Our pets may not be able to talk to us but they definitely let us know how they are feeling with their body language. Animals may feel the need to protect or feel scared and this might change the way they interact with us. It is very important to understand pet behaviour in order for them to feel comfortable and for everyone to stay safe. In this blog we explain how to interpret animal behaviour so that we can understand how our pets are feeling.
Dogs can be a wonderful addition to a family and they are well known for having a loyal bond to their owner. They can provide companionship, fun and give us a good reason for exercise. It is no wonder they are known as man’s best friend. In return, we provide their shelter, comfort, food, water and care. Just like humans, dogs can have off days though, or sometimes react to situations because of previous experiences. Socialisation is particularly important in puppies to introduce people, other animals and experiences and help your pet not to be fearful of these things in the future. It is vital to understand your dog as sadly reactions to these feelings can result in serious incidents or injuries. If your dog is showing signs of worried or angry behaviour, give them space and think about how to avoid them feeling that way again. Take a look at the table below.
· Smooth hair
· Mouth open, tongue may be out
· Ears up or hanging down relaxed
· Normal eye shape
· Wagging tail
· Head held down
· Tail tucked down
· Ears held back
· Yawning and licking lips
· Avoiding eye contact
· Raising a paw
· Head tilted up
· Ears flat or up but tense
· Eye contact maintained and big wide eyes
· Teeth showing with lips held up
· Stiff tail held up
· Growling or keeps barking
It is also important to be a responsible pet owner when out on dog walks or in public. Your dog may be friendly but another dog may not want their friendship. Children may be scared of animals too. To avoid any negative interactions, always know where your dog is, have good recall and if needed keep your dog on a lead. Some dogs require or benefit from muzzling in public. This may be because they will react through fear so be respectful of this. There are many schemes out there highlighting if a dog is reactive or needs space, including yellow ribbons on leads or bandanas being worn. The best way to get to know the dogs in your area, is to keep your own dog under control and if you come into contact with others talk to the owners first. Every dog is individual and we want everyone to be able to enjoy their walks and exercise.
Cats can be loving members of our household. They have such a variety of personalities and some may be very affectionate, some may be playful and some might think they rule the roost. They can also be a mixture of all of these things and more. One thing is for sure though; cats know what they want and show us if they aren’t getting it. Take a look at the table below.
· Ears are in a normal position
· Tail is relaxed, tip may be curved
· Mouth closed
· Tail tucked into body
· Ears pricked up and may be sideways
· Pupils dilated and eyes wide
· Ears flat to the head or held out tense
· Mouth is open and tense. Teeth may be showing
· Limbs close to body or stiff ready to swipe
· Pupils dilated and wide eyes
· Tail tense or swishing
Cats will show their stress in a variety of ways and it can come from a number of factors. Think about the cats in your household or in the neighbourhood. Is there a new cat in the area or in your home? Your cat may not appreciate this but there are ways to help them to readjust. Pheromones or herbal diffusers or increasing the number of dens, feeding stations and litter trays are all ways that can help a cat to feel more relaxed. If your cat is showing anxious or unhappy behaviour, move away and give them space. Let them come to you when they are feeling more relaxed.
Rabbits can make great pets if they are looked after properly. Gone are the days when it was suitable to keep a rabbit in a small hutch. We now understand their needs far better and realise that pairing rabbits with a friend in the right way can make them much happier. It’s also important to give them the space they need to exhibit normal behaviour. Rabbits are prey animals which means they can easily become anxious or feel the need to run away if they are not comfortable. Just like dogs and cats, give them the space to get away and hide if they need to.
Take a look at the table below to get a better understanding of their behaviour.
· Head normal position
· Ears flopping over
· May be hiding
· Head down
· Tense position
· Ears flattened down
· Eyes wide
· Sitting up and with paws in front of body
· Tense muscles and stiff position
· Ears either flat or held up high
· May be vocalizing – grunting or growling
· Wide eyes and maintaining eye contact
· Tail stiff or raised
We hope you have found this blog useful in getting to know your pet’s behaviour. If you need advice about your pet, speak to your vet or ask to be referred to an animal behaviourist.