Failure to understand dog behaviors and not knowing how to properly train your dog is the cause of some people giving up on their dogs and even abandoning them in some instances.
Actually, your dog communicates with you for much of the time you spend together So not learning to understand your dog’s body language is similar to living your life with someone who speaks another language, and never learning any of that language in order to communicate with that person.
Two way communication is obviously important, especially with your dog who does “speak another language”.
Dogs love to play, but their primary concern is often their position in your “pack”. Dogs will always make attempts to get to the top dog position if you allow this to go on.
Some dogs do this as a game to see how much they can get away with, (my Kara is like this). Other dogs can actually take this issue very seriously, and may threaten any “pack” member who doesn’t defer to them – sometimes even including their owner.
Large dogs often like to jump up and stand with their front paws on the owner’s shoulders. This can be a friendly gesture, but be careful, because it is often actually a posture of dominance.
A better greeting to encourage your dog to use, is to have your dog sit, and then for you to offer a greeting to your dog. In this way, the dog has assumed a subordinate posture, and you retain your leadership role and your position as the top dog. An added bonus is that your dog will love this exchange with you.
The important thing is that your dog understands his/her position in the “pack”.
One of the more tragic misinterpretations of body language I’ve heard about involves what’s called the canine grin. Many dogs, when they are happy and excited, pull their lips back in a happy grin, which is a submissive gesture. They are simply very happy, but some owners have actually misinterpreted this submissive grin as a snarl and, heaven forbid, even had the dog euthanized because of what they thought was aggression in their dog.