Nonverbal Communication with Our Pets
12 December, 2012

Guest Blog by Marie Amsterdam

Sometimes it’s what we don’t say that is heard the loudest.  When you share your life with a dog, cat, or other pet, your actions can speak louder than your words.  Animals are so perceptive that your body language, tone of voice, and inner feelings can be a form of communication.  Here are some ways we speak to our pets without even saying a word.

Dogs can actually smell your fear

If you are scared of a situation or fearful of dogs, they know.  When afraid, your body produces adrenaline which, to a dog, has a distinct odor.  When dogs smell this scent, they immediately know that you are afraid.  While this can be helpful by silently communicating to your pup that you are in danger and in need of protection, it can also act as a signal to an aggressive dog that you are weak.

Never stare directly into a dog’s eyes

In the canine world, eye contact is an act of dominance.  Staring directly into a dog’s eyes immediately communicates to them that you are in charge and an alpha dog may react aggressively.  When meeting a new dog, to avoid any miscommunication, it’s best to avoid his or her eyes.

A smile gone wrong

Greet someone with a smile and it will be viewed as a friendly gesture.  Smile at a dog and you may be greeted with a growl.  Why? A toothy grin can be misinterpreted to be a bearing of teeth which is an aggressive gesture to a dog.  When meeting a dog for the first time, a simple smile works best.

A cat on their back

A purring kitty, stretched out on their back with paws in the air, is communicating that they are happy and comfortable in their environment.  However, approaching a cat in this position should be done with care.  Since this position allows them full use of all four feet to easily grab their enemy, cats will also go in this position when ready to fight.  Unless you know the kitty well, attempting a belly rub may not be the best idea.  Belly rubs could be viewed as an attack and a kitty’s response may not be a positive one.

Birds can react to what you wear

Birds see in color and their reaction to certain colors can vary.  When living with birds, you will begin to notice that they may respond differently depending on the color of clothes you are wearing.  Wearing the wrong color could get a negative response from your feathered friends.  Therefore, you can test different colors to see if that specific color elicits a reaction.

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