What’s your Dog’s T.E.M.P.

As a Dog Trainer, I get asked a lot, “How do I get my dog to not jump on people?” If you’ve read my past two articles, you may have an idea of where I’m heading with this…

Because I compete in Agility, I DO want my dogs to jump. AND… I’ve also taught them to jump on me… by invitation. For me, it has purpose, but this article is for those of you that don’t want that behavior.


You don’t have to be a professional dog trainer to teach this. Knowing what you want your dog to DO, is all you need. As we’ve discussed previously, most train from a mindset of “Don’t.” Don’t jump on me, bark, bite, chase, etc. Dogs understand DO.

"T" is for Tail.

A wagging tail isn’t necessarily a good thing. You need to look at how the tail is wagging. With some dogs it looks like their whole body is wagging or some tails look like a helicopter and wag in a circular motion. That’s a happy dog! A tail that’s held very stiffly and high on the dog’s body and wagging, could indicate the dog feels threatened. A very tucked tail usually means some sort of stress. A tail that’s held low between the back legs, wagging frantically, shows a possibly nervous dog. A slow and lazy wag along with other good body language is generally a good indication of confidence and comfort.

"E" is for Eyes.

If a dog’s eyes are full and bright, that’s a good thing. If you see the whites of their eyes at the bottom, not so good. Take a look to see if the dog’s eyes are dilated, narrow, small, or big. Light may have something to do with this, but a narrowing of the eyes is more intentional. Maybe they’re darting from side to side or looking for an escape? Or are they locked onto a target and staring? If you see eyes that are almost closed to a slit, this may be a good sign that the dog is being submissive and possibly worried.

"E" is for Ears.

All dogs have a different ear set but you can see all the different emotions in them regardless. You can see alertness in ears held high or if one ear is up and one is back, the dog is listening to something behind. Ears that are pinned or flattened on the top of the head is often a sign of worry or fear.

This is not a confident or comfortable dog.

When ears are turned to the side of the head and turned in a little with the dog showing slit eyes, that is submissive behavior.

"M" is for Mouth.

Listen to the dog! If your dog is growling, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s aggressive or angry. Many dogs growl while playing. Now, a dog that’s growling and showing the whites of his eyes or staring or with pinned ears, is not a good combination. That is a dog that’s not happy with the situation. Listen to the growl!

"p" is for Posture:

Dogs that are relaxed will show a whole-body wag and the ears will be up and confident along with a soft and happy mouth. A dog that appears stiff and fixated or has the hair on its back standing up along with a high tail, has some concerns. A dog who is crouching low with possibly a tucked tail is worried. If they’re showing submissive behavior, they may crawl and even turn sideways with a frantic body wag. A puppy will show this behavior when they’re unsure but want to try to engage with you.

See the big picture. Our dogs communicate in many ways and these are just a few of the ways they do so. Mentally sound dogs are going to give you information in a predictable way. A dog that is in pain may give you a growl because they hurt and want to be left alone. It doesn’t mean they want to bite you. A trip to the vet might change all that. When your dog tells you what’s going on with them, believe them! Always protect their confidence and take their T.E.M.P.

Leave me a comment at delany2000@gmail.com and let me know what your dog’s T.E.M.P. is!

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