Reading Dog Body Language Learn How to Interpret Your Dog's Expressions

Reading Dog Body Language

Dogs can express themselves in all sorts of movements, from ears to tail. Learn how to know what your dog is telling you with their body language.

Do you want to be able to better communicate with your dog? Learning the language of caninesโ€”both verbal and nonverbal, takes just a bit of basic knowledge, and some practice with your pet. Hereโ€™s what youโ€™ll need to know to understand dog body language.

Take note that while each dog movement and sound can indicate a mood or message your pet is trying to convey, understanding the sum of all your dogโ€™s actions and body language in context is important for getting a clearer picture of your loved oneโ€™s state of mind. Thatโ€™s why practice with your own pet is keyโ€”the more you learn about your dog and their reactions, the better youโ€™ll be able to read them.

Dog Tail Movements

A wagging tail is generally assumed to indicate happiness, which it can, but it can also signal aggression.

  • The happy movement is easy-going and side to side or faster and in circles when your pup is really ecstatic.
  • The aggressive movement typically involves a raised tail, moved stiffly side to side. The rest of the dogโ€™s body language will likely indicate your pet is on edge if this is the case.

When your pooch is at ease, the tail will likely be in a resting position, wherever it hangs naturally. โ€œWith the tail between the legsโ€ is an expression for a reason: dogs usually do this when theyโ€™re feeling really low.

Ears and Your Dog's Mood

Since canine ears vary, so does their ability to communicate effectively. Typically, dogsโ€™ ears are at ease when the dogs are at ease. Perked ears, perched atop the head, indicate canine curiosity or, depending on the context, aggression. Pulling the ears back a bit is like waving an โ€œI come in peaceโ€ sign in the dog world. When you see ears pressed down, your pup may be afraid or indicating submission.

Cues from Dog Eyes

Like humans, dogs can get wide-eyed or bug-eyed out of fear or anger. Alternately, eyes can shrink from being afraid. Squinting may indicate pain, feelings of discomfort, or submissiveness.

Where your dogโ€™s eyes are pointed matters, too. While dogs donโ€™t typically look at each other eye to eye, they adapt to this human behavior with people. When your dog is relaxed and looks you in the eye, all is well. If the gaze is a stare, and accompanied by tensing of the face, it may be a sign of aggression. If your dog wonโ€™t look you in the eye, your pet may be afraid or indicating submission. Should you start to see more of the โ€œwhitesโ€ of your petโ€™s eyes, as your dog turns away from you, this may be the precursor to a tantrum.

Face and Teeth

As you probably know, a slightly open-mouthed (seemingly smiling) dog is probably content and relaxed. When a dog pulls her or his lips back, it may be out of fear or feeling submissive. This may be followed by sticking the tongue out and licking an approaching person or dog.

When a dog shows teeth, it doesnโ€™t always mean aggression. Some dogs do so, with their head lowered, to indicate submission. An aggressive dog, in comparison, will likely contort the muzzle and breathe heavily at the same time.

Body Posture and Movements

Like cats and humans, dogs can shrink and cower in fear. This same body language can also indicate submission.

Dominant dogs, in contrast, will stand tall and proud, with muscles tightening. Aggressive dogsโ€™ body language will appear similar, but they will also vocalize their intent.

Playful dogs may flatten their front paws and raise their haunches in the air, with a tail raised and waving side to side, poised and ready for a romp.


Thereโ€™s no one reason dogs bark. They do so to give warnings, during play or when anxious or bored. If your dog wants to do something, but is being prevented from doing so, whining may ensue. This noise may also indicate feelings of anxiety. Watch out when you hear dog growls; somebody wants to demonstrate their dominance or aggression or be territorial. Pack animals by nature, dogs who howl are signaling longing for their family members.

Body Clues of Dog Aggression

When dogs assess their surroundings to get a sense of a situation, theyโ€™re likely to straighten up their tails, stiffen their muscles, look intently, and move their ears and body slightly forward.

Signs of a dog on the defense: With a head low to the ground, weight pushed to the rear, hair raised, tail lowered or tucked, mouth stiff, teeth showing, and nose twitching, this dog is on the lookout, but is prepared to back away.

Signs of a dog on the offense: Staring intently, with tensed ears and a tight mouth, the dogโ€™s teeth may be visible and the nose may twitch. The animal may growl, bark and move her or his body forward. The hair on the back will likely be raised.

