Home » Do You Know How To Speak Dog? Learn To Read Dog Body Language

Do You Know How To Speak Dog? Learn To Read Dog Body Language

Understanding non-verbal communication is key to communicating and understanding our canine companions. Pet parents can greatly benefit from reading dog body language — knowing their dogs’ feelings and emotional state by looking into body language indicators.

Once you become more trained in reading your dog’s body language, you will find clues in their body and facial expressions that tell you how they are feeling. “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.” This comes especially handy when traveling with your pup. Your dog relies on you for their safety and comfort, so it is your responsibility to be in tune with your pup as much as possible!


Facial Expressions

dog body language

To truly understand your dog, you must be wary of their facial expressions and their body language. For instance, unlike humans, dogs yawn and may lick their lips to show early signs of stress or anxiousness. A smiling dog is usually only smiling and happy when their body is loose, wiggly, and submissive/relaxed.



reading dog body language

Eye contact between you and your dog is a sign of a healthy relationship. If your dog doesn’t like to look at you or has shifty eyes, this may signal discomfort. An uncomfortable or fearful dog may look as though they are avoiding something by turning away their heads.

Soft, relaxed eyes will look more squinty and almond shaped and have no whites showing.

If your dog is focused or gazing intently, notice if there are a lot of white parts of the eye showing (known as “whale eye”). “Whale eyes” may appear rounder, with pupils dilated and bulging, indicating tension, stress, or anxiousness.



reading dog body language

A relaxed dog may be panting with a slight smile but there should be no facial or mouth tension.

Excessive panting or drooling (with sudden closing of the mouth), or a closed mouth with lips pulled back at the corners can be signs of fear or stress. 

A dog will show an aggressive, physical warning when they bare all their teeth with a tense forehead and hard eyes. 



reading dog body language

Pay attention to the base of your dog’s ears (whether they are naturally erect or floppy) to get an accurate read of their mood. A relaxed dog usually has their ears to the sides or slightly back. An aroused or curious mood will show in forward ears or pointed at the subject of interest.

If your dog’s ears are flattened to the back of their head, this may mean they are feeling scared.


reading dog body language

To understand your dog’s emotional state, consider your dog’s body, face, and environment to give you the full context. All these factors will help you become better at reading dog body language.



reading dog body language

It is widely believed that tail wagging always signifies happiness or playfulness but that is a myth! A dog may wag its tail for a variety of reasons. It’s important to look at the speed, direction, and position of the tail wagging to determine what the reason may be.

Fast tail wagging in an upright position may signify that your dog is alert and highly aroused (which may cause anxiety). A slower, side-to-side wag means that they are happy and relaxed. 

Typically, the higher position the tail is in, the more alert the dog is. This may also be a way to show confidence, dominance, and even aggression. Tails pointing to the ground or between the legs signal fear and discomfort. Neutral positions of the tail (around the base of their tail) typically means they are feeling content.


Posture and Behaviors

reading dog body language

If a dog distributes its weight to the back, it may look like they are cowering or look apprehensive which means they may be feeling scared or uncomfortable. A dog may also pee out of excitement or fear. 

In anxiousness and stress, a dog may randomly scratch or lick themselves, cower, hide behind their person, or attempt to escape the situation.

A curious dog will shift their weight forward, as a way to inspect something. If other aggressive body languages are included, like hard eyes or an alert upright tail, they may be trying to assert dominance and appear larger.

Zoomies, or Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs), refer to those unmistakable explosions of energy that dogs have on occasion. Zoomies often feature frantic, repetitive behavior such as running in circles or spinning around. A frequent cause of zoomies is an excess buildup of energy that dogs hold on to, which is then released in one big burst.” This is a natural dog behavior and shouldn’t alarm you. However, most people associate “zoomies” as a happy burst of energy which may not always be the case. Some dogs may get hyperactive after a stressful situation so “zoomies” are a way to blow off stored stress to feel less overwhelmed.

Other common calming signals include shaking all over (the way they do when they are wet), lip licking and yawning.


10 Useful Clues to Understand Your Dog Better

Check out these sources for more information:

7 Tips on Canine Body Language

How to Speak Dog by Understanding Canine Body Language

Do you feel more confident about reading dog body language? Is it easy for you to understand how your dog is feeling? Let us know below!

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