Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language
In order to effectively communicate with your dog, it’s important to understand the meanings behind his various body language signals. A wagging tail, friendly facial expression, and calm gait may indicate that your dog is feeling happy and comfortable around you. Bared teeth or a tucked tail could suggest that he feels threatened by your presence or something else in the environment. Learn how to read your dog’s body language so you can better understand what he’s trying to tell you and how best to interact with him.
The tail may be a tell when reading a dog’s body language.
You can learn a lot from your dog by noticing his tail position. This appendage isn’t just for show but can tell you what your dog is thinking and feeling with each wag. When a dog’s tail is held upright and he is actively wagging it from side to side, it means he feels happy and confident. A slow wag that never goes higher than his back indicates sadness or fearfulness. A stiff straight tail is most commonly associated with aggression. If you encounter a tense situation where one of these emotions may arise, give your dog some space and try to redirect his attention elsewhere until he has relaxed again.
How dogs use their mouth to communicate.
Dogs use their mouths for everything. For example, they use their mouths to take food from our hands or to play with other dogs; they also use their mouths to smell and scratch an itch. The next time you’re out walking your dog, pay attention to what he does with his mouth. Does he take your hand in his mouth? Does he kiss you as a show of affection?
If so, great! In some situations, a dog’s mouth can have a more aggressive tone. For example, during play or if someone encroaches on his territory, your dog may snap or even bite you. When your dog is baring his teeth, he’s not just smiling. He’s issuing a warning, letting you know that he feels threatened. Don’t take it personally if your dog growls when you approach; it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like you. This type of growling usually stems from fear or discomfort rather than aggression.
Understanding a dog’s body language by paying attention to their ears.
Dogs’ ears are so expressive, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re involved in many different types of body language. Ears can tell you a lot about how your dog is feeling. It’s important to remember that dog ears are a reflection of their mood, so they may still move even if your dog isn’t aware of their presence. If your dog is relaxed and happy, you’ll see his ears move from upright to neutral or slightly back. This could be because he’s listening intently to something in his environment, such as another animal moving through brush, or because he feels safe with you at his side. Flattened ears can mean several things, but one thing is certain: It indicates anxiety or fear. If your dog has flattened ears and is panting or growling, she may feel cornered or threatened.
What dogs may be saying with their eyes.
Look at your dog’s eyes. Dogs’ eyes are very expressive, even when they can’t talk. If your dog’s eyes are squinted and his ears relaxed and perked, he’s in a good mood and feels safe around you. If you make direct eye contact with him, his pupils will contract to tiny dots and appear black instead of yellow. (This is called eye pinning or staring.) A submissive dog may also turn away from you or lower his head when eye-pinned by a dominant dog. Pupils dilate and constrict for various reasons, including stress or excitement. If you notice that your dog’s pupils seem to be continually dilated, she might be afraid of you or something else in her environment. On the other hand, if her pupils seem to be constricted most of the time, she could be very tired or irritated—or simply ready for a nap!