Second Chance: Canine-speak

Second Chance: Canine-speak

You arrive home from either being gone on a quick errand or a long day from work, the duration doesn’t matter as much as that you are back! You actually came home. My tail becomes a helicopter of excitement and you know without a doubt that I am happy to see you. But there are so many other body cues we dogs send that aren’t so obvious. So for today’s Second Chance Pet Column I am going to give you a few hints into the (not so) secret code of canine body language.



Suzy Strutner, Associate Lifestyle Editor of the Huffington Post, recently published an article on this topic stating:

“It’s important to know how to read your dog’s body language so you can troubleshoot urgent health problems and have the utmost amount of fun with your best friend.”  

Below is what she found to be the meaning behind some of your canine companion’s most common body expressions.

A direct stare from your pooch typically translates into “I want your attention,” although it can also be sign of aggression, so look for other cues too. For example is he staring with his body tensed and head down (sometimes showing he is in pain) or a relaxed body and eager face (please pet me or feed me).

When you make eye contact with your dog, he likely holds your gaze and then looks away as a sign of submission.  But if your dog won’t look you in the eye at ALL, it may indicate that he’s nervous about the interaction, perhaps because he’s been scared of humans in the past or because you’ve recently scolded him. This is a good time to give reassurance and find ways to boost your dog’s confidence.

Yawns are often signals of stress or excitement and you may witness your dog doing this in new situations or among large groups of people. This is a good time to remove your dog from the situation and introduce him more gradually to such scenarios.



The curled lip smile is often the dog parent’s favorite and usually elicits a smile back from our people. We smile for the same reason humans do – because we are happy and content – but also to appease our people. A nice submissive grin goes a long way toward gaining hugs and approval from our people. And there is a softer smile you will witness at times just because we are happy running through a large field on a beautiful day.

Don’t forget the sign for “what the heck are you trying to tell me” – the ol’ cocked head that also makes for cute canine photos. Often this lopsided erect-eared look happens when a dog is trying to understand a new sound or information you are sending them.

Regardless, it is adorable I know…

When working on understanding canine language, it is important to note that your and other dogs signals can translate into multiple meanings and can vary depending on context as well. The tips above can help you get to know your dog better, but don’t make assumptions with dogs you don’t know.

My name is Sassafras the Acrobat (because I will make your heart somersault with joy), but they call me Sassy for short. I am only three-years-young and a very friendly and cuddly cattle dog mix. I am well-mannered and walk gently on a leash. I am also very good at communicating my adoration for people – just adopt me – you’ll see…

(Or for the more demure and subtle forms of communication, you may want to check out Snickerdoodle the 13- week-old playful pussycat).

Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.

Ted Hoff & Mae

Ted Hoff &  Magnificent Mae

By the by, there is no better place to park your pup than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services online:

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