Animal behaviorists can diagnose problems in dogs by watching their body language for subtle signs of stress that owners often miss. Here are a few pointers:
• Study your dog's behavior when a stranger comes to the house or when it encounters a new dog on the sidewalk. "Dogfights happen when one dog is more excited to meet a dog than the other dog is," Old Town Dog Behavior owner Hilary Bolea says. "If I see another dog that's hunched down, holding their breath, that's a bad situation."
• Watch your dog's mouth, and the muscles along its back, for signs of tension. If they're loose, your dog is in a good mood, but if they're tense, your dog is stressed.
• Study your dog to learn what motivates it. "Not all dogs like treats," Yody Blass of Companion Animal Behavior says. "Look for what gets them going, interested, doing things and enjoying life."
• Blass recommends Dognition, a 90-minute series of observational exercises that can help you understand how your dog learns. She plans to incorporate it in her practice.