understanding dog body language

Understanding Dog Body Language – Learn how to read dogs behavior better

Understanding dog body language may not be as hard you might have think. In this article, I will show you how you can easily understand what your dog is trying to tell you? When humans communicate directly to one another, what do we do? We use words, right. Sometimes, we might say a descriptive word or two. But do they adequately convey our emotions?

You may not actively notice, but when we speak to one another, our behavior and body language play major roles in the way we express our emotions. Think of a time when someone expressed affection toward you. They most likely smiled, kissed, and hugged you. If they didn’t say anything, would you still have felt their love? Yes.

Imagine observing two men having a conversation from a distance. You can’t hear what they’re saying, but one man’s face is red. He’s pacing back and forth, his fists are clenched, and he’s rapidly waving his arms around. Do you think you can guess what emotion he’s most likely experiencing? Yup, he’s angry.

Dogs, of course, don’t use words when they communicate. They do, however, use their body and behavior to express their emotions, especially when they’re stressed. So, while you might not be able to converse with your dog in words, you can still learn to comprehend his emotions.

Communicating with Your Dog

You love your dog and want to make him happy. So, of course, you want to know when he’s anxious and out-of-sorts. But, the goal isn’t simply to please him. The goal is to remedy the situation and/or remove him from it before it leads to aggression, at which point it can become dangerous and lead to biting.

Dogs speak loudly when it comes to body language and behavior, especially when they’re stressed. Because humans don’t know the signs or the behaviors and body language their dogs are using to express their emotions, they may sometimes overlook a stressful situation or unknowingly place their dog in an uncomfortable or stressful situation. They don’t intend the situation, they simple don’t understand what their dog is saying.

When All is Well

Before you can figure out how to know when your dog is telling you that he his stressed, you should how he tells you when all is fine. Simply observe his facial features. When all is well, his snout is relaxed. In fact, some dogs actually look like they’re smiling, especially when they’re relating positively with humans. Other signs that indicate all is well include:

o Eyes: his eyes will be round and soft and you’ll be able to see his eye color. If he has a smile, his eyes might look squinted.

o Ears: unless he has flopped ears, they will be partly upright and facing front. If he’s socializing with a human, they may be back a bit, which shows manners.

o Body: he will carry his body uniformly on all his paws and may jump around in a fun manner, to invite play.

o Tail: he will be wagging his tail to the right at or below his normal position. An excited dog will wag more enthusiastically.

Signs Your Dog is Stressed

Your dog will tell you when he feels stressed or out-of-sorts. Situations that may make him feel that way include the approach of an unknown person or animal; seeing a vacuum cleaner; getting pet in an uncomfortable manner; suddenly having guests in the house; a person shoving their face next to his; being in an unfamiliar place; sudden noise; undergoing a veterinarian examination. Whatever the case, he’ll exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Avoidance (he’ll turn away and/or avoid eye contact)
  • Lick his lips
  • Yawn
  • Pant
  • Raise his paws
  • Spread his toes
  • Sniff the ground
  • Back away
  • Exhibit whale eyes (slightly deflect his head so that the whites of his eyes are visible)

High Arousal Behavior

Your dog could have the kind of personality that gets excessively stimulated when excited. They simply don’t know how to control their emotions and need their owners to look out for them. So, if your dog displays these behaviors, it’s time for you to intervene and settle down the situation before it gets worse. Signs that you dog is starting to lose control include:

  • Teeth clacking
  • Pushing off of you with his paws
  • Punching you with his snout
  • Whining
  • High-pitched barking
  • Lip licking

Dog to Dog Interactions

When dogs encounter one another, they communicate through behavior and body language. There are situations in which you should intervene and situations in which you should let them work out whatever is going on by themselves. Here are warning signs that there is conflict and stress:

  • Your dog is snarling.
  • They have tense facial muscles.
  • Dog is staring intensely.
  • Your dogs is flicking his/her tongue.
  • When the dog is snapping.
  • When his tails are raised high.
  • They have bared teeth.

When you observe these behaviors, your response can simply be to redirect the attention of one of the dogs with a treat or toy. You don’t even have to get physically involved.

If, on the other hand, the dogs seem to be communicating well and/or playing effectively together, there is no need for you to intervene.

Extreme Stress Behaviors

There are some extreme stress behaviors that should be covered, as well.


Loud noises, car rides, new situations, environments, strangers, age, and separation are only some of the situations that might make a dog anxious. An anxious dog may stop eating or become a very picky eater and/or become excessively thirsty. He may spew out treats or seize them form you. He may abruptly urinate or defecate and suddenly become aggressive. Anxious dogs exhibit the same kinds of behaviors and body language previous noted, as well as the following:

• zipping back and forth and from side to side
• hyper-awareness
• low tail
• quick movements
• ears far back


A fearful dog will do anything he can to stay away from you, all other people, and anything and everything else that scares them. They may seem sad and uninterested and might bark at you and jump at you to make you go away. They exhibit all the aforementioned behaviors, plus the following:

• drooped head
• body sunk to the floor
• do anything to make themselves appear smaller and less intimidating
• try to disappear
• low bark
• stiff mouth
• ears back
• whale eyes
• rolling over
• shallow, rapid bites

Fear Aggression

A fearful dog will first try to run away from a threat. Such is called the “flight response.” If that option isn’t available, he will face the threat and choose the “fight response.” Keep in mind, however, the fear continues to be cause of the aggressive behavior. These dogs exhibit the following behaviors and body language:

• tense posture
• ears straight up
• direct stare
• legs spread
• bared teeth
• growl
• flicking tongue


If your dog exhibits any of these extreme stress situations, you should consult your veterinarian. Your dog may need medication and a trainer. With time and patience, you can learn to address and solve these issues.

Your best friend wants to communicate with you just as much as he wants to communicate with you. You already have a close bond and share so many great times. Just imagine how much greater it will be how that you understand him even more.

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