Dogs give us signals all the time about how they are feeling. We don’t always understand what they mean but they are always being given. 
We often misinterpret them – 1) he’s pulling on the leash, 2) he’s trying to go out the door first, 3) he’s yawning, 4) he’s looking guilty, 5) he’s being aggressive. 
More likely than not, you’re dog is actually saying 1) I want to sniff, you walk too slow 2) the door is open, let’s go 3) I’m not feeling comfortable in this situation, 4) I’ll try to appease you because you sound and look scary, 5) I’m trying to get the scary thing to go away.

We all think we recognize and understand what a wagging dog’s tail means, right? The dog is happy and wants to interact, of course. Not so. A tail wag can happen just before an attack.
Yes, a wagging tail can mean the dog is happy, excited, and friendly and wants to say hi or play. It can also mean – I’m not so sure about you approaching me, I don’t like you, stay away, I want to rumble.
There are many different tail positions including: down and relaxed, horizontal, slightly raised, up and curled (like a cobra), slow wag side to side, a fast wag side to side or tucked under the body. It’s important to know your dog and the way he carries his tail naturally so you can recognize when it’s different. 
The position I watch out for, is a tail curled and raised over the dogs back. That is an indication of arousal and I watch the interaction very carefully. It’s important to look at the dog’s full body in order to get a better understanding of what he may be feeling. Is he stiff or relaxed? What do his ears look like: flat and pulled back, up and alert, open and turned to the sides? What is he doing with his paws? Is one raised? Is he leaning forward, backward, balanced on all four paws? Is his body curved, straight back, rounded?

I think one of the most important skills to learn as a dog owner, is how to recognize some of the basic signals our dogs give us. We don’t all need to be experts and study it in depth. I do think we need to know when our dogs are asking for help.
I see this scenario on a fairly regular basis. Two dogs are running, one chasing the other. The owners are thrilled the dogs are having a great time! They are running around and burning off energy. It’s great!
Not necessarily so. Is one dog being chased? Is the play mutual? Is the dog in front enjoying being chased and having fun or is he trying to get away?
Because of what I do for a living, I am often able to tell if a dog is a willing partner or not. With my own dog, I will call him back to me if I feel play is uneven or he is trying to get away.  I will also ask the other person to call their dog, Often their response is “But they are having a great time. Look at them chasing each other”. I stopped trying to explain why this is not so and simply call my dog. 

What prompted this blog? A walk in the park with a client, her puppy and a chance meeting with a group of dogs out with a walker.  
This young puppy was not comfortable with a group of off leash dogs running up to her for a sniff. Her tail was tucked and she was standing still. I asked the person in charge to call her group back to her explaining she was a puppy. I didn’t want her to feel overwhelmed.
When the reply was “she seems to be doing well”, I knew I had to make sure my client understood the difference between too afraid to move and doing well. 
It was a great opportunity to discuss body language, what to look for, how to ask others to call their dog away and as well as the need to stand up for your dog.
It’s important to have a basic understanding of body language so you don’t have to rely on the interpretation of others.
Some might feel because it’s a dog professional, they must know better than you so if they say it’s okay, it must be. Not necessarily so.
This is not meant to speak poorly of dog walkers but to point out the need for some basic education on the part of owners so they are better able to know when they need to step in. 
There are two great apps available which discuss/illustrate dog body language: Dog Decoder and Dog Park Assistant (Sue Sternberg).
Dog Decoder is easy to use and breaks down signals into various categories using pictures as well as descriptions of what to look for.
Dog Park is a great app to have on you if you are a dog park visitor as it shows various behaviours in video format so you can really see what they look like. 

As a dog guardian it’s your responsibility to protect your dog when the situation calls for it.  Take the time to learn about the signals your dog gives you. Your dog will love you for it.