be seen as scary and confrontational

However, I am still getting behaviour referrals for dogs that aren’t, and haven’t been coping when their humans are around. So, let’s ask ourselves the burning question ‘Does my dog actually like me?’

Dogs show affection easily, but it can be hard to spot the signs that your dog loves you.

However, dog body language is actually easy to spot once you know how, so this is a great way to get closer to your best friend.

It feels so good when you see your dog give a full body wag, starting with the tail and swooshing happily side to side with their open mouth and tongue lolling. That’s one of the reasons we get a dog (or more than one).

If your dog likes you, your dog will want to spend time with you.

A stiff tail is a sign that your dog isn’t relaxed
A stiff tail is a sign that your dog isn’t relaxed

If they constantly spend time away from you, and seek out their beds or like to be in another room, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you but it might mean they need their own space.

We should always respect that - and don’t forget to check your dog is actually fit and well if they suddenly start hiding. Poorly dogs avoid contact.

In my work as a clinical animal behaviourist, I look for an understanding between owner and dog.

Strong bonds form over time, but sometimes this relationship can be affected by fear or stress.

A dog that is comfortable with you shows affection with coming to you, licking your hands or face, keeping soft eye contact.

How do you know if your dog isn’t happy with you?

A dog that is comfortable with you shows affection by coming to you, licking your hands or face, or keeping soft eye contact
A dog that is comfortable with you shows affection by coming to you, licking your hands or face, or keeping soft eye contact

Well, if they want you to stroke them, do so for a couple of seconds then stop and see what they do. Do they walk away?

The dog may yawn and look a little tense, their eyes may narrow and they may lick their lips. Their tail may wag but this can be deceptive. A stiff tail is a sign that your dog isn’t relaxed.

How do you know if your dog is really your best friend?

If you already look after your dog’s well-being, give him enjoyable exercise, decent food, and play games, then you have built a nice bond already.

Dogs show their love by being around us and relaxing, so you need to show a similar sign of affection.

Patting your dog hard, hugging them tightly, are not signs that you love him. They can be seen as scary and confrontational.

So, show your dog you love him by giving him space to come to you instead.

Karen Wild can be contacted at karen@pawprintpets.com

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