Stay tuned to your dogโ€™s moods, and youโ€™ll be reading their body language in no time.

Understanding Canine Body Language

Wouldnโ€™t it be just fabulous if you and your doggo could have endless 'tete a tete' about why he is so happy to see you at the end of the day, and how he just simply loathes the very sight of your new neighbor! However, since your conversations with your furry little friend are limited to non verbal interaction, it would be helpful to understand their body language and know exactly what they are trying to convey by means of a wagging tail or excessive drooling. Here are a few typical non verbal signals from your canine friend and what they actually imply in the โ€˜dog worldโ€™.


A slightly open mouth, a relaxed or drawn down tail, a loose stance, and head parallel to the floor are a few of the common signals that imply that your dog is feeling safe in his surroundings and is in a reasonably content and relaxed state. A dog will typically adopt this stance when at home around his master, with only familiar faces around him.


When a dog notices something unusual that instantly catches his attention, he might display a few typical signs of vigilance including wide open eyes, tightly shut mouth, twitching ears, tail held horizontal to the body and leaning forward on his toes. An alert state implies that your dog has found something of interest and is trying to assess the situation and determine whether any action must be taken or not.


There are numerous body language signals of a canine that project submission to an impending danger and might imply that your four legged friend is feeling threatened by and fearful of the situation. A sudden freezing of the body implies that your dog has detected some danger in his surroundings and waiting to decide between the fight and flight mechanism. In addition to this, when feeling threatened, your dog might display nervous signs such as sweaty paws, ears pulled back, tail pulled between the hind legs, lowered body, brief and indirect eye contact and so on.


When trying to invite their masters to come out and engage in playful activities, dogs typically exhibit signs of excitement and elevated adrenalin. A few of the signals which imply that your dog fancies a game of fetch or is in a mood for a run in the park include tail stretched out in a vertical standing position and wagging rigorously, dilated pupils, ears pulled erect, tongue slightly exposed from an open mouth, front body lowered by means of bent forepaws and so on.Understanding your canineโ€™s body language will go a long way in not only developing a stronger connection with him, but also in ensuring that you can take suitable corrective actions and help him relax, if he feels excessively stressed or fearful of a particular situation.

Is your dog doing something weird? Learn about their body language

You and your loving dog, unfortunately, do not speak the same language. For you it means that comprehending what your dog is trying to say can be exhausting. These miscommunications can be frustrating and funny,The problem arises when miscommunication leads to serious training or behavioral problems. This makes life difficult both for you and also your dog. Do note that canine behavior is a wide topic. A lot remains to be learned. We still do not understand why dogs behave in specific ways or do specific things.

Canine body language

Your dog could try to please another dog by seeking attention. It could do one or multiple of behaviors like ear or muzzle licking or both. It could curve or lower its body, or jump up and down. It could also blink its eyes. Its teeth could be exposed or lick the lips. Your dog could lower the ears and the head for appeasement. It could also bow. These are all examples of active appeasement.The list of passive submission tactics include body freeze and cowering. These are done as a response to increased fear due to perceived threat. Other than appeasement, your dog could also use displacement signs so that it can avoid a confrontation. The body signals are actually a distraction to cover up what the dog is really feeling. Licking, yawning, sniffing and scratching can be regarded as active behaviors which keep your dog calm. These activities offer a distraction to make sure that attention towards him from others gets refocused on someone else.

Discomfort and nervousness

Stressed dogs exhibit a number of behaviors which help to relieve their stress. These are also made to appease perceived threat. Your dog will yawn when it gets nervous. Licking the lips does not mean your best friend is hungry. This behavior means it is afraid.

Curious and anticipation

Your dog is naturally curious. More confident dogs can deal with change more effectively. Your dog will measure up any situation using a few behavioral traits. These reassure your dog that it is safe. The list of mannerisms include head cocked only to one side or to the other. Its front paw can be lifted. This means it is anticipating what will happen, and what your canine must do next. If its mouth is closed, it means your dog is sizing up the situation to prepare for action.There are times when your dog chases its tail. For puppies this is a method to expend the excess energy. However, if this is done constantly, there could be a chance that your dog may have flea allergy dermatitis or even anal gland problems.

More on Dog Behavior and Training

OCD in Dogs
20 Dog Commands You Need to Know
How to Quiet a Barking Dachshund

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