Wondering what your doggie is trying to tell you through dog body language? Understanding the body language of dogs can provide you with a lot of useful information, such as when your dog is nervous or scared, or perhaps when he or she is on edge and might be ready to act out. Along with sounds and signals, through a dog’s facial expressions and body postures, they communicate to us what is going on in their minds.
Showing Appeasing Behavior
When your dog wants to appease you, he or she may seek attention with the following behaviors:
- Licking their muzzle or lips
- Jumping up
- Keeping the body lowered and curved
- Exposing their teeth, like smiling
Avoiding a Confrontation
When a dog is looking to avoid a confrontation, they may use body signals to provide a distraction of sorts, like a way for the dog to cover up the way they are actually feeling. Some examples are: yawning, scratching, sniffing, sneezing and licking. Dogs who perceive a threat and are fearful may show signs of passive submission, such as cowering and freezing their body.
Showing Stress, Discomfort or Nervousness
If a dog feels stressed and nervous, he or she may show many different types of behavior that work to either help relieve their stress, or to try to calm down a perceived threat. Although dogs yawn when they are tired, they are also much more likely to yawn when they are feeling nervous. You may think that when your dog is licking their lips, they may be hungry or have just eaten. However, a dog also will yawn when they are feeling afraid. Here are some other signs of stress or nervousness.
- Freezing their body
- Turning away from the perceived threat, but still looking at it with the whites of the eyes
- Having a furrowed brow or curved eyebrows
- Keeping the jaw tense, with the mouth closed
- Hugging around their owner’s body
- Keeping the tail low
- A curved tongue
- Panting that sounds dry or raspy
- Sweaty Paws
- Hair on the spine and neck standing on end
If your dog is feeling aggressive, it’s time to watch out! It is his or her way of defending themselves against a perceived threat to keep themselves safe. If the perceived threat doesn’t retreat or back away, the dog is likely to go on the offensive and bite. These behaviors are easy to identify.
- Projecting their body forward
- Keeping the mouth tense
- Lips are pushed forward and vibrating when the dog is growling
- Snapping at the air or at the skin
- Biting: fast nipping, deep biting, biting and holding, or biting and shaking
- Hard, staring eyes
- Tail wagging
About Tail Wagging
Many people think that as long as their dog is wagging their tail, they are feeling happy. However, according to experts, this simply isn’t true. Yes, a dog will wag their tail when they are happy at times, but at other times as well. A dog may also wag their tail if they are aroused, overstimulated or frustrated. Here are some examples:
- If a dog is confident or aroused, the tail will be held in the air.
- If the dog his wagging the tail, but is barking and has a defensive body posture, face that is tense and eyes that are staring hard, it is best to back away.
- When the tail is held low or between the legs, this shows nervousness or fear
- If the dog holds the tail high, but it is wagging it slowly, they may be accessing the situation.
- If the dog wags the tail like a helicopter with relaxed body movement and a wiggling bottom, this shows friendliness and that they are ready to engage.
- Research suggests that when a dog wags their tail more to the right, they like the person. If the person is unfamiliar, the tail will wag more to the left.
Signs of a Happy Dog
If your dog shows these signs, they are happy to have your attention and may want to play!
- A happy expression, panting and relaxed
- Relaxed body position
- Lying with one paw tucked under
- Wagging the tail enthusiastically
- Thumping the tail on the floor
- Front end down, rear end up with tail wagging
And there you have it! It’s not that hard reading dog body language.