Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Curly-tail, pointed-ears: Dog body language

A few months after we brought Zuko home, I was talking with a fellow Shiba owner in the park. We were talking about dog body language and how some dogs seem to spot a Shiba from across the park and instantly hate him or her. Why?

This owner had a theory that dogs with pointed ears and curly tails are sending out on some body language signals that other dogs don't appreciate. I found this great article on dog body language. I thought it was interesting that it showed a pointy-eared dog, so I searched for another one and found this page with some cool diagrams.

Here are my observations though: I have never seen Zuko tuck his tail. Ever. At best, it uncurls a little, but that is in a relaxed state. If he is really in trouble with me and I am projecting "bad dog" energy and using a deep voice, his tail will uncurl a little bit also.  When he was attacked by another dog, his tail wasn't tucked after his butt was handed to him by the bigger dog. He was trembling, giving out the Shiba scream, but the tail was not tucked.

He doesn't wag his tail. Other Shiba owners have referenced this again and again about Shibas and Spitz breeds: the tail doesn't wag and the bottom doesn't wiggle. He only moves his tail for cats and toys and when he goes into a his "play crouch" - front end down, butt in the air. His tail stretches out when he runs - I mean, even a tightly curled tail is effected by the g-forces of a Shiba running! And every now and then I get a slight wag of the tail from him and I get all excited. "Yeah! My puppy loves me!" Of course, it was probably just him passing gas or something but I am going to take it as a tail wag darnnit!

His ears are almost always alert and forward. He's a hunter and curious as heck about the world around him - but, according to typical dog body language, he may be sending the "I'm dominate" message. Or at least not a submissive message. The first article did confirm what I've seen: what they describe for the ear position in the aggression stance is what I've seen him do when another dog runs up to him and is clearly not being friendly. The "guarding stance" - I saw that twice today when people came to the door. I have also never seen the white of his eyes, except on occasion when he's glancing sideways at me to see if I'm watching him.

So - do Shibas (and other Spitz breeds) send off body language signals that they are naturally dominant? Can they not express submission? Just wondering. I'd love to hear other insights.

Oh yeah, "top tuff dog" alright...

--- Posted by Zuko's translator


  1. Hi we have two Finnish Spitz and the older one Simba is nearly 7. He also rarely wags and only does so when hunting squirels or again doing the play bow. His tail also only ever hangs down when he is relaxed. Think it is a spitz thing!

  2. @gurj: Thanks for the info! I think you are right, spitz breeds are pretty stoic and the whole tail thing is subtle! :-) Happy New Year!

  3. My Shiba Inu Hiro is 3 years old. He wags his tail and his behind all the time, especially when he is happy. He is an extremely friendly dog, which I have been told is unusual, but he loves attention from dogs and people.
    He does have a strange bark and he screams, but he is so loving and our house protector!