Dog Body Language – What’s Your Dog Telling You?
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UPDATED: Nov 17, 2020
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Dogs are very expressive animals that love to share their feelings.
They show their feelings by licking us, pawing us or even just by sleeping with us to express their gratitude and love.
Dogs will also use their faces and bodies as a way to let us know what they want or how they are feeling.
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How to Understand Your Dog’s Body Language
Your dog’s body language is their non-verbal way in which dogs communicate with us.
It’s important for us to understand what they are trying to tell us if they are scared or even if they’re just happy.
Understanding a dog’s body language can also be helpful when you come across a new dog that might be frightened or even aggressive.
Below are some tips to help you gauge how your or another dog is feeling:
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What Do My Dog’s Facial Expressions Mean?
Your dog’s basic facial expressions can let you know how your pup is feeling. It is the first place to look to assess your dog’s mood.
Once you get to know your dog, it may be easy to see in their face whether your dog is scared, sleepy, or happy.
Much like humans, a dog’s face will look contorted when sacred, eyes closed when sleepy and relaxed when feeling happy.
You can learn a lot by looking at your dog’s eyes.
Anxiety / Fear: The white part of a dog’s eyes can tell you something as does the intensity of your dog’s focus. If your dog is anxious, there might be a little more white of his eyes showing and his eyes can look rounder than they normally would. A glassy-eyed look can mean that a dog feels stressed or frightened. Dilated pupils can also be a sign of fear.
Calm: When a dog is feeling calm, your pup will squint and all you will be seeing is the colored part of his eyes with no white at all.
Aggressive: The direction of your dog’s eyes can also be telling. If your dog looks at you or another dog straight in the eyes, it can be thought of as a direct threat. Avoid that dog. When a dog looks at you out of the corner of his eyes, it can lead to an aggressive outburst of some sort. If your dog is guarding his favorite spot or toy and wants to be left alone.
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A dog’s mouth can be equally telling and the way they position their lips or jaws can speak to us.
Relaxed: A relaxed dog has his mouth either closed or slightly open.
Scared / Nervous: A dog will part his lips and show his front teeth if he is feeling nervous or scared. This look will usually be accompanied by a submissive or crouched body posture. If your dog is drooling and there isn’t any food around, this can be another indication of stress.
A dog’s ear position can tell you a lot about how they are feeling.
A relaxed dog will hold his ears naturally just as they are.
Alert: If your dog is feeling in alert mode, the ears will be directed toward whatever it is that is holding the dog’s interest.
A pup’s ears are raised if he is feeling aggressive while slightly pulled back to show the opposite. He’s being friendly.
Fear: A frightened dog will have his ears completely flat or stuck to the side of his head.
Why do dogs wag their tail?
Typically, a relaxed dog’s tail in the natural position, a happy dog’s tail is wagging side to side, and a nervous or scared dog will lower their tail or stick it between their back legs.
If your dog is feeling aroused or alert, he usually will hold his tail higher than usual. If a dog is either staking his claim or trying to threaten someone or another dog, your pup will usually hold his tail higher and it will naturally stiffen with a very slow wag.
Hair or Fur
Why does a dog’s hair stand up?
A dog’s hair or fur can be raised all along his body when he is either aroused or upset. Additionally, a dog that is stressed will shed more frequently.
What A Dog’s Body Posture Says About Their Mood
- A playful dog will bow and follow that up with more exaggerated body and facial expressions. There will be a relaxed, playful feeling with a wiggling tail and little bouts of energy.
- A dog whose body seems stiff and is moving slowly is not interested in playing and would rather go to sleep.
- When a dog looks away or lies down or any other avoidance type of behavior, it means playtime is over.
- A scared dog will usually lean back or even crouch, roll on his side or lower his head. This is usually accompanied by eyes that are wide open, a lowered tail and the pup’s forehead will be wrinkled.
- A dog that is frozen completely is very scared and might even urinate.
- An aggressive dog will stand tall with his head raised up above his shoulders. His body will seem tense with all his weight moving slightly forward as if to attack. His eyes will usually be hardened with a fierce look.
Your Dog’s Body Language Can Be Telling
While these are just some of the general nuances of a dog’s body language, by knowing just the basics it can help keep you safe around any dog that you meet or even your own.
Of course, every dog is different and you will learn with your dog what he is saying or not saying over time.
However, if your dog is ever yelping, head lowered with a dismissive look or reaction, your dog might be sick or hurt.
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