Monday, March 4, 2013

Dog body language- Are you listening to what your pet is telling you?

Our Natasha has no trouble getting her thoughts across to us- especially if we are too slow in offering her a chewy pig's ear treat. Same with our maltese, Samson. He can let it be know clearly that he's just not up for play right now. But how do we know what's being thought, felt, and well yes, said? We just listen, look, and watch. Dogs are very expressive and we must be attentive to their expressions.

Dogs are a whole body communicator, not just one part or another. It is important to view the whole picture, your dog and the situation or context he’s in, in order to accurately determine what he’s trying to say to get the complete message your dog is telling you. They use facial expressions, ear set, tail carriage and overall demeanor to signal their intentions and feelings to others.

In Summary:

Each body part makes up the whole very expressive dog. Here is a list of things to remember about a dog's body language:


  • Advancing: indicates dominance or aggression
  • Retreating: indicates fear or anxiety
  • Facing squarely: indicates confidence, dominance or aggression
  • Standing sideways: indicates confidence without asserting dominance


  • Leaning forward: indicates confidence and interest
  • Leaning forward with stiff legged stance: indicates dominance or aggressive intention
  • Leaning backward: indicates fear or submission
  • Body or head lowered: indicates fear, anxiety or submission
  • Body or head lowered and twisted: indicates submission
  • Body lowered on front end only: indicates playfulness
  • Body twisted upside down: indicates extreme submission or fear
  • Body upside down and rolling: indicates pleasure
  • Head turned away: indicates submission or a truce
  • Head held high, arched neck: indicates confidence or challenge


  • Paw placed on another's back: indicates dominance or aggression
  • Head and neck placed over another's back: indicates dominance or aggression
  • Shoulder or hip bump into another: indicates dominance or playfulness

Tail Position

  • Tail held horizontal or naturally: indicates interest
  • Tail raised, held stiffly and quivering: indicates dominance or aggressive intention
  • Tail tucked: indicates fear, anxiety or submission
  • Tail tucked but wagging: indicates submission
  • Tail wagging slowly but broadly: indicates relaxation, playfulness or anticipation
  • Tail wagging quickly and broadly: indicates submission or pleasure


Ears forward: indicates interest, dominance, playfulness or aggression
Ears back: indicates fear
Ears down: indicates submission


  • Note:  Dogs don't like to be stared at directly in the eye. It can frighten a timid dog, or be seen as a challenge to a dominant dog, and either case can end up in a dog bite for you.
  • Eyes opened wide and staring: indicates aggression
  • Eyes turned away and squinting: indicates submission
  • Eyes blinking rapidly: indicates stress
  • Eyes with dilated pupils: indicates arousal, often from fear or aggression


  • Mouth agape with lip corner forward: indicates aggression
  • Mouth slightly open with lip corner pulled back, all teeth showing: indicates fear
  • Mouth open with lip corner pulled upward, often with tongue showing: indicates relaxation or playfulness
  • Mouth licking the air or toward you or another dog rapidly: indicates submission
  • Mouth licking lips: may indicate stress. Or maybe he's just getting ready to eat!
  • Face, nose or lips wrinkled, teeth showing: indicates aggression
  • Front teeth showing but no signs of aggression: indicates submission (the "canine grin")
  • Mouth yawning: indicates nervousness or serves to reduce tension in aggressive situations
  • Muzzle push: indicates submission, affection
  • Panting: if not hot or tired, may indicate anxiety or pain


Hackles raised: indicates arousal associated with aggression or fear

Here is a great pictorial chart of doggy messages by Lilli Chin, 

Once you know what your dog is telling you, you need to know how to respond back. Important to keep mind, according to animal behaviorist, John Bradsha, in an NPR article, is to realize" that dogs are neither wolves nor furry humans and that dog owners have certain responsibilities to make sure their dogs are psychologically healthy."

Learn more about dogs and their body language here:
ASPCA/Canine Body Language
Dog Body Language

An Easier Way to Speak Dog

Wouldn't be so much simpler in the ende to have a translator collar like the dogs in Pixar's movie "Up?"

Seems you can now purchase one too! It's called Bowlingual Dog Translator:

Take the translation test

Now that you've learned how to speak dog, test yourself to see how accurate your are typing a word into the handy canine translator to see what your pooch is trying to tell you: Click here to take the test-

What has your dog been trying to tell you lately and how have you responded?

1 comment:

  1. I watched the video you shared here in your blog and I enjoyed watching them with my son. We both learned a lot from the information shared here in your article and he wants to it to try with our dogs. We learned that in every move of our dogs they want to say something for us. I can share this informative article with my friends. Learn more about: Free Pet Care