Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language Isn’t Rocket Science

body language dog cover

A good communication with your dog is the key element to a harmonious life together. Although dogs do not speak, they express their emotions very well with their body language. If we want to know how does our dog feel, we just have to watch his behaviors.

Every little change in a dog’s body speaks volumes. It is our task to carefully observe all these details to get to know our dogs better. That way, we might know what their likes and dislikes are, and we would be prepared to avoid any awkward situation for our dogs.

A Dog’s Body language


dogs body Language excited flowersIf you really want to know how your dog feels about something then you should start paying more attention to your dog and its behavior towards those things. For example, if your dog is cheerful and excited about going to the park or for specific toy then it’s safe to say he loves to go to the park or enjoy playing and chewing that toy.

Dogs have very specific ways to show their excitement such as running around, jumping while wagging their tail. They use their head, ear, tail and back to express their emissions.

The key to listen and understand your dog is to be more conscientious.

Aggressive or Playful

Sometimes, the difference between an aggressive dog and a playful one is very subtle. If we want to really know what the dog is feeling, we should look at his body and the energy he is projecting.

In general, an aggressive dog looks very tense. It has his head and ears upright, his back and legs are engaged, his tail is raised or tucked and most likely his teeth are showing. An aggressive dog might want to escape or go forward and attack.

However, a playful dog might also want to move forward and “attack”. An attack that might leave you with dirty paw marks all over your clothes or your face full of dog’s kisses. Unlike the aggressive dog, the playful one has a much relaxed body with his tail wagging and his ears pulled back.

body language agressive vs playful

When trying to read a dog’s emotions and energy, it is always very important to look at the tail and ears. Those are among the most expressive body parts.

Displacement and Avoidance Behavior

Most of the time dogs get anxious, but they do not do anything radical about it. However, we should spot the behaviors that can be evidence of this triggered anxiety. As a result, we could prevent the dog from getting into an awkward situation that could make him aggressive in the future.

Dogs have a very distinctive way of showing us when they are feeling some discomfort in a situation. These are called body language avoidancedisplacement behaviors. This refers to things dogs normally do, which are out of context. For instance, yawning when not tired, licking obsessively, biting paws, sniffing the ground and shaking when not dirty. Dogs do these out of context when they are stopping themselves from doing something else, like attacking.

On the other hand, avoidance behavior is observed when dogs try to escape that same uncomfortable situation. This can be very obvious, with the dog leaving the room. However, there are other ways a dog might give us a hint he is not pleased with what is going on, such as turning his head away or hiding. It is important to know that if a dog feels bad about a situation he should not be forced to endure it.

Remember Each Dog Is Different

Just like humans, each dog is different and has unique style of body language to show his emotions. If you do not understand general signs of your dog’s behavior then you should not be alarmed right away but need to accept that your dog may have completely different vocabulary of body language.

However, that should not stop you from teaching him your version of body language and training him for better behavior and to become a welcomed member of your family.

All these changes and behavior are very general, and they apply for most dogs. However, dogs can also develop other means of communication that might not be as common or obvious. The ideal approach to understand your dog’s body language is to always keep an eye on him. The longer you observe his behaviors, the better you will read your dog.

Michele Hersh is a dog lover and mostly writes on Peanut Paws, about dog health and nutrition based on her own experience. She is a nurse and lives with her husband and a cute Beagle puppy. Visit her website peanutpaws.com.

photo credits: Cover: Matheus Otero Post: dailymail.co.uk