The classic saying is that dogs are man’s best friend. Still, that doesn’t mean that we can always or immediately understand each other. Although humans and dogs have co-evolved together to understand each other better than other animals, dogs still communicate more through body language than we may be used to. Fortunately, there a handful of simple tips to follow to better understand your dogs.
The best way is to pay attention to your dog’s faces, noises, postures and actions!
1. Dog Faces
Ears up and floppy, tongue out, looking straight at you:
In this relaxed position, your dog is probably in a relaxed, positive mood—and they may be responding to you positively because they’ve just been shown affection
Intense eye contact:
Although this may seem intimidating, it generally just means that your dog is alert and focused on you or on another thing that seems worthy of attention—like a toy, a treat or something else.
Ears straight up, whites of eyes showing:
Unlike the other faces, this is usually the sign of an anxious or fearful dog. Maybe it knows you’re about to do something it doesn’t like…
2. Dog Noises
If your dog has a non-urgent but rising bark, it generally means they want to play with you or they’re excited!
This may sound more like a sad bark or a more prolonged or elongated “woof.” In the case of the latter, it’s also just a call-and-response reaction to some kind of loud or high-pitched sound (something like a police siren or some other outside sound).
If your dog makes itself smaller and growls, they may feel threatened, fearful or anxious. It’s best not to try and surprise your dog in this position but to calm them down instead.
3. Dog Postures
Head high, ears up, mouth open, relaxed tail:
As you might’ve guessed, this is doggie “neutral” and generally means that your animal is relaxed and secure in their surroundings. Feel free to approach and pet in these situations.
Eyes wide, mouth closed, ears forward, tail straight out:
Unlike the other position, this is a sign of alertness. The tail may also be moving slowly from side to side as well. Still, this doesn’t always mean there’s a threat around—it may also signify something of interest in the area.
Tail wagging, front lowered, mouth wide open:
In this position, your dog is playfully bowing to you and may also be barking as well. You’re likely to see this in the middle of playing with your animal (or your dog wants to play with you).
4. Dog Actions
Rocking horse run:
In the middle of playing, your dog may run from front to back like a rocking horse to show that they are having fun and being casual.
Loose and floppy tongue:
In general, a loose and floppy tongue means everything is a-ok with your dog.
Low and fast-wagging tail:
This is often a sign of slight discomfort or anxiety with the situation. This is a good time to find a way to comfort your dog.
Mid-height, fast wagging tail:
This means your dog is excited—maybe excited to see you after you came home, or excited to go for a walk.
Lips back, teeth exposed with flat ears:
This is a threatening pose and often means your dog may be about to bite!
If your dog digs, it’s likely a holdover from older wolf behavior and there are many reasons for it. It generally means they are bored or hyperactive, trying to get energy out.
Sniffing another dog’s behind:
This is a dog’s way of saying hello!
Upright, forward ears:
This is the sign that your dog is paying attention to whatever is directly in front of them!
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