Dog Training

Dog Body Language-10 Signs What Your Dog Is Telling You That Is Important

In dog body language, it communicates a lot to humans. But in humans, their body language comprises more than half of our overall communication. Without words or tone to support them, dogs rely on their physicality alone to express themselves.

Though they may not laugh or cry, their emotions run deep. If you’re paying attention, you can easily decipher their internal states.  Doing so can keep you safe if a dog is presenting signs of aggression or help you better console a dog who is expressing fear. It can also bring the two of you closer together, making training and communication much easier. Wondering what your dog is trying to tell you?

“Listen” to these 10 tail tell signs of dog body language.


dog body language from a white lab with green tennis ball


1.  The eyes of a dog are the windows to its soul

The eyes truly are the windows to the soul. Their shape speaks volumes and can give valuable insights to a dog’s emotional state. If the inner and outer corners are relaxed creating an almond shape, your dog is likely very content. When rounded, they’re probably more aroused if not outright startled. Beware anytime you can see the whites of their eyes though. It could indicate a level of tension or discomfort that may lead to a bite under the right circumstances.


2.  The ears of a dog gives you clues about their state of mind

A dog’s ears have a huge range of motion. The direction they’re facing gives you clues about their state of mind with a high degree of accuracy. When facing forward, all is well and the dog likely feels copacetic about a situation. If they appear to be directed toward a specific situation, they may sit especially upright. However, once they rotate to the back or lay flat on their head it’s a sign of trouble. Pinned to the neck communicates nervousness, but don’t be surprised if you see them flicker to catch surrounding sounds.  


3.  If a dog’s tail is wagging, is all really well?

Most pet parents, falsely, assume that if their dog is wagging its tail that all is well. In canine body language, while that is often the case, the truth is that tails convey a spectrum of emotion. A tail held high usually conveys confidence and high energy. However, it can also be a sign of aggression if paired with raised hackles or a stiff posture. It’s generally a show of dominance to other pups.

A horizontal tail communicates intrigue and fixated attention. Once the tail drops between the legs there’s usually an identifiable issue. This is often a display of submission and the underlying feeling is one of stress or fear. Sometimes this happens in public as a dog becomes overstimulated and overwhelmed.

Large groups of other dogs could also trigger this response as your dog intuits his or her place in the “pack”. Once you see the tail dip, look for other signs like pinned ears and stance. Keeping a close eye on your pup during high stress moments will help ensure his fear doesn’t lead to a lash out.


4.  Both you and your dog claim ownership of each other in dog body language

Both you and your dog claim ownership of one another. You simply have different ways of showing it. As a show of protection, your dog is likely to sit or stand on your feet, using their legs. In doing so, she’s telling other dogs that she lays claim to you. She’s also putting her scent on you, solidifying you as a member of the pack.


5.  A dog’s paws tell of its emotional well-being

An obvious limp is less a sign of your dog’s emotional well-being and more likely the result of injury. However, when learning and understanding dog body behavior, if you see your dog standing at attention with one paw lifted up off the ground, it usually means they’ve spotted prey and are ready to hunt it.  


6.  Being aware of a dog’s mouth will keep you and others safe

Knowing how to spot a dog bite in the making is key to keeping yourself and others safe. If you see the lips and the tongue pulled back, leave or intervene before they can sink their teeth in.


7.  Your dog’s tongue and its movements tell us if he is physically uncomfortable or feeling anxious

If your dog is extending and retracting its tongue in rapid succession something is making him or her uncomfortable. It could be a general anxiety that comes when strangers are around or a sign of physical discomfort.

When a dog’s tongue and lips are relaxed and loose, everything is fine, even if you can audibly detect a playful growl.

miniature american eskimo resting on grass
Source – Microsoft Office Pexels


8.  Dog body language tells us of its emotional state

Should you come up on your dog tucked into a fetal position with this head down and body rolled into itself, proceed with caution. This dog body language Your dog is telling you she’s scared. Whether at the hands of thunder or in the presence of another dog, tread lightly. Attempt to slowly coax them out with a gentle voice and slow movements. If you are unable to readily detect a source, it could indicate a past history of abuse.

9.  Trembling or shaking in a dog’s body shows a wide range of important issues

There are numerous causes that could account for your dog’s light trembling. From nausea and infection to old age or general excitement, context is important to pin down the true cause.

10. Abnormal behavior in a dog communicates a lot

Ok, so this is less body language, but still communicates a great deal. In essence, if your dog is tearing up furniture or eliminating in the house, it typically means they simply require more exercise throughout the day.

Don’t mistake behavioral issues for something that can easily be corrected with an increased activity level. Make sure they’re getting somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes each day depending on the breed. You can also try keeping them mentally stimulated with toys and games or by using food puzzles that dispense their meal once solved.

Dog body language does not lie. Knowing how to interpret it can help you understand a great deal about what your dog is thinking and feeling. Paying close attention to the visual communication your dog is emitting will ultimately help you better respond to their needs. As with any relationship, learning to better communicate can only strengthen the relationship. Understanding a dog’s body language strengthens dog-human communication to improve on their relationship.


Biography of Michael Eggleston

Michael Eggleston from Muenster Milling grew up in a veterinary household. His parents owned a group of vet clinics, where he worked through high school. In addition to working in the family business, they had a ranch. Needless to say, 100% of his time outside of school was devoted to animal health.

Upon graduation of high school, Michael attended farrier school to learn corrective horseshoeing. He specialized in working directly with veterinarians to treat or prevent lameness in horses. While running his farrier practice, he returned to school to study Biology. His pursuit of education eventually led him to West Texas A&M where he completed his undergraduate degree in Animal Science, with an emphasis in Animal Nutrition.

Michael continues to pursue and advance his education in animal science & nutrition while collaborating with PhD nutritionists in developing new diets.


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