The wolf’s visual signals consist mostly of body language. Just as humans and dogs show their emotions through various facial expressions, so too does the wolf. This is one reason why a wolf’s mask emphasizes facial features so greatly. Humans smile when they’re happy, and our dogs assume a “happy face” at times. The wolf and dog happy expression includes an open mouth, tongue hanging loosely, and ears forward. The emotions that are expressed through body language are suspicion, threat, anxiety, and submission. Threat behavior is quite different. The threatening animal – dog or wolf – wrinkles its nose, opens its mouth, bares its teeth, pulls its lips forward, and erects its ears. Usually this expression is accompanied by a growl or a snarl. The anxious dog or wolf on the receiving end of the threat puts on a very different face. It keeps its mouth closed and its lips drawn way back, lays back its ears, and whines. One of the most useful expressions of an alpha wolf is the “fixed stare,” or glare. Often, all an alpha has to do is stare at a subordinate wolf, and that animal will immediately cringe, turn, and slink away. The glare is an alpha’s way of controlling subordinate pack members. A wolf or dog also uses certain tail and body positions to communicate. For example, a threatening wolf not only snarls and bares its teeth, but also raises its hackles and tail and essentially inflates its size. Conversely, the wolf being threatened pulls its lips back in a defensive “grin”, lowers itself, holds its tail between its legs, and may even roll over on its side or back, trying to make itself look smaller. However, many of us think of communication only as talking or writing to each other. Those are two good ways to communicate that humans use every day. How do wolves communicate? Well, even though they can’t talk or write, wolves communicate in many ways;
Body language is a tool of communication for the wolf. Just as a human has postures and gestures that express our intentions, and feelings the wolf also uses body language to communicate.
Dominant postures may include a partly erect tail, walking with the head held high and their eyes will be directed straight towards other wolves. They may also show raised hackles, they may also side-swipe or slam into the subordinate members of the pack. They may also growl, showed bared
teeth, a wrinkled forehead, and their ears may stand up.
The dominant animals usually are first to eat at a kill, will urinate standing up with a raised leg. They will also be the first to attack in encounters with other packs or predators. Sometimes they may “ride-up” on a subordinate. To “Ride-Up” is to place the forelegs across the shoulders of a subordinate.
Subordinate postures include lowered tails, a lowered body position, an exposed throat, small steps towards more dominant members, a peeling back of lips, ears folded back and they will urinate crouching or even on themselves. They may also raise a hind leg to expose the groin area.
Here are some other examples of Body postures:
* Ears straight up and bare their teeth shows anger.
* Rolling on the back also shows submission.
* Squinting the eyes and ears pulled back shows a wolf is suspicious.
* Flattening the ears against the head shows fear.
* Dancing around and putting the front of its body down, while leaving the back part up in the air shows a playful wolf.
Play is a major part in the lives of the wolf. Wolf pups learn skills that will help them throughout their lives with hunting, and communication skills. Hierarchy within the litter can also be determined through play. The more the wolf pups play the stronger they become. There are many reasons for play within the wolf pack, one of the most apparent reasons for play: fun.
The wolf, like other canines, signal play with the gesture knows as the “play bow”. The wolf drops into a crouching position, wagging tail and a slight but apparent grin on the face. Wolves seems to enjoy play very much. Often engaging in games of tag, chase and wrestling matches with other pack mates.
Communication through Scent
Canines have more olfactory receptors than humans. The olfactory receptors are organs located in the nose that are responsible for smell. A wolf uses smell to locate members of the pack, food, and intruders. Research has shown that wolves can detect smells up to 3 kilometers. Wolves also use their sense of smell as a means of communication. Wolves mark their territory with feces and urine, when wolves enter a territory that is not their own they can smell the “scent markings”. This tells them that the area is already taken by another wolf.
Communication through Sound: The wolf howl
One of the ways wolves communicate is with their voices. There is no sound that I know that compares with the beauty and strength of a howling wolf. There are many theories as to why a wolf howls. Wolves can howl at any time of the day not just at a full moon. Although it is believed that a pack may be more active during the full moon because of the additional light. Howling serves many purposes but no one knows all of the reasons a wolf howls. A single wolf howling can sound like 3 or more wolves howling. Howls can change in length and seldom a wolf stays on the same note while howling, this gives the howl a harmonic effect also called “shift pitch”. A group howl usually starts with a few sharp barks, followed by a low howl that gets louder as
the other wolves join in. Wolves also bark to warn other pack members of danger or to challenge an enemy. They often growl in dominance disputes or
other kinds of “fights.” They make a squeaking noise to call the pups, and the pups’ mother will whimper to calm them down. A howl may range from half-second in duration to about eleven seconds. Depending on the weather conditions the howl of a wolf can be heard up to 10 miles away.
Some other reasons a wolf may howl:
* To notify other pack members of their location.
* To inform other packs of where they are and their own territory.
* For the attraction of a mate.
* To reassemble a scattered pack.
* To get a pack riled up before a hunt
* When disturbed
* When stressed (most often by wolf pups)
* At the presence of an intruder
* After playing or other social events
* After waking up
* To call for help