All Dogs Are Not Your Dog

When using dog body language to understand your dog or the dogs around you, it is really important to remember that your dog is an individual. While dogs in general may generally use given behaviour for a given reason, your dog may have his or her own reason for doing it. For instance, sneezing is often used as a calming signal to let show that the sneezing dog is not a threat, but my dog Max also uses it to make sure that people and other animals know he's there. He is especially likely to do this with me if I am ignoring him. Part of this is because I reinforce calming signals that other dogs are likely to recognize and even put them on cue, but part of it is just his personality.

While body language is an important communication method for dogs, it isn't just black and white fill in the blank communication. Just like us, there is subtlety and different "words" have different meanings from one dog to another and one place to another.

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