How To Tell A Dog's Body Language
Edward R. Forte
October 13, 2021
Training & Behavior
Sometimes, dog body language is simply unfamiliar (after all, people don’t have tails).At other times, it’s in direct contrast with what that same signal means to a human, such as with yawning or looking away.Tail wagging seems like an obvious body language signal.All a wagging tail means is that the dog is emotionally aroused.To interpret the dog’s emotions and intentions, look at the speed and direction of the wag as well as the position of the tail.Think about those long, slow, side-to-side tail sweeps your dog makes when greeting you — the type that wag the dog’s whole body.That’s a relaxed dog.A recent study on tail-wagging showed that dogs tend to wag more to the right when they feel positive about something, like interacting with their owner.If you get to know your dog’s neutral tail position, you will more quickly recognize when their emotions have shifted.The dog may be trying to get away from something and the posture makes the dog appear smaller.This may look like a dog soliciting a belly rub, and in a relaxed dog, it often is.But outside of this context, a raised paw often indicates a dog is uncertain about a situation or perhaps feels a bit insecure.Lip-licking is another bit of dog body language that people often misinterpret.Usually, when dogs bare their teeth, it serves as a warning, as if they’re saying, “Look at my weapons.” It’s hard to mistake the aggressive intention of a snarl, especially when it’s paired with a menacing growl.Also known as a submissive grin, this expression is often found on a happy dog with a loose and wiggly posture.You can learn a lot about your dog’s internal state by looking at the eyes.First, a dog’s eyes can be soft or hard.Known as “whale eye”, when a dog shows the whites of the eyes, it’s a signal they are feeling anxious or stressed in a situation.So, when you read a dog’s communication, look at every signal the dog is using from the tail height to the eye shape.Your dog is “talking” to you all the time. .
7 Tips on Canine Body Language
Staff and volunteers can use this information to interpret what an animal is feeling.Dilated pupils can also be a sign of fear or arousal—these can make the eyes look "glassy," indicating that a dog is feeling threatened, stressed or frightened.A relaxed dog will often squint, so that his eyes become almond-shaped with no white showing at all.Drooling when no food is present can also be a sign of extreme fear or stress.When a dog is relaxed, his ears may be slightly back or out to the sides.As the dog becomes more excited or aroused, his tail usually rises above spine level.As the dog becomes more excited or aroused, his tail usually rises above spine level.Much like your own “goosebumps,” the hair can raise along a dog’s back when he is upset or aroused.A frightened or stressed dog may also shed more than usual.Dogs pant to cool themselves, but panting can also be a sign of stress, particularly rapid panting accompanied by a tight mouth with stress wrinkles around it.You may notice a dog leaving wet footprints on the floor if he is particularly upset.Looking away, sniffing, scratching, lying down, or other avoidance behaviors may also indicate that the play session is over. .
How to Read a Dog's Body Language
The Language of a Dog’s Ears.Calm, contented dogs tend to relax their ears in a position that is natural to them.When alert, or if feeling aggressive or dominant, a dog will raise their erect/tense ears higher on their head and point them at the direction of their interest.The Language of a Dog’s Eyes.If a dog averts their gaze, they want to show submission, as they may be worried about interacting with you.The Language of a Dog’s Tail.A content dog keeps their tail relaxed in a position natural to them, because like dog ears, no two dog tails are alike. .
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Stressed: Body Language And Warning
Dogs employ body language and warning signs to communicate to humans that they are stressed.Growling, barking, and pacing are all signs that something may be stressing your dog out.There are several warning signs to look for to help tell if your dog is stressed.For example, if a dog is growling over food, give them space when they eat in peace.Many dogs cannot control their whining when they feel stressed, as it’s more of an automatic response.Barking is similar, in that pups can’t always control it, but they’re trying to tell you that they’re stressed about something.Also, some dogs raise their hackles when they are overstimulated or excited, not necessarily when they are stressed or anxious.It’s a warning sign that the dog is so stressed that they can’t handle the situation, and the next step may be a bite.When canines are pacing back and forth, it’s a sign they can’t settle down because something is stressing them.But, noticing when your dog engages in this behavior can give you clues as to what is triggering their anxiety.Dog owners should also reflect on their own behavior to see how they might be contributing to the stress.Start paying attention to your dog’s body language and you’ll be able to read their stress signals and reduce their anxiety in no time. .
Dog Body Language Guide: How to Read Your Dog Like a Pro
We all wish our dogs could tell us what they’re thinking.Understanding canine body language is an important part of pet parenthood.Here’s how to know exactly what your dog is telling you, no words necessary.While dogs have some vocal ability, the range of sounds they can produce is relatively limited.“They use the communication tools that are available to them,” says certified dog behavior consultant Michelle Mullins, noting that while body language tends to come second for humans, “with dogs, what they’re feeling and what their body is saying is exactly the same thing.”.Look for the following signs to indicate a dog is happy and relaxed:.Mullins explains that dog parents may also notice “whale” or “half-moon” eyes on their frightened dog, in which a large portion of the eye white is visible.Other signs of fear or anxiety in dogs, according to Bain, Beaver, and Mullins include:.“This is the category that most people do not understand, and often put themselves at risk,” adds Beaver.This transition often begins with a direct stare, eyes fully opened.Unlike the loose body language of a happy dog, an aggressive dog is stiff: stiffened legs to help him appear taller and a stiff body in general.This may include removing triggers of fear or aggression, behavior modification that includes positive reinforcement training, and helping dogs learn how to better socialize with humans and other dogs.Dogs that want to play, often indicate it with the following sings:.While we may think our dogs know what we’re saying to them, “they truly understand very little—perhaps a few key words or tone of voice,” Beaver notes.But there is one caveat to mastering the art of dog body language.Each of our experts cautioned that any canine body language must be considered in context.Only you know your dog’s history and his individual quirks.A dog licking his lips after treat time is probably not anxious, but rather trying to catch every morsel of peanut butter. .
