Reading a Dogs Body Language The Bite Emotion

You gotta love YouTube, here’s another video I saw sometime ago and recently found again, that’s important for you to see. Reading a dogs body language is nice if you can do it, but reading a dogs emotions is the key to stopping all unwanted behaviors.

The dogs emotion precedes the easily observable body language. When you watch this video what I want you to pay close attention to is the dogs eyes, this is where you can read the dogs emotions before you see the body language.

This video is 2:58 long, I would like you to watch the video in it’s entirely first. Then watch it again, and pause it at 32 seconds into the video and take a close look at the dogs eyes. This animal is clearly not comfortable with this reporter that close to him. If you look at the K-9 officer at that the same time, the officer is looking at his dog yet this trained animal professional couldn’t tell that his dog was uncomfortable and it was just a matter of time before he bit the reporter.

This is clear by listening to the officer describe the events leading up to the bite. He said “Pedro (the K-9 dog) was doing great, everything was fine and as it should of been”. This is not a criticism of the officer, this is meant to educate you in how to read a dogs emotions. If this trained animal professional missed it, you can be sure that most likely your going to miss it also. This is where the saying “the dog bite came out of nowhere” comes from. We didn’t read the dogs emotions of  “please get away from me or please stop it your making me nervous”. While some dogs still will not bite you after having this look in their eyes, many other dogs will.

Back to the video for a second, pretty much the entire time that the reporter is next to the dog the dog doesn’t want him to be there. And when the reporter leaned over to kiss the dog, the dog finally freaked out and bit him. The dog bit him not because the reporter leaned over him in what is commonly described (erroneously I might add) as a dominant position. The dog bit him because he held it together for as long as he could before losing it and saying “get the f♦ck away from me”.

Please pay attention to the dogs eyes, this is the same exact look most dogs give before biting either a person or another animal.

The Spirit Dog

Copyright © 2009 A.S.Papszycki

19 Responses

  1. Excellent Claudia,

    The reporter, probably doesn’t have a lot of dog savvy and was more interested in the camera. The one that should of known better, was the handler. And your correct this wasn’t an aggressive dog attack. But it is very important for dog owners, children and people in general to understand, to understand and be familiar with the body language and loom in the eyes, of a dog that’s about to bite. Thank you for your comment.

  2. At 34 sec.of the clip there blends a clearly misinterpretation ,the reporter makes eye contact for the 2nd time(and that seen on the clip as who knows how he originally approached the dog on arrival which is not taped,that probably was all wrong too).That eye-contact was the trigger that rendered the final attack.It was just a matter of time for it to happen.Actually I don’t consider this an “attack” as such but a message ,a dog-phrase as explained in the article.

    Excellent article.

  3. I’m sorry for taking so long to answer you Skipper. What you always want to look at, is the dogs eye’s. The eye’s tell you everything you need to know about a given reaction.

    Thanks for the question.

  4. I noticed the dog ears back and licking his lips moments just before.I’m a dog person and I don’t see the emotion you’re talking about. The only part that was obvious to me that the reporter should have backed off is just before the bite, the dog’s body language was clear, it was saying “get away”.
    Can you describe the emotion that was evident to you that was saying get away? Do you mean because the dog was giving direct eye contact?

  5. Hi Karen,

    The muzzle is a great way to eliminate any potential bites while you guys are trying to modify your dogs behavior. As long as that’s your only problem with your dog, getting too excited on walks when he sees other dogs, the muzzle can also be your long term solution. To get dogs to listen to us regardless of the situation, we have to learn how to get the dog to listen to us for everything or expose the dog so much to whatever gets him excited that he gets used to it. But you would have to get real lucky for that alone to help without us learning how to get him to pat attention.

    Even if I was a gifted enough writer to adequately explain to you what you needed to do to accomplish what you would like, it would still be to very difficult without me observing you and guiding you through the training process.

    The muzzle you can do forever, otherwise hopefully you can find a trainer in your area that is worthy of being called a dog trainer / behaviorist. I wrote this post in the hopes of being able to help people find a professional that could actually help them understand their dogs better.

    Good Luck

  6. my granddaughter is 14, and her sister is 5.She is a loving dog owner and is not in any way bullying with the dog The only restraintis the dog’s normal leash ( which is narrow because of the size of the dog’s neck and head.)
    I am concerned that other young children in the family are at risk.

    My short term solution is to muzzle him, but what next?

  7. Hello Karen,

    Tracy is on the right track with her comment, kind of, but it’s actually much more simpler than that. When some dog gets very excited for whatever reason, they will bite whatever is closest to them. Doesn’t matter what it is, another dog, a cat, a person, anything.

    How old is your granddaughter, because that’s going to have a lot to do with the type of advice I give you.

    Have a happy holiday.

