What your pet is telling you with their body language

Does your pet like to be scratched behind the ears, tickled on their tummy or rocked in your arms?

We might think we know our pets, but a recent study suggests we might have it all wrong as pooches do not want their belly rubbed when they roll over.

Instead they do it to show trust to other dogs and simply put up with humans when we invade their personal space.

Clinical companion animal behaviourist Rosie Barclay said: “You need to understand your pet’s body language and what that tells you about how they feel.

“They do that using the positioning of their ears, eyes, teeth, and body movements. Once you understand and can read how your pet is feeling, it’s up to you to find what your pet likes.”

Here Rosie shares some of the most common misconceptions.

DOGS: “Humans are huggers,” said Rosie.

“They tend to go to the back of a dog’s neck for a scratch.

“But that can be quite threatening because if dogs were to fight, the neck is one of the main areas they would go for.

“Having someone they don’t know lunge towards them and touch them in such a sensitive area could be difficult for a dog.

"The onus should be on the owner to ask a stranger to stop if their dog is uncomfortable.”

CATS: “We’re sometimes guilty of too much touching,” she said. “Cats are not social animals like dogs – they’re more independent. The misconception here is that all cats are cuddle kittens. They’re not.

“It’s trying to understand what the animal is saying to us,” she said, adding that rolling over, putting claws out and a twitching tail can be signs of discomfort.

RABBITS: “Being picked upside down, rocked and ‘tranced’ are the most common things rabbit owners should not do,” Rosie said. “They are not relaxed – just playing dead. Stress levels are up.”

HORSES: “When catching a horse in a field, people shake buckets of feed at them,” she said. “Instead of just doing it when you’re trying to catch them, go into the field and have a chat with your horse.

“Just be with it and not always catch it, so it sees you as a nice person rather than just someone who catches it.”

HAMSTERS, GERBILS, CHINCHILLAS: “Get them used to being handled at an early age otherwise they bite,” Rosie said. “Use gentle, smooth movements so they get used to people – instead of hands appearing out of nowhere to take them out of the cage or to the vets.”

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