The Essential Guide to Canine Body Language – Review of Lilli Chin’s Fantastic “Doggie Language”

June 10, 2021
June 10, 2021

Dog body language. The subtle cues our dogs and puppies give us that is their way of communicating – but something that is simply beyond most of us humans.

We people struggle to understand each other when we’re speaking the same language. Is it any wonder we struggle to understand dogs when they speak entirely differently? 

And to make it worse? It’s really hard to explain what dog body language looks like with words! 

Video – well… video is great and was really helpful when I was discussing puppy play – but giving you the exact moment where a behaviour happens? It isn’t actually that easy! Because if you miss the precise moment that I’m referring to.

So… what about using pictures? They speak a thousand words, right? So it should be the perfect way to explain!

So, here’s your solution, a wonderful, small book, that’s family-friendly and teaches you all about the meaning behind what your dog does: Lili Chin’s Doggie Language.

How It Works

I mean it’s a book, so it’s not rocket science. But! It does go through visuals of body language on various breeds highlighting differences, considerations, and works you through the range of canine emotions and how they’re conveyed. Translating dog to human with ease and not to mention that it’s in a wonderful style too! 

The book is broken down into your dogs features (mainly) and a couple of emotions that may get confusing in amidst this – giving you a number of situations, and visual examples for an action. It explains the visual sign and the potential emotion behind the action on one page, and gives the visual reference on the other page.

Why It’s Useful

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Dogs can talk! 

Now, not in the way that you see in a Disney movie (sadly). But they do talk with their body. It’s called Body language. We humans do it too, but ours is less prolific than that of our dogs, because we learned to communicate with words.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs do talk. They talk for every moment of their waking life, if only you know how to interpret it. 

pomeranian being groomed - do you see how this dog is feeling? This pupper is actually stressed!
Pomeranian being groomed – do you see how this dog is feeling? This pupper is actually stressed! Notice the lean away, the panting, the subtle whale eye? Pick up Doggie Language and you’ll see your puppy in a new light…

That’s why I love this book. To me? Body language is a really critical part of understanding your puppy, it’s why I can genuinely say that I am my dogs best advocate – because I know what they’re saying. 

I’ve referenced it a lot on this blog when Body Language becomes a subject, because I don’t feel I can explain it in even a shadow of the way this book does. It’s mentioned in most things I do, because it’s so helpful and accessible for all, allowing you all to understand the body language your dog is showing, and what it means.

Even if I don’t yet know why Lucy’s going “AHH! I’m EXCITED and I’m running around the living room like a crazy puppy” (which is the human version of zooming around the room, with soft eyes, the wiggliest butt in the world, and attempting to knock me over she’s so over the moon), I know she’s excited, and not nervous. As a consequence, I can slowly delve into when those excitements spike in such a way that I can notice a pattern.

If I notice that this happens every time after we’ve been training?

That excitement is actually probably over-arousal! And I need to learn to cut our training slightly shorter and make sure I settle her in for a period of rest, as opposed to leaving her plugged in with no outlet for that energy. 

Do you see what I mean? 

Understanding that emotion, the reason behind the actions will give you a better insight. Body language is a way of understanding, it’s a way of interpreting your dog. And telling apart differences of fear and aggression, anxiety and excitement, stressed and satiated, they all help you become your dogs expert.

A lot of you little problems can start unfolding, if you just understand what the actual emotion is behind the action – and understanding body language is that key.

Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to give you my training experience – but it will give you a little more colour to the picture you’re trying to work out.

The book is so easy to digest too. You don’t have to have a biology degree to understand it, nor do you need to be a dog expert. It’s aimed at the average puppy parent, it’s aimed at giving you knowledge and quick reference. So that you can go, “Oh… weird, Waffles just showed the whites of his eyes when my little nephew came close… what did that mean again?” to quickly look it up, and think to yourself that maybe Waffles might be more comfortable out of that situation, or need some encouragement or management to feel more safe.

Some body language is really obvious, but other times it's less so, what's this little one saying? Do you think he's happy?
Some body language is really obvious, but other times it’s less so, what’s this little one saying? Do you think he’s happy?

Who Is Lili Chin’s Doggie Language Perfect for? 

New puppy parents, rescue dog parents, old or young, it’s never too late to understand the reasons behind your dog does what he or she does. The book breaks it down and even makes it breed compatible – which is a remarkable feat (you might even say rebarkable! Hehe… hey, at least I make myself laugh!) .

It not only works for adults, it works for children too. It’s such a fun book that it will really engage all members of the family.

My Favourite Part

Lili’s illustrations are gorgeous, there’s no two ways about that. Despite being simple, they’re fun and endearing. But not only this, they actually convey what she wants you to see. Despite being simple, two dimensional, flat images, with small labels, commentary and the occasional thought bubble, Chin’s dictionary of dog body language gives insight into dogs like few other books – and certainly none of it’s meagre word content!

This golden retriever is shaking it off - a common sign of releasing stress, he's also showing the whites of his eyes - but context is key here when it comes to body language...
This golden retriever is shaking it off – a common sign of releasing stress, he’s also showing the whites of his eyes – he’s just gotten out of the water and is wet! He’s shaking off the water and is probably very far from stressed! See? Context is key in body language!

The Know The Difference chapter (the last one) helps you combine aspects you’ve looked at in isolation to learn what they mean as a whole, like the fact that a wagging tail can mean a whole host of things depending on how it’s wagging. 

This helps you to learn. This helps you to put things together to form a more complete picture. 

Room For Improvement

If I’m honest? Not much. I’d say I’d like to see more, but that would do it a disservice. The book covers pretty much everything it needs to. I mean perhaps more situational guidance? But then I don’t think this is the realm Lili’s going for, I feel like she’s covered exactly what she needs to to give you the building blocks of a fantastic understanding of your dogs language.

The only thing I would like to see included, is the canine ladder of aggression? These are the ‘steps’ towards a bite, so that puppy parents might see a little more of the gravity of an action that denotes their dog is stressed? But all in all, that’s relatively minor.

Doggie Language by Lili Chin, the pictorial dictionary of dog body language.
Doggie Language by Lili Chin, the pictorial dictionary of dog body language.

The Pictorial Dictionary Of Your Dogs Body Language

I love it, it’s something every dog owner, puppy parent and rescue ranger should have. It’s a wonderful insight and a book I wouldn’t be without. It’s something I put on my reading list for my clients, and it’s something I want more people to get used to as part of their lives with dogs. 

Because the better we understand our puppies, and as they grow to be dogs – the better we can advocate for them, the less likely they will be to end up in shelters, and actually, the easier my job becomes. 

If you think Lili Chin’s Doggie Language will help you and your pup? Go grab a copy on amazon now and become the person your dog thinks you are. 


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