Dog Body Language: How to Understand Your Dog Better

Jun 17 , 2021

Dog Body Language: How to Understand Your Dog Better

As humans it is easy for us to convey what we want, using speech. Unfortunately, that is not the same for our beloved pets. Pets can’t talk, thus, it’s always somewhat of a guessing game for us pet parents. However, did you know that canines try to communicate to us in their own ways? Dog body language is a crucial form of communication that we need to understand in order to understand the messages that our dogs are trying to convey.

From facial expressions to postures, the body language of dogs speaks volumes. If you are not familiar with dog body language, this article is here to help you understand your pet.

Fear and Anxiety

According to The American Kennel Club, a dog with a tail pointing downwards means he is in a state of fear. Sometimes, canines tuck their tails in between their legs too when they feel extremely anxious. Simultaneously, dogs may cower or hunch towards the ground when they feel scared.

Another thing that dogs do when they feel afraid is lip licking. Though most pet owners associate lip-licking with hungriness or fullness, sometimes, this behavior indicates uneasiness and fright in canine language. When dogs come face to face with the thing/s that they dread, they will also turn their head away from it as a sign that they do not like it.


If the fear and anxiety are not addressed, it can lead to aggression. You want to avoid having your dog in a state of aggression as much as possible. This behavior can result in someone getting harmed. It is therefore best to address the primary factors of fear and anxiety before it becomes too late.

You can distinguish an aggressive dog by his body language. Most often, all four paws are firmly planted on the ground and tails are raised and bristled. You can also discern an aggressive dog from the way his eyes stare. When you see a dog with hard eyes or if he stares at something for an unusually long time, it can mean a looming threat. He can launch an aggressive attack anytime.


There’s nothing cuter than an excited pooch! Pet parents always find it adorable when their canines become too giddy and excited over something. Who wouldn’t, right? But how can you distinguish excitement through dog body language?

The most common indicator of an excited dog is a wagging tail. However, this can also mean stress or frustration. To determine whether your dog is excited or not, look at how he wags his tail. When his tail moves to the right, it means a positive feeling of excitement. Excited pups also wag their tails at a very fast speed to show how excited they are about something. Tongues may hang outside too (think about it as an equivalent to a human’s smile.) Jumping, barking, and being hyperactive also means that your dog is extremely excited and needs to unleash some of his energy.


Playful dogs are synonymous with happy dogs. Playing with your dog is one of the healthy habits that your dog can benefit from. A playful canine will also exhibit the same dog body language as excited dogs do. The key factor, however, is the play bow. The play bow is a clue that dogs want to play chase.

The play bow posture starts with the front paws lowered on the ground while keeping the back legs straight up – indicating a dog’s version of bowing. Your dog will also keep his tail up and wag it vertically to specify his readiness to play with you. Once the dog is in this position, he may attempt to jump up and down to get someone to play with them. Other dog body language cues for playtime are exposing the belly and a leaning posture.


Dogs always feel threats that humans can’t. A dog’s response to threat can either be defense or offense – and sometimes, both. This is his way to protect himself or scare away whatever it is that might hurt him. Usually, a dog starts with a defensive stance first to scare the perceived threat away. But if scaring does not work, then your dog will launch an offense.

The defensive stance begins with the body leaning forward and a tensed mouth. Just like in an aggressive dog body language, the dog’s eyes play an important role in defense. The dog will also start to make snarling or growling noises in an attempt to keep the threat away. Air snapping is also a common sign of a dog in defense mode.

The offense starts when your dog starts to pounce and snap with skin contact. It is the mildest form of offense to keep the threat away. However, if it includes a deeper bite, it means that the dog has all the intention to harm the threat already. If it bites, holds and shakes, the intent to harm is aggravated and may potentially lead to killing.


Dogs are watchful and observant of their surroundings. When they find something interesting or new, they may be on high alert until they can guarantee that the situation is safe. Assessing the situation, especially when something unknown comes, is one of your dog’s innate abilities. Hence, you need to know when your dog body language signals the alert mode.

Your dog is on high alert when his eyes are wide and ears bent forward (this may twitch as if he is trying to hear something.) Your dog will also be standing tall on his toes while slightly leaning forward. Meanwhile, the tail is parallel to the ground and is neither stiff nor bristled. The tail may also move from side to side.


Knowing dog body language is important for every fur parent. It is your responsibility to understand how your dog communicates with you. Since dogs couldn’t communicate with humans verbally, their body cues are tell-tale signs of what they want to convey.