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Home PET BEHAVIOR & TRAININGDog Behavior The Secrets of Canine Body Language: Reading Your Dog’s Cues.

The Secrets of Canine Body Language: Reading Your Dog’s Cues.

by Bella Woof
happy dog

The Secrets of Canine Body Language: Reading Your Dog’s Cues

Dogs are incredibly expressive creatures, and much like humans, they use a variety of methods to communicate their thoughts and feelings. By learning about your dog’s body language, you can gain a better understanding of their needs, wants, and moods. Whether you are a seasoned dog owner or a newcomer to the world of canines, this guide will help you decipher your furry friend’s cues.

Why is it important to understand canine body language?

Part of being a responsible pet owner is being able to communicate with your canine companion effectively. Understanding their behavior and body language will help you monitor their health, identify potential issues, and establish a more meaningful relationship with them.

When you are aware of your dog’s cues, you will know when they are feeling anxious, scared, or happy. If your dog is experiencing anxiety, you can take steps to alleviate their stress and prevent potential aggression. On the other hand, if your dog is happy and relaxed, you can encourage this behavior and reinforce positive behavior.

Types of Canine Body Language

Dogs use many different forms of communication to express themselves. Here are some of the most common types of canine body language:

1. Facial Expressions

Just like humans, dogs use their facial expressions to communicate a range of emotions. The position of their ears, the look in their eyes, and the rise or fall of their brows can convey feelings of joy, fear, aggression or submission.

2. Tail Wagging

Tail wagging is one of the most recognizable dog behaviors, but not all tail-wagging is the same. A wagging tail can indicate excitement, pleasure, fear or aggression. The position of the tail, along with its movement, can provide clues as to what your dog is feeling.

3. Body posture

The position of a dog’s body can reveal a lot about its state of mind. A relaxed dog will have a loose, open stance, whereas a defensive dog will keep its body tense, with its tail and ears flattened.

4. Vocalizations

Dogs use a variety of sounds to communicate, from growls to whines. The tone, intensity, and pitch of their barks and whines can provide hints about their mood and intentions.

5. Movement

Dogs use various movements such as jumping, running and spinning to show their feelings, some means they are happy and some indicates fear or anxiety.

Reading Your Dog’s Body Language

Now that you know more about the types of canine body language, it’s time to put your knowledge to use by learning how to read your dog’s cues.

1. Happy and Relaxed

If your dog is happy and relaxed, they will have a loose, wiggly body, with their tail held at a neutral level. Their ears will be perked, and their eyes will be bright and alert. They may also approach you with a wagging tail and open mouth.

2. Fearful or Anxious

A scared or anxious dog might cower, with their tail tucked between their legs; their ears will be flat against their head, or they may use an appeasement gesture such as sniffing the ground. They may yawn excessively or lick their lips. Additionally, they might keep their body tense and low to the ground, with their tail held low.

3. Aggressive

An aggressive dog will have its body stiff, with its ears pinned back and its tail raised, the fur on its back may stand up, and it may growl or bare its teeth. It may also use lunging motions or a hackle raise to intimidate potential threats.

4. Playful

If your dog is in a playful mood, they may display a loose, relaxed body, with their tail held high and wagging, and their ears perked up. They may also playfully nudge or jump on you or run in circles.

5. Submissive

A submissive dog will have a low, crouched body, with its tail tucked between its legs and its ears flat against its head. It may also make eye contact with you and offer a submissive grin by exposing its teeth.

FAQs on Understanding Canine Body Language

Q: How long does it take to learn how to interpret canine body language?

A: Learning to understand canine body language is a process that takes time and practice. You can start by observing your dog daily and identifying patterns in behavior. It may take a few weeks to notice consistent patterns or to recognize specific signs, but with patience and consistency, you will get better at interpreting their cues.

Q: Are there any situations where a dog’s body language may not be accurate?

A: In certain situations, dogs may not display their typical body language cues. For example, if your dog is feeling sick or unwell, their behavior may be different than what you’re used to. Additionally, some dogs have been trained to suppress their natural communication style. Dog aggression treatment and obedience training can help in such situations.

Q: Can dogs learn to read human body language?

A: Dogs are very observant creatures and over time can learn to read human body language cues. This ability is supported by scientific research, which has found that dogs use human social cues, such as pointing and eye gaze, to understand what their owner wants or expects of them.


Understanding your dog’s body language is crucial when it comes to effectively communicating with them. By learning what your dog’s cues mean, you can address their needs, prevent unwanted behaviors, and establish a more meaningful relationship with them. Be sure to spend time daily observing your dog’s behavior to find out what they are thinking and what they need from you to be happy and healthy.

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