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ali-t 01-14-2010 06:20 PM

interpretation of tongue flick
I have been doing some reading and studying of my dog's body language in light of a recent event where I didn't read his body language and pre-empt his behaviour (this is covered on another thread).

Anyway I am now confused about a particular behaviour he does and the interpretation of this in some of the books I have read. When he is being petted (often the head, chest or shoulders) he flicks his tongue out slightly so only the tip is showing. It is quite a slow action but not very pronounced and very unlike a large tongue flick where the tongue might touch the nose.

My staffy does a large tongue flick when a camera is pointed at her and my rott boy does very small ones regularly. I have also spoken to one of my neighbours with malamutes and we tested it out on them and my rott boy is the only one who does the mini tongue flick when petted. the only other person I know of with a dog who does this is another rott.

All the books I have read point to this being a stress indicator and a warning. the dog is unhappy and sending out a signal for the approaching things (person/dog etc) to back off.

I am wondering if this is the case with rotts or if the tongue flick is just a rottie trait? Does anyone have any experience of this behaviour and what is their interpretation of it? Is it possible that he just doesn't like being touched?

Jaegersmom 01-15-2010 02:54 AM

Re: interpretation of tongue flick
It's really hard to say without seeing the Rottie.

What other body expressions is going on. It may be stress, or it may be that he's absolutely enjoying himself and it's just a reflex motion (think the shaking back leg when being scratched). I have a cat that does this if you scratch her bum, but I've never seen it in dogs.

LunaBelle 01-15-2010 07:27 AM

Re: interpretation of tongue flick
By "flick"? do you mean just sticking the tip of the tongue out, so it protrudes a little bit through her lips, and keeping it there? Or does he move it/lick? If it's just sticking out, Luna does it too. There's a picture of it in the gallery, here's the link: Does it look similar to what you're talking about?

She used to do it frequently as a pup, and it was usually done when she was very sleepy or lazy. Sometimes she would stick it out in her sleep, like in the picture, it is just too cute for words! For her it is a sign of sleepiness and contentment, definitely not stress.

ali-t 01-15-2010 03:22 PM

Re: interpretation of tongue flick
Lunabelle, that picture is exactly what she does. Her best buddy playmate is also an English bull terrier like your picture! Like I said in my post this is presented in all the books as a stress or anxiety response and often that a tongue flick is a precursor to a bite.

As I'm sure you can imagine this has been freaking me out a bit as he does it whenever he is petted and I was unsure if he was going to give me a warning to back off. It is reassuring that both yourself and Jaegersmom have experienced this behaviour as a positive (as I also did before I began reading about body language).

Perhaps it is just a rottie trait as both of his parents were big lickers and the breeders rotts would join forces to lick the sliding patio doors open. Now THAT was impressive!

bliss7373 01-15-2010 04:05 PM

Re: interpretation of tongue flick
It really all depends on context. My Sofia would let the very tip of her tongue stick out when I was giving her a good butt scritch. She wasn't "flicking" her tonge and the rest of her body language was relaxed and happy.

If I saw a dog flicking it's tongue, accompanied by any signs of stress or worry (look at the ears, the posture, the corners of the mouth, the eyes)....then I would most certainly take it as a sign of anxiety.

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