Review of the DogDecoder App – learn how to read dog body language and prevent a dog bite

Review of the DogDecoder App

DogDecoder App icon. Photo:

By Cathy Beer

As a student of the Delta Society of Australia, I’m learning about positive reinforcement dog training methods, dog behaviour and how to read body language and in particular, identify signs of stress.  I recently came across the DogDecoder App in a student discussion.

The App is a tool to help dog owners read their dog’s body language. And, if we can learn to read dog body language we will know when our dog is anxious or afraid and remove them from the situation way before a bite can ever happen.

I explain how it works and give my review of the DogDecoder App with the help from Daisy the Golden Retriever.

The author of the DogDeoder App is Jill Brietner, a dog trainer located in West Coast, U.S.A with almost 40 years experience studying canine body language. Brietner says you can’t truly bond with your dog if you can’t communicate. Brietner designed the App to give the dog owner a rich education in how a dog communicates with its body.

How the DogDecoder App works

Review of the DogDecoder App

Diamond the dog-actor is showing a happy emotional state. Photo: SheWhisperer

Firstly you need to know there are two main sections in the DogDecoder App.  The first is the ‘Body Language’ section, which is designed to introduce you to the many postures that a dog will use to express its feelings.  There are about 60 different ‘postures’, each with a description of the specific features (such as where the ears or tail are pointing), as well as some commentary about the context.  This will help you understand some common pitfalls, and hopefully learn how to understand your dog’s needs very well.

Diamond is your friendly host and trainer. He’s a star dog-actor, and he shows you everything you need to know about canine body language. Diamond will take you through all the details of the dog postures – what’s happening with Diamond’s ears, his head, his tail, his tongue. You’ll see all the different ways Diamond knows how to tell his owner how he’s feeling.

The second area of the DogDecoder App is a quiz.  You’ll be shown five postures and asked whether the dog is nervous or playful, frightened or curious etc.  Have a go and test your dog body language skills!

Review of the DogDecoder App 

I’ve had the good fortune to look after a delightful Golden Retriever called Daisy for a week at my home recently. So, I thought this would be a good time to observe Daisy’s body language and write a review of the DogDecoder App.

Daisy had never been to our place before, so it was no surprise that when she was dropped off she was running around the house and checking out the back garden.  She quickly worked out there were other dogs next door and started to bark and they in turn barked back. I noticed over the next few hours Daisy was drinking a lot of water, panting, exposing her belly and her eyes were blinking.  Her tail was either down or wagging frantically.  I thought Daisy was showing signs of stress but I looked up the DogDecoder App to be sure.  The App says blinking is a calming signal, which means it is used to defuse tension. It might be a sign of appeasement, or anxiety or stress depending on the rest of the body language.  Exposing her belly could also be a form of stress release, request for friendliness. Panting can be a sign of stress, not just heat according to the App.

Within around 24 hours Daisy settled into our home showing no signs of her earlier stress and high arousal. She was relaxed enough to fall into a deep sleep on her bed behind me while I tapped away on my laptop computer.

The next step was taking Daisy for a walk around our local neighbourhood. I didn’t know how she would react to unknown dogs and their owners.  She greeted other dogs by approaching them calmly with relaxed posture, soft closed mouth and a low, gently-wagging tail.  Daisy’s ears were forward and floppy and she looked at the dog with soft, direct eye contact.  The App explained that Daisy’s greeting behaviour was appropriate and her posture was the sign of a confident dog.  If the tail was wagging up high or fast or the tail was still, it would be an indication of anxiety that could lead to aggression.

I found the DogDecoder App is a simple tool that you can use anywhere, anytime via the mobile phone.  The illustrations of Diamond are great and the explanations are easy to understand.  You’ll learn when your dog is stressed, afraid or over-excited, and the difference between aggression and assertive play or what a true confident dog looks like.

Our duty as dog owners is to protect our pets from harm. The more you learn about your dog’s body language, the safer your dog will be, the safer your family will be and the bond you create with your dog will be that much stronger.