Dogs body language. Do you wonder what you dog is trying to tell you?
A dog uses various parts of it's body to communicate. It's not that hard for us to learn their language.



Your Dogs Body Language

By Jenna Stregowski, RVT

Knowing how to read your dogs body language is the key to understanding your dog, assessing his/her attitude, and predicting the next move. Because dogs are non-verbal, a dogs body does the talking for them. Vocalization actually takes second place in their language. Once you learn the basics, spend some time observing how dogs interact with people and other animals in various situations. Understanding their language can help protect you and your dog from dangerous situations as well as aid in training or identification of common behavior problems.

Understanding a dogs body language:

The Confident Dog
The confident dog stands straight and tall with his/her head held high, ears perked up, and eyes bright. His/her mouth may be slightly open but is relaxed. The tail may sway gently, curl loosely or hang in a relaxed position. He/she is friendly, non-threatening and at ease with her surroundings.

The Happy Dog
A happy dog will show the same signs as a confident dog. In addition, he/she will usually wag the tail and sometimes hold his/her mouth open or pant mildly. He/she appears even more friendly and content than the confident dog, with no signs of anxiety.

The Playful Dog
A playful dog is happy and excited. The ears are up, eyes are bright, and tail wags rapidly. He/she may jump and run around with glee. Often, a playful dog will exhibit the "play bow" - front legs stretched forward, head straight ahead, rear end up in the air and possibly wiggling. This is most certainly an invitation to play!

The Submissive Dog
A submissive dog holds his/her head down, ears down flat and averts the eyes. His/her tail is low and may sway slightly, but is not tucked. He/she may roll on her back and expose her belly. A submissive dog may also also nuzzle or lick the other dog or person to further display passive intent. Sometimes, he/she will sniff the ground or otherwise divert the attention to show that he/she does not want to cause any trouble. A submissive dog is meek, gentle and non-threatening.

The Anxious Dog
The anxious dog may act somewhat submissive, but often holds the ears partially back and the neck stretched out. He/she stands with a very tense posture and sometimes shudders or shakes. Often, an anxious dog whimpers slightly or moans. The tail is low and may be tucked. An anxious dog may overreact to stimulus and can become fearful or even aggressive. If you are familiar with the dog, you may try to divert his/her attention to something more pleasant. However, be cautious - do not provoke or try to soothe her.

The Fearful Dog
The fearful dog combines submissive and anxious attitudes with more extreme signals. He/she will stand tense, but is very low to the ground. The ears are flat back and the eyes are narrowed and averted. The tail is between the legs and he/she typically trembles. A fearful dog often whines or growls and might even bare the teeth in defense. He/she may urinate or defecate. A fearful dog can turn aggressive quickly if he/she senses a threat. Do not try to reassure the anxious dog, but remove yourself from the situation calmly. If you are the owner, be confident and strong, but do not comfort or punish your dog. Try to move him/her to a less threatening, more familiar location.

The Dominant Dog
A dominant dog will try to assert himself/herself over other dogs and sometimes people. He/she stands tall and confident and may lean a bit forward. The eyes are wide and he/she makes direct eye contact with the other dog or person. The ears are up and alert, and the hair on the back may stand on edge. He/she may growl lowly. The demeanor appears less friendly and possibly threatening. If the behavior is directed at a dog that submits, there is little concern. If the other dog tries to be dominant, a fight may break out. A dog that directs dominant behavior towards people can pose a serious threat. Do not make eye contact and slowly try to leave. If your dog exhibits this behavior towards people, behavior modification is necessary.

The Aggressive Dog
An aggressive dog goes far beyond dominant. All feet are firmly planted on the ground in a territorial manner, and he/she may lunge forward. The ears are pinned back, head is straight ahead, eyes are narrowed but piercing, and the tail is straight and full. He/she bares the teeth, snaps the jaw and growls or barks threateningly. The hairs along the back stand on edge. If you are near a dog showing these signs, it is very important to get away carefully. Do not run. Do not make eye contact with the dog. Do not show fear. Slowly back away to safety. If your own dog becomes aggressive, seek the assistance of a professional dog trainer to learn the proper way to correct the behavior. Dogs with aggressive behavior should never be used for breeding.To avoid any problems with your dogs, it is important to learn about a dog's body language. Not being able to understand when your dog tries to communicate with you can cause tension in the family, your dog can become confused and aggressive.


If you understand what a shaking dog is communicating in a dogs body language, you will know what to do.
To understand what a dog tail wagging signal in a dogs body language means is beneficial to both your dog and yourself. You will know when he/she is playful or if he/she is aggressive and you will be able to act appropriately.
Understanding dog signals and training body language in a dogs body language is especially important if you have more than one dog.

A dogs body language is not really difficult to read. With practice and time, you will become experienced at reading a dogs body language and will be able to avoid or handle any issues before they become a problem.


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