How to Read Your Dog’s Body Language

Canine body language is a great way to help owners understand what dogs are feeling, how they are handling a situation, and what they are about to do. Handed down from the body language of their lupine ancestors, the body language of dogs is easy for humans to understand.

Knowing canine body language can help avoid fearful situations and aggressive behavior, prevent dog bites, as well as how to react when situations arise.
1- Relaxed dogs do not feel threatened by other dogs or their environment. They are friendly and approachable.
Relaxed dog body language traits:
  • dog standing erect on four legs
  • tail hanging down straight (or in some breeds, curled upward) and wagging in a slow, sweeping motion
  • mouth open, tongue out, gentle panting (but not due to heat or stress)
  • ears erect and facing forward
  • eyes with small pupils, no whites showing
  • dog looking around, taking an interest in his surroundings, smelling and walking around

2- The playful stance, where a dog has his rump raised high, is the sign that it’s time to go out and play! Dogs also acquire this stance as a time out or as an apology or peace offering if they think they may have behaved too aggressively or threateningly.
Playful body language traits:
  • rump raised, front of the body lowered, front knees bent, head forward, dog jumping around
  • tail raised high and waving
  • mouth open, tongue out
  • ears perked up and alert
  • eyes wide open, darting around in anticipation, pupils dilated
Playful body language traits
How to Read Your Dog's Body Language

3- Stressed dogs give signals to show they are overheated, frustrated, fearful, or simply trying to deflect conflict.
Stressed dog body language traits:
  • body bent forward, head down
  • tail down and limp
  • tongue extended forward or licking the nose, indicating being wary but not aggressive, panting extensively if overheated
  • ears folded back
  • eyes avoiding looking directly at anything, pupils dilated
  • Stressed dog body language traits

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