Best way to understand your dog’s body language

Understanding canine body language

The dogs are very smart animals and they often surprise us with their way of acting. As usual, the relationship between the dog and its owner is very good due to the continuous communication that exists.

They show their emotional state through their body language and facial expression that demonstrates their basic feelings, such as fear, submission, aggression, the desire to play, etc. Two body parts of the dog they are key for body language are ears and tail.

Their ancestors

Wolf and dog howl at full moon

To better understand how communication occurs in dogs, we have to go further, starting with their ancestor, the wolf. Wolves live in packs, and dogs do the same with other household animals and humans themselves.

Here you can check more information about the similarities between dogs and wolves.

In litters there is always un leader, and in the case of dogs the leader must be the owner. But to be a good leader one must first understand what each dog’s behavior and posