Once upon a time, a bunch of prehistoric horror-wolves realized that the clumsy species of spear-flinging monkeys they were snacking on would trade belly rubs and a place by the fire if they occasionally mauled something on command. Since then, man and canine have peacefully waltzed together through the annals of time. Thanks to this relationship, most people think they’re pretty good at understanding dogs: when a pup wags its tail, it’s happy; when it whines, it’s unhappy. That’s why we love dogs — they actually have something like human emotions (unlike cats, who feel only cold contempt, all the time).
5. “He’s wagging his tail! He must like me!”
We realize that this is an uphill battle if there ever was one. After all, the tail wag has equaled “happy” for so long, it is hard to accept it as anything but that; it is an association deeply ingrained in human nature.
And yeah, it might be that. But don’t assume that a strange dog is friendly just because it seems to be doing its best to achieve liftoff with the sheer force of its tailspin. There’s a chance that could be its way of frantically screaming “Fuuuuuuuuck oooooofffffff!” at the top of its lungs while somehow simultaneously flipping you off with all paws at once.
The tail can send a bunch of different emotional signals, depending on the kind of wag. For instance, look at the height of the tail — if Spot is holding his tail up high, he’s warning you. The motion is meant to be seen from far away, so it’s kind of the equivalent of raising his voice (“Yeah, there’s a big badass dog over here, back that shit off, son!”). If the tail is a little lower, he’s more calm. If he’s keeping it down near the “between the legs” position, he’s scared.
Then you also have to consider the direction of the wag. A dog wagging its tail more to the right has noticed something it is cool with and would like to approach. However, if the wagging is switched to the left, it indicates anxiety. All of these nuances of wagging can convey a wide spectrum of different emotions to other dogs from a safe distance. So, yeah, a simple switch of direction can change your dog’s message from a loving “yo, I love you, dawg” to a frantic “your stupid monkey face is literally stressing me out, you revolting butt. Come closer and I might freak out.”
4. “He’s looking right into my eyes! We’re really connecting!”
There are few things in this world that are more endearing than a puppy’s stare. Its moist, huge eyes follow you around, inviting you to lock gazes so it can express its unconditional love as it looks directly in your eyes … and ponders if it should kick your ass.
This is an extremely easy mistake to make, because for a human, eye contact can be a very intimate and friendly signal. As such, it can seem perfectly appropriate to lock eyes with a pooch in a “we’re in this together, buddy” kind of way. It’s too bad that a dog views eye contact as a threat, to the point where they tend to avoid this completely when interacting with their own kind. Yes, members of a species that have no problem eating poop in public will avoid eye contact like the goddamn plague, and not just because they know the other dog just saw them eat the poop and they probably have it all over their face (fun fact: a “shit mustache” actually makes you cool among dogs; ask any expert).
So when a dog finds itself staring at a human who looks back, it will give them either a direct stare or what’s known as a whale eye. It’s important to know the difference, if you don’t like going to the emergency room with openly bleeding dog bites:
The direct stare tends to involve close proximity and visible tension in the face. As harmless and cute as it may seem, it is recommended that you look away, as this is your dog doing its best to signal that it’s not a threat and everything’s cool so would you kindly fucking stop eyeballing, pretty please? As for the whale eye, it usually occurs when the dog is defending an item or location, and consists of an indirect stare where the dog does not meet your gaze but instead looks out of the corner of its eye, making the white of the eyes visible. The whale eye is generally a signal that the dog is not only seriously uncomfortable but may actually be preparing to bite.
Overall, if you even think there is the slightest chance of a threat, disengage. And for the love of Roosevelt, do not start any staring contests.
Original by Cracked