Pack animals, including your puppy, are skilled at reading the signals of others. It is through this communication that your puppy gets to know you. You may be surprised at what you are unintentionally communicating to your puppy through your posture, eye contact and tone of voice.
Bending over a puppy to pat him might be meant as a friendly gesture but a puppy may interpret it as a threat. Why? Dogs establish hierarchy through non-verbal communication. A dominant dog may make himself as tall as he can be when approaching another dog and may even rest his paw on the other dog's back upon reaching him. The second dog reacts by either accepting the dominant dog's action or by reacting aggressively.
How does this information help you in your relationship with your puppy? By understanding the dynamics of the pack you understand how your puppy may react to your actions. How you approach your puppy is especially important upon first meeting him, and for initial meetings with other puppies.
Fearful puppies will feel more comfortable with a person who is sitting down and may approach a seated person but back away from someone who is standing. To approach a puppy in a friendly manner crouch so you are closer in height to the puppy.
Dogs usually avoid eye contact with each other unless they are issuing a threat. Making and holding eye contact with your puppy may be interpreted as an aggressive act. An aggressive puppy may react by growling, while a more submissive puppy may be fearful.
Tone of voice
The tone of your voice communicates a lot to your puppy, more than the actual words do. Try an experiment. Say the same sentence to your puppy using different tones. Your puppy will usually mirror your tone of voice in his actions. For example, if you speak in a happy voice your puppy will usually react playfully.
Puppies can learn a number of words such as "sit" or "stop" but they will not understand the words when strung together in a sentence. If the word has a hard consonant sound, such as "sit" or "stay," puppies have an easier time learning it. However, they rely more on non-verbal communication.
Your puppy gets to know you by your body language and tone. It's important to think about what you may be communicating unintentionally. The more you understand your puppy the better your relationship with him will be.