How to Understand the Body Language of Your Dog


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If you have a pet dog, we bet it’s one of the dearest things to you. In order to know your pup completely well, it is imperative to be aware of their body language. It helps you to assess their attitude, know what they are trying to express, their emotional state, intentions, and even predict their next move. Since God did not make them vocal (except for barking), all the talking is done by their bodily movements- through facial expressions, as well as body postures. Therefore, identifying and decoding your pets’ body language is sure to aid you in training them, protecting them from dangerous situations (when they are feeling nervous, spooky or edgy), and even figuring out common behavioral problems.

1.     When Your Dog is Confident

When your furry friend is feeling confident, he will stand tall and straight with the head held high, eyes looked bright, and ears perked upwards. The mouth may or not be slightly opened, but will be relaxed. The tail may either sway gently, is curled loosely or is left hanging in a relaxed way. The overall appearance is non-threatening and friendly- in a way, looking comfortable with the surroundings.


2.     When Your Dog is Happy

A confident dog and a happy dog show almost identical signs. Also, a happy dog is going to wag his/her tail, and may sometimes hold the mouth more opened and panted mildly. He/she is more content and friendly, and displays no anxiety at all.




3.     When Your Dog is Playful

A playful dog appears excited and happy. His/her ears are pointing upwards, the eyes look bright and the tail is rapidly wagging. He/she jumps and runs with glee. A sure sign is when the front legs are stretched in a forward fashion, the head is held straight ahead and the rear part is up in the air, along with some wiggling- this is definitely an invitation for you to play.


4.     When Your Dog is Submissive

A submissive dog usually holds his/her head down, the ears are down flat, and he/she averts your eyes. The tail is kept low and may slightly sway (it isn’t tucked). He/she may roll on the back and expose their belly. He/she may lick or nuzzle another person or dog, which shows further passive intent. He/she may even sniff the ground or divert his/her attention elsewhere. When your dog is submissive, it is bound to be gentle, non-threatening, and meek.


5.     When Your Dog is Anxious

An anxious dog may somewhat appear submissive- but he/she will hold the ears slightly back, and the neck will be stretched out. He/she will stand in a tense posture and may even shudder. Very often, a dog which is anxious will moan, whimper, yawn or lick its lips. The tail is kept low and may be tucked. He/she will overreact to the external stimulus and become aggressive or fearful. If it’s your own pet or you are familiar with it, you can try diverting his/her attention to more pleasant things- but do not provoke him/her at all costs.


6.     When Your Dog is Fearful

A fearful dog displays behavior that combines attitudes of the anxious and submissive dog, but with signals that are more extreme. He/she will stand tense and will be very close to the ground. The eyes are averted and narrowed, while the ears are held back. The tail is tucked in between the legs and he/she trembles. He/she growls, whines or bears its teeth in defense. At times, he/she may even urinate/defecate. It may also turn aggressive in case of any threat. In such a situation, do not pacify the dog; instead remove yourself calmly from the position. If you own the dog, be strong and confident, and do not punish or comfort him/her. Take it to a less intimidating location.


7.     When Your Dog is Dominant

The dominant dog is going to assert itself over other people or dogs. He/she will be tall, confident, and will lean slightly forward. The eyes are wide, and he/she will make a direct eye contact with other people or dogs. The ears are alert and upwards. The hair on the back may even stand on edge. There may be low growling, wherein the demeanor is more threatening and less friendly. If such behavior is shown to another dog, in which the other dog submits, there is not much concern, but if the other dog also displays equally dominant behavior, there are chances of a fight. If such a behavior is directed towards a person, the dog can be considered a serious threat. Remember to not make an eye contact with such a ferocious dog, and slowly leave the situation. If your dog shows such a conduct, it is necessary to modify its behavior.


8.     When Your Dog is Aggressive

The aggressive dog is way beyond the dominant dog. The feet are planted firmly on the ground, in a manner that shows territorial tendencies. The ears are held flat back, the eyes are piercing and narrowed, and the head is held straight ahead. The tail is held high in a straight fashion, the teeth are bared, the jaw is snapped, and he/she growls/barks in an intimidating manner. The hair on the back is standing, and he/she may leap forward. If you find yourself close to such a dog, make sure you get away carefully. Don’t make an eye contact, don’t run, and don’t display fear. If it’s your own dog that exhibits aggression, seek professional help to tame it down, and correct its behavior.


The above listed points explain common dog behavior. We hope we’ve helped you know your furry mate better, in a small yet significant way.