MIND OF A DOG

(Better Homes and Gardens) Get the scoop behind four common dog behaviors to figure out what your furry friend is telling you:

When your dog yawns
Though yawning can indicated boredom or fatigue, it can also be a sing of stress, especially if she's in an unfamiliar setting. "A yawn has a physiological function in preparing a dog for action. When a dog opens her mouth and inhales deeply, it gives her extra oxygen in case she needs to run or move quickly," says Nicholas Dodman, B.V.M.S., research coordinator for the Center for Canine Behavior Studies in Salisbury, Connecticut. If your dog yawns, especially several times in a row interspersed with licking her lips, try to calm her by talking to her, petting her, or removing her from the situation.

When your dog wags her tail
Wagging can mean your dog is excited or happy; it can also signal fear or mistrust. One way to decode a wag: Look at the direction, Dodman says. If the way swings more to the dog's right, it reflects happiness, more to the left communicates negative emotions like fear or feeling threatened. Speed and position are also clues. A slow wag, especially if the dog has her head down and is blinking or looking side to side, can indicate submission. A tail pointed straight up reflects confidence; a tail tucked under says "I'm afraid."

When your dog tilts her head
She's trying to identify what a sound is and where it's coming from. When the dog tils her head, sound reaches each ear at different times. A head tilt can also mean the dog is trying to tell the difference between familiar phrases like "Go for a ride" and "Go for a walk."

When your dog licks you
Licking is a sign of affection, but it can also be a request for distance. "The dog probably wants to interact but is saying Go slower," says Carlo Siracusa, D.V.M., Ph.D., associate professor of clinical animal behavior at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. For example, if a dog licks you tentatively when you hug her, she's probably thinking, Hey, easy there.

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