We’ve probably all wished that our dogs could talk to us. Fortunately, dogs do a pretty good job of communicating with us through their body language. The way a dog moves his tail, eyes, ears and mouth provide a lot of information about how they’re feeling.
Check out these canine body language tips to help you decipher what your dog is trying to tell you.
Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language
Calm and Neutral
Standing tall with a relaxed tail means your dog is comfortable and happy in his current surroundings, and ready to participate in whatever happens next. His ears will usually be perked, but his eyes relaxed and mouth slightly open.
A loose stance or resting pose with the tail, ears and eyes fully relaxed is a good indication your dog is feeling content and happy. This body language shows your dog is approachable and unconcerned with anything going on around him.
A more rigid and focused stance with a straight and tensed tail indicates your dog is assessing whether there is any potential threat. His ears will be perked and forward, his eyes will be widened to let in more light, and his mouth will likely be closed.
Anxious and Nervous
A lowered tail and hunched posture is typical if your dog is backing down from a threat or if he perceives you’re upset. Dogs pick up on our emotions and will react to changes in our tone of voice and demeanor, so be mindful when interacting with your dog!
When your dog extends his front paws with his tail and hindquarters in the air, he’s letting you or another dog know that he’s ready to play! Your dog will instigate playtime with this stance and immediately spring into action, so take the opportunity to play along.
A more rigid and focused stance with a straight-back tail means your dog is expressing his dominance or posturing against a potential threat or uncertain situation. You’ll notice his ears are perked and slightly forward, and the hackles on his back may be raised. When in this stance, your dog may act aggressively if challenged.
Your dog will often lower his body and curl his tail between his legs when he is feeling frightened. His ears will be back and down and his eyes lowered with pupils dilated. His hackles may also be raised. Being fearful does not mean your dog won’t become aggressive if provoked.
A ready-for-action stance with the tail lowered or slowly wagging side to side indicates your dog is turning on the charm and up for whatever happens next. His ears will be perked and his mouth slightly open.
When your dog takes on a rigid stance with his tail slightly curled at the end and hackles raised, he’s perceived a threat and is warding it off. His ears will be up and back and his eyes dilated. Watch for curled-back lips as this is an indication your dog is preparing to bite.
Laying down and exposing the belly with his head turned to avoid eye contact means your dog is being submissive. In the company of other dogs, this behavior is often a sign of acceptance that he is not the dominant animal; however, it can also indicate that your dog is trying to avoid a physical confrontation.
It’s important to remember that while these forms of body language can indicate specific emotions in your dog, it’s not a foolproof list. Your dog’s tail may be wagging, but if they’re positioned over another dog with an aggressive facial expression, your dog is likely not happy or content.
Be sure to pay attention to all aspects of your dog’s body language from their tail to their ears, eyes and mouth. Your relationship will be stronger when you can better interpret how your dog is feeling, and you’ll feel more confident when you head outdoors together!