  8. Karnakthegr8-
    Without knowing the full context of the situation(s), for example, where they are when this happens, the freqency, the dog’s health, the type of restraint used, etc… I think the aggression the whippet is showing is not aimed at your granddaugter. The dog becomes agitated by seeing a strange dog, or whatever else it is that day, but since it can’t reach the dog, it may redirect its aggression toward your granddaughter, a stranger, a friend, etc, whatever is closest. I’ll defer to the Spirit Dog, but I’d consider a qualified obedience trainer at this time. Without help, your are setting the dog up for failure (another bite). If you take the companion dog away, the problem still exists. Good luck!

  9. Hi, i have a granddaughter who has been bitten twice , while walking her Whippet ( a usually docile dog).Each time it was when her dog spotted another dog in the distance and wanted to “tear it apart” .The aggression was towards the dog but her dog turned and bit her viciousely , because she was restraining him on the leash. He was always docile and he was such a nice dog they decided to get him a playmate (female whippet) and now his behaviour has changed. (They are both spayed and neutered)
    What is the reason for this behaviour.
    What advice is out there? I’m afraid the 3rd time could be even worse,He bit her arm once 2months ago and her thigh this week.

  10. Al,

    Wow that was a fast reply – thanks. What I saw in the video was eye-opening! Just like the video with the Shep, Missy tried to give Caida a warning with the head stiff and lowered slightly and avoidance of eye contact. Unfortunately, Caida didn’t get the message and it Missy had to send it! Great stuff.


  11. Hi Tracy,

    ‘Humpty Dumpty’, that’s great. The problem is ear and tail positions can be very deceptive, where as the eyes never lie. Forget about pupil dilation as that only changes with the available light, like you said your looking for that fixed stare with a closed mouth.

    Check this out and tell me what you see.


  12. Hi Al,

    To start – I am a volunteer at the Woodbridge NJ Shelter and want to thank you for homing Stitch (aka Humpty Dumpty). He is a great guy and I know his buddy Bear will teach him the way.

    I am just reading through your blog and this piece grabbed my attention (better late than never). I do some re-training and proofing with shelter dogs and can honestly say I would have taken the cue from the dog’s ears and not its eyes. Here’s the rub: my own rescued Pit Bull and lots of other rescue Pits in NJ have their ears cut off – not cropped – CUT OFF by thugs for fighting and baiting. Not being able to see a dog’s intended ear position is an obstacle. What I am looking for in their eyes? Is it the fixed stare? Pupil dilation?

    Thanks much and happy holidays!

  13. Holy cow! That’s definitely an eye opening experience (little pun intended). Nice video from youtube. But seriously, I hadn’t really thought about from the standpoint of reading their emotions in addition to their body language. I guess it makes sense just like with humans….

  14. Hey Jenn,

    A dog doesn’t have to bite you to leave marks, he just has to hit you with his teeth. It would be like someone smacking you with a board that has nails sticking out of it, you would have similar results.

    Regulations wouldn’t help out that much, a lot of trainers have some sort of quasi official certification. Some of these trainers may actually be good with dogs, while others will not be that good.

    So what;s going on with Ralphies neck ? What did the vet say it was or did she just suggest the prednisone.
    Steroids are great for some things and pretty much useless for others.

    And are you positive it is his neck that is bothering him. Obviously you already checked for any swelling or wounds, correct ?

    Let me know.


  15. Yes, I DID notice the eyes, the ears and he (dog) was shrinking back from the guy. from the get-go. I also thought it looked like there had been very little contact from the dog. If he wanted to he could have made a few holes.
    About trainers thinking they know dog behavior…too true, sadly….why isn’t there more regulation, a required license or something like that?
    Our guys are OK,, except Ralph has been having pain in his neck. He screams, not cries, when he moves his head a certian way. He started steroids on Mon., low dose didn’t help, now he’s on 10mgs twice a day. I saw a tiny bit of improvement today. Vet, whom I trust, said we should have seen rapid improvement from roids. I called her this AM to ask for something stronger. Can you suggest something?

  16. Thanks Jenn,

    Very good, you get a gold star !! It was over before the trainer yanked the dog away. Part of the problem you run into is trainers equating an ability to train a dog to perform certain tasks, as an ability to understand dog behaviors.

    But did you notice the dogs eye’s ? The eye’s are always a clear give away as to what the dog is thinking. Anybody that is really good with animals doesn’t have to have previous experience with a dog to be able to understand that animal.

    What I really got a kick out of was the animation of the dog attack. The only time you can have a dogs incisor marks ( the scrapes that were shown on the forehead in the animation) is if the k9 teeth had sunk in. And that usually only happens on the fleshy parts of a human body, although that bite on the video wasn’t viscous enough to have sunk in anyway. That was just a get away from me bite.

    How you making out with your guys ?


  17. Great example, Al. You are right, the trained professional was totally unaware of his dog’s warning signs. And to make it worse, he doesn’t seem to have learned anything…even IF leaning over a dog was an aggressive posture, shouldn’t he have been aware of that and told the guy to back off? The least he should have done was to see the dog’s emotional clues and do something.
    The report made it sound as if the “quick thinking of the officer” prevented a worse attack. It looked to me as if the dog struck, then backed off. Is that what you saw?

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