Dog Body Language Interpretation
To get a sense of what your dog is trying to tell you, spend as much time as you can observing your dog and his body posture.Because each dog is an individual and will express fear, aggression, stress or joy slightly differently, there are no hard and fast rules for interpreting dog body language.A high, stiff wag can mean: “I am agitated, unsure or scared, but not submissive.Keep the dog out of trouble because he may be about to make a bad decision.Some dogs will solicit attention by rolling over, but then become fearful or defensive, feeling that this position is not safe.To be safe, don’t hover over a dog or crowd him when he’s upside down.When a dog’s ears are forward, he is alert, interested in something.For example, a dog may start grooming himself when he’s afraid and is faced with the decision to fight or run away.Licking his lips, even though the dog hasn’t been eating or drinking.Shaking off after someone handles him or another dog plays too roughly.Lying down and trying to make whatever is happening stop by not taking part in it.Be aware that your dog is likely feeling stress along with fear when he/she:.Often, if we slow down whatever situation caused the fear and start exposing the dog in small amounts at a distance, we can help him to completely overcome his fear.Other valuable books are Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide to Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog by Brenda Aloff, Canine Behavior: A Photo Illustrated Handbook by Barbara Handelman, and Dog Language: An Encyclopedia of Canine Behavior by Roger Abrantes. .
How to Speak Dog by Understanding Canine Body Language
For example, popular viral videos and pictures of dogs on social media often show dogs whose eyes are open very wide, or who are looking awkward while children lay on them.Becoming fluent in canine body language can also help you to be a better advocate for your dog in a variety of situations like greeting other dogs, meeting new people, or even visits to the vet.These dogs may turn their head away, avoid looking at you or whatever is upsetting.They may also deflect or self sooth by suddenly becoming very interested in sniffing the ground.A fearful dog may respond by licking their lips often, drooling and panting when it’s not hot out, often accompanied by pinned ears, a tense or tight face and what is referred to as “whale eye.” When your dog’s eyes are making a whale eye, their pupils are very dilated and bulging with lots of white showing.Some dogs get very hyperactive when they have been stressed and might start running erratically, aka getting the “zoomies,” as a way of blowing off that stored up stress.These excited dogs may look like they are having a great time, but they may be overwhelmed and trying to defuse or avoid the situation that is making them feel uncomfortable.Lip licking and yawning are common calming signals, ways that dogs will attempt to self sooth in stressful situations.If two (or more) dogs are playing together and exhibit loud growls, barks or even mouthing, the dog’s overall body language is soft and no one is getting hurt.Aggressive behavior is a natural fight-or-flight act for dogs who feel they have no other alternative way to respond.Body language to be aware of includes a high wagging tail accompanied by stiff movements, narrowed eyes and hard stare.For many dogs this happens automatically when aroused, similar to how people might get goose bumps.When looking at canine body language, you also must keep in mind that a dog’s breed and physical structure will shift the way they can use their body to communicate.Illustrator Lili Chin of Doggie Drawings has written and illustrated an amazing visual guidebook for understanding canine body language.The app lets you look up different dog body language behaviors and their meanings anywhere.There are even quizzes built into the app if you want to test your knowledge.Unlike for our dogs, canine body language doesn’t come naturally to us. .
Reading your dog's body language
The most important thing is that they look relaxed and not tense – mouth slightly open, ears in their normal position, eyes their normal shape.Eyes appear larger than normal: A dog’s eyes can appear large either when he is feeling threatened, or when he is feeling aggressive.Ears raised / pricked: This is usually sign of your dog being alert and ready for action.But if his ears are completely flattened or stuck out to the sides of his head, it’s likely he’s frightened or feeling submissive.Consult with your vet or a professional dog trainer to ensure the safety of both you and your dog. .
Dog Body Language: Understanding My Dog
Your dog sitting and staring at you can mean many things depending on the other signals they are displaying.If your dog doesn’t normally do this, but suddenly starts, it might be a sign of illness.Check they are eating normally and book an appointment with your vet, just to be safe.Dogs express ‘depression’ mostly via behaviour rather than body language, although there are a few signs.Rule out sickness with a health check-up, then give your dog love, attention and praise to cheer them up. .
Signs Your Dog is Stressed and How to Relieve It
Stress is a commonly used word that describes feelings of strain or pressure.Perhaps you relieve stress when occupied by routine chores like cleaning the house.However, our dogs do not voice their feelings, slam down the phone, or have a tantrum, so how can we tell they are stressed?Vocalization is normal self-expression in dogs but may be intensified when they are under stress.They may open their eyes really wide and show more sclera (white) than usual, giving them a startled appearance.When your dog urinates shortly after meeting a new canine friend, he may be marking territory and reacting to the strain simultaneously.When faced with an unwelcome situation, dogs may “escape” by focusing on something else.Ignoring someone may not be polite, but it is surely better than being aggressive.An extension of avoidance, some tense dogs literally move behind their owners to hide.In order to differentiate stress signs from normal behavior, you must be familiar with your dog’s regular demeanor.When relaxed, he will have semi-erect or forward-facing ears, a soft mouth, and round eyes.Distinguishing normal behavior from stress signs will help you quickly and effectively diffuse an uncomfortable situation.It is amazing how comforting sit, down, and heel can be to a worried dog.Physical activities like walking or playing fetch help both you and your dog release tension.It is also good to provide your dog with a safe place in the home where he can escape anxious situations.Regardless, stress is part of everyday life for us and our dogs, so we should learn how best to deal with it. .