What Your Dog Is Trying To Tell You: Understanding Canine Body Language

  • 23/10/2019

“Dog bites out of the blue!”

These are the exact headlines that give dogs a bad reputation. Now we are not going to deny this may be a little dramatic, but as a dog owner, wouldn’t you like to have the skills to avoid these situations at all costs?

We’ll let you in on a little secret – a dog rarely bites out of the blue. They will give several warnings that are totally ignored.

Despite us giving a dog a name and their inability to speak, they will tell you everything you need to know, you just need to look for it. By that we mean, watch their body, their behavior, their little twitches. You watch everything about them.

Understanding Body Language

As a dog owner, you should be concerned if your dog is showing stressed behavior or appearing anxious or fearful etc. These responses are generally a precursor to something more serious occurring.

Stressed Dog Body Language

Your dog will show a range of signs if they are becoming unhappy about a situation including:

-         Lip licking,

-         Yawning,

-         Turning away,

-         Low grumbling,

-         Excessive panting,

-         Excessive salivating,

Aggressive Dog Body Language

If these signs are ignored, they may escalate to:

-         Growling,

-         Removing themselves from the situation,

-         Snarling (showing their teeth, lifting their lip).

-         Smiling (this is too commonly missed).

Again, if these signals are missed, they may then escalate to:

-         Nipping,

-         Snapping,

-         Biting,

As a dog owner, its essential to understand your dog’s baseline behaviors. It’s easy to remember, just think about each part of their body.

-         When they are happy, how does their tail naturally sit?

-         In their normal state, are their ears up or down?

-         What level of panting is normal for them?

-         How much do they usually drool?

You are looking for any change to their different body parts. Any movement from their baseline indicates something isn’t right.

Different Body Language a Dog Can Present

A chilled and happy dog will have a relaxed body, they will have fluid movement. A stressed dog, however, will move tentatively. They may be reluctant as they walk or try to make themselves as small as possible.

On the other end of that scale, a scared dog may present as aggressive; making themselves look as big as possible. Their hackles will be up, and they will stand tense.

A stressed dog will have wide eyes; trying to take in as much information about their environment as possible. They may still wag their tail (which can be confusing), but it will be lower and slower than usual.


Dogs can tell us everything we need to know; we just need to look for it.

Look at every part of their body and establish how they behave when they are happy and relaxed. Any movement from this shows us a change in mood.

There are general behaviors to be watchful of, but individual dogs can have their own little tells; so just get to know your dog. They’ll thank you for it.  

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