Dog Body Language

While a dog may be a man”s best friend, sometimes people have a hard time understanding exactly what their four-legged friends are trying to tell them. However, even though we speak different languages, people can learn a lot about their dogs by observing their body language. By studying signals, you”ll learn a lot about your dog”s needs and moods.

Below are a few lists to help you decipher general canine body language signals. Hopefully, by paying attention to your dog”s body language, you”ll be able to more effectively communicate with him.

Signs of Aggression

If your dog displays any of the following body language, he is likely feeling aggressive:

  • He is drawing his lips back to expose his teeth (i.e., he is snarling).
  • He is growling or barking.
  • He is holding his ears back and close to his head.
  • He is holding his tail straight out, away from his body.
  • He is narrowing his eyes and staring.
  • He is snapping his jaws.
  • His body is tense and rigid.

If you think your dog is being aggressive, be careful, as he is likely to bite or attack. If your dog repeatedly displays aggressive body language, you”ll probably want to seek the help of a trainer.

Signs of Alertness

The following canine body language signals indicate that your dog is alert and concentrating:

  • He is refraining from making noise.
  • His eyes are open wider than normal.
  • His ears are perked up, possibly rotating in order to focus on certain sounds.
  • His mouth is closed or barely open.

If your dog is displaying any of the above signals, he is most likely trying to decipher the origin or a sound or to locate another animal.

Signs of Anxiety

If your dog displays any of the behaviors below, he might be feeling anxious:

  • He is whining or moaning.
  • His body is tense and lowered into a submissive position.
  • His ears are held partially back.
  • His eyes are slightly narrowed.
  • His mouth is closed, perhaps with a slight upturn at the edges.
  • His tail is partially lowered.

Your dog might display the above body language if he is in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation. To help put him at ease, pet him and talk to him in a reassuring tone. You might also want to offer him one of his favorite toys.

Signs of Chasing Behavior

The following are signs that your dog is getting ready to chase something:

  • He isn”t making any noise.
  • He is panting excitedly.
  • His body is crouched and ready to run.
  • His ears are perked up and pointing forward.
  • His eyes are open wide.
  • His mouth is open slightly.
  • His tail is pointed out and away from his body.

This body language is often seen in hunting dogs, though any dog is likely to chase an object or another animal.

Signs of Curiosity, Eagerness or Excitement

When your dog is excited, he probably displays the following body language:

  • His mouth is slightly open.
  • He is barking excitedly.
  • He is panting excitedly.
  • He is wiggling his body or prancing around.
  • He is wagging his tail.
  • His eyes are open wide.
  • His ears are perked up and pointing forward.

Signs of Dominance

If your dog displays the below behaviors, he is asserting his dominance:

  • He is growling or grunting assertively.
  • He is standing very tall.
  • He is staring.
  • His ears are pointed forward or straight up.
  • His mouth is closed.
  • His tail is stiff and puffed.

Signs of Fear

If your dog is nervous or frightened, you might see him display this body language:

  • He flinches when you go to pet him.
  • He might be shivering or trembling.
  • He might yelp, growl or whine.
  • His body is in a low, submissive position.
  • His ears are pushed back and held close to his head.
  • His eyes are narrowed.
  • His lips are drawn back, possible exposing his teeth.
  • His tail is tucked between his legs.

Signs of Happiness or Playfulness

If you notice the following behaviors in your dog, he is probably happy and ready to play:

  • He is barking loudly.
  • He is bouncing, jumping, circling or running back and forth.
  • He is excitedly panting.
  • His body is relaxed.
  • His ears are perky and pointing forward.
  • His mouth is relaxed and slightly open.
  • His tail is wagging quickly.