Client handout: Canine body language

June 5, 2019
Amy L. Pike, DVM, DACVB

Dr. Pike graduated from Colorado State University in 2003 and was commissioned as a captain in the US Army Veterinary Corps. She is chief of the Behavior Medicine Division at the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia and a member of the Fear Free Advisory Committee.

Share this information with veterinary clients to help them look for signs of fear, anxiety and stress in canine patients in and out of your veterinary clinic.

When Ariel loses her voice in Disney's The Little Mermaid, Ursula the Sea Witch reminds her that she still has the power to influence Prince Eric without it. Ursula could easily have been talking to us about one of our patients when she said [insert smarmy tone here], “Don't underestimate the importance of body language.”

Companion animals “speak” mostly with their bodies, often relaying very little with their vocal cords. When we miss-or worse, misinterpret-our patients' nonverbal warning signals indicating that they're uncomfortable or worried, we can set ourselves and our staff up for a potential bite. If those of us in the veterinary profession are unable to interpret body language appropriately, how can we expect our clients to be able to understand their pets? We merely need to open our eyes and be good observers of our patients to understand what they're trying to tell us.

Now, you can share the veterinarian and veterinary team member advice I shared in a 2018 American Veterinarian article on dog body language with your veterinary clients. Click here or on the image below to download this handout.