Understanding Dogs and Cats

If you are reading this right now…it must mean that you love dogs or cats and want to understand them better?

Why is it important to know how to behave around dogs and cats?

Well…Imagine if you were walking along one day and a stranger suddenly rushed up and gave you a big hug.  You would get a fright and might even be a bit scared right?  This is no different to how dogs and cats feel when we do not treat them in the right way.

Below are some very important things you should know for next time you are around a dog or cat.

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Understanding Dogs

Dogs speak using their own language.  They use things like barking or growling, body language and facial expressions to tell you what they are feeling. All of these signals can easily be misunderstood by us.  Did you know that black dogs are the most difficult to read as you cannot easily see their facial expressions.

•    Be gentle and quiet around dogs, especially ones you don’t know
•    Have respect for dogs
•    Always ask the owner if you can pat their dog before you do
•    Stand still around dogs you do not know, allow them to approach and sniff you before you pat them

•    Sneak up on a dog.  Especially if they are sleeping
•    Tease a dog
•    Stare at a dog for too long, many dogs find this intimidating and may bite
•    Disturb a dog if they are eating
•    Assume a dog always wants to play
•    Run up to a dog that you do not know

Understanding A Dog’s Body Language

A playful dog will have wide bright eyes, ears will be relaxed, tail will be wagging, front end of the body is often lowered to the floor (this is called a ‘play bow’) and he might bark to try and attract your attention to play with him.  Many dogs growl when playing, which can be confused with a scared dog.

A scared dog will have low flat ears, he may be panting and may even growl or bark, tail may be tucked down tightly between his legs.  His body could be trembling and he may try to back away from you and avoiding eye contact by turning his face or body away from you.

An angry dog will maintain eye contact with you through narrow eyes, his mouth has lips apart and drawn back, often teeth will show, his body is tense, tail stiff and hackle (hairs on his back and neck) are standing up, ear’s may be alert and forward.


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Understanding Cats

Cats are very social animals and love being around people. Cats often surprise us with their seemingly unexpected behaviour.  But this is not as unexpected as you may think as cats nearly always give a warning and reason for their actions long before hand.  Learning to understand some of the signals a cat gives you can really help you to understand what the cat is feeling.

•    Be gentle and quiet around cats at all times
•    Have respect for cats
•    Crouch down low to the ground, remain still and let the cat sniff you before slowly moving your hand to pat
•    Use gentle soft strokes

•    Stare at a cat
•    Tease a cat
•    Disturb a cat when sleeping or eating
•    Assume a cat will always want to play
•    Rough handle a cat

Understanding A Cat’s Body Language

A relaxed and happy cat will hold eye contact with you (this shows that she trusts you), tail is relaxed, eyes are narrow (this shows confidence), ears are pointed, forward, upright and alert. She may roll over onto her back to show you her belly.  She may also rub her body or face onto your legs.

A scared cat may crouch down, backs away, tail may be tucked away between her legs, ears are flat and eyes are open and wide and will often look away avoiding eye contact.

An angry cat may back away while arching her back, hair may be standing up, tail is swinging or stitching, mouth could be open and teeth showing, ears are turned back flat against her head and claws could be extended.


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