What is my dog saying?

by Susan

What are you doing to me?

What are you doing to me?

I was checking our mini schnauzer's fur for mites when this picture was taken. I didn't know his ears were pulled down until I saw the photo. I wasn't pulling his hair, but I did have my arm over his back, which I believe is a sign of dominance to a dog.

Is my dog telling me he appreciates the attention, he's being submissive, or that he's miffed at me for preening?

I'm inclined to believe he's being submissive.


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Hi Susan and thank you for sharing this picture!

It's a little hard to tell without having the whole scene in action, but here is what I think.

Dogs usually don't like to be hugged. I don't think it's a "dominance" issue. They are just not comfortable because it's a form of restrain. In the picture you have both arms around your dog, so he probably feels a little vulnerable.

I think the fact that someone is pointing a scary camera at him is not helping the situation. So, it looks like he is trying to avoid looking both at you and at the camera at the same time.

Let's read his body language:


  • Looking in another direction could be a calming signal. This type of body cue has the effect of calming the dog itself and sending the message to the other person (or dog) that there are no threatening intentions.

  • His ears are pointing down, as you mentioned. This can be a submissive signal or a sign of stress/fear. In this case I think it's a mix of the two. But he trusts you, that is way he is only showing very subtle body cues that speak of how he feels.

  • He seems to be freezing. Not cold freezing! But as in not moving at all. Animals tend to do this when they are afraid and unsure. Most predators are able to see movement really well, so freezing is a safe mechanism to avoid being seen. In this case it has nothing to do with the situation but because it has an evolutionary history, we still see it today in many animals that are suddenly scared.


Overall I agree with you. Your pet is being submissive but he probably doesn't like the situation either. He trusts that you won't hurt him. I don't like using the term "dominance" or "alpha" because these ideas have been disproved when it comes to family packs. Instead I like to think you are your dog's parent. He trusts and respects you as you do with your own folks.

To avoid stress in your dog while doing any type of grooming activity feed him treats during the process. Let him lick a spoon of peanut butter or "aerosol cheese" and he will be in heaven!

Thanks for sharing what your dog is saying with us!







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Very Cute
by: Anonymous

This is a very nice and interesting information. Keep up the good work.

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My dog doesn't like grooming either!
by: Anonymous

I think my dog is uncomfortable too when I clip his nails. But just like your dog, he sits and patiently waits for me to finish.

Thanks for the dog body language tips!

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