By definition, cower means to move back or bend your body down because you are afraid. Many people associate a cowering dog with a dog that was abused. This is one of those myths that is just not true. There are various reasons for dogs cowering, and not all of them are because a dog was abused. Commonly, the dog was not properly socialized or had negative experiences during her prime socialization period as a puppy. Genetics can also play a role in the fearful dog. Other reasons for a dog to duck away might be that she has learned to dodge people who try to grab her collar, or she is uncomfortable with petting, such as having her ears handled. Unfortunately, well-meaning strangers often approach dogs by bending over the top of their heads and reaching down to pet, which will send timid dogs into a cowering position. A better way to approach is by getting into a kneeling position, with your body turned toward the side, and then inviting the dog to approach you. If you practice this method, it will be less likely to cause a canine to cower. Here is a handy chart to help you read your dogs body language.
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