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Last month we talked about reading your dog’s T.E.M.P. I have a chart below that I want to share with all of you so that you can practice reading your dog and maybe other dogs as well.

Signs Your Dog is Afraid or Uncomfortable











Tail tucked

Pupils dilated

Lip licking



Quick frantic wag between legs

Fixated on object


Clingy to owner

Unusual bark/(squeal

Darting-looking for escape

Tight jaw

Stiff body/gait


Can see whites of eyes


Half scratching (not itchy)

Ears flattened



May air snap or bite

Quick, agitated steps

Showing teeth

May pee or poop

Hair on shoulder/base of tail up

How to Help Dogs

Never approach or let your children approach a dog without asking permission first. Even then, use the chart above to make an informed and safe decision for you, the child and the dog.

Some think that having someone pat their dog when it’s stressed is helpful. That’s referred to in science as “flooding”.  It can often backfire and create more issues. If you see any warning signs, the best thing to do is to create more distance for the dog and you. This will help remove the stressor to a safer and more tolerable space. By doing so, you’re helping to reinforce the dog by building their confidence rather than pushing it to react, possibly inappropriately.  Believe what your dog is communicating.  Your dog is usually asking for help in a situation he feels he has no control over. As their guardian, it is your role to always protect their confidence and build that confidence.

Never discipline a dog for growling as it’s his only way to communicate to you should you miss his previous T.E.M.P. signals. The dog is trying to tell you something very clearly. As their guardian, you need to remove them from that situation as quickly as possible.  If you’re not sure what to do about the behavior or what the next steps are, go to a trained behaviorist and ask for help.

Be Present and Know Your Dog’s T.E.M.P.

Regardless of how “trustworthy” you think your dog is, never leave them unsupervised with small children.

Guardianship of a dog means that we are their best advocate and do our best to only put them into safe situations. This means recognizing the signs of stress and responding quickly and appropriately. Never “force” your dog to accept a situation when their giving you clear warning signs of discomfort. Create distance and work away from the distraction where you can reinforce them for good choices and less stress.

Learn to take a dog’s T.E.M.P. as these signs are the only way a dog has to communicate to us their acceptance of a situation.  As parents, take the time to teach your children how to read the signs as well.  It’s very clearly explained with fabulous line art by the author, Lili Chin, in her book “Doggie Language”.  Even a small child can see what the dog is trying to say. I recommend it to all my clients and think it would be a helpful edition in all homes that have a beloved dog  :-3




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