Jackie Leftwich BSc MSc AMC MMCA FRCC (Animal)
Chiropractor [McTimoney/STR/IAVC] (Qualified to treat humans and animals)
Registered with GCC and RAMP
Telephone: 07738 110570
E-mail: info@watersidechiropractic.co.uk

What Is My Dog Thinking? How can I tell if my dog is in pain and needs McTimoney Chiropractic treatment?

September 09, 2013  |   Canine Chiropractic,Latest Posts   |     |   Comments Off

What is my dog thinking?  How many times do we look at our dogs and think, “if only they could talk”!

There was a time when it was thought by scientists that dogs were ‘dumb animals, incapable of thought’.  I do not know of any dog owner that sees their dog this way.  Dogs seem to have similar emotions to us; they seem happy when a family member returns home, they enjoy playing games and going for walks, they appear visibly scared by certain situations such as thunderstorms/being left alone/being threatened by other dogs, to name but a few.  Dogs have a similar social structure and drive to humans which can help us to understand their behaviour.  They are pack animals and have a strong desire to be with others; when deprived of social contact they may engage in attention-seeking behaviour to force the other pack members (owners) to respond.  Body language and signals play a massive role in the dog as they use these to communicate their intentions and feelings in exactly the same way that we use body language, facial expressions and most of all, speech. 

So looking at your dog’s body language and signals, is it possible to tell what is your dog thinking? 

Barking is designed to draw the attention of others.  Some dogs will bark purely to get the attention of their owners in a ‘look at me, look at me’ fashion.  More often than not, this will get the owner’s attention, be it a positive or negative response from the owner (i.e. ‘good boy’ versus ‘quiet’), any response by the owner will be considered by the dog to be a positive response – they have achieved their aim of getting the attention of the owner.

Tail up versus tail down.  If the dog’s tail is held high, then the dog is confident about the situation at hand.  If the dog’s tail is held low, then generally this indicates some insecurity at this point in time such as the dog is frightened or submissive.  A wagging tail can indicate excitement, but does not necessarily mean that the dog is friendly.

Ears forward versus ears pulled back.  Ears forward mean that the dog is confident or interested whereas ears pulled back usually accompany a lowered tail, i.e. frightened or submissive. 

Dogs employ several strategies to calm themselves (and potential aggressors) in different situations.  These signs can be extremely subtle and are often missed by the owner.  These include yawning, lip-licking, turning the head or averting the eyes, play-bowing, sniffing something on the floor, sitting down or sitting with their back to the situation/owner, walking away very slowly or approaching another dog or individual in a wide arc rather than directly which can be considered to be less confrontational.  Rolling on to their backs leaving the belly exposed means that the dog is totally vulnerable and indicates that the dog sees him/herself as being lower than the other dog or person – there is less chance that an attack is likely to happen to one that lays themselves open so completely.  The dog will often employ this as a strategy to get themselves out of situations.

People often ask me when they bring their dog for chiropractic treatment, how can I tell whether my dog is in pain?  Dogs are very clever at hiding their pain and will often use some of the self-calming signals discussed above.  More obvious signs that a dog is feeling pain or discomfort in a particular area will include not wanting to be touched or stroked in the area that is uncomfortable, chewing at the affected area, looking or staring at the affected area, changes in normal general behaviour, performance or temperament, limb-dragging or an odd irregular gait, crying out when getting up, difficulty climbing up stairs or getting in/out of cars or on/off furniture.  They may also show reluctance to exercise or appear lame.  Any change to your dog’s normal behaviour or temperament can indicate that your dog is in pain and may need some help, be that veterinary assistance or chiropractic treatment.  Animals, like humans, can suffer from back, neck, pelvic and other musculoskeletal problems and injuries.  They can also have underlying veterinary conditions similar to those medical conditions that we humans do.  Animals when in pain can be very sensitive.  The gentle nature of McTimoney Chiropractic for Animals means that most animals readily accept the treatment offered at Waterside Chiropractic and many even really enjoy it.

So do dogs feel human emotions such as pain, jealousy, anger, affection or any of the other emotions that we humans do?  We will never know for certain but they do seem to express similar emotions to us in similar situations!  So love your dog and take into account that they may experience similar feelings to those that we experience ourselves and if your dog suddenly changes how they are, consider that they may be in pain and need some more professional help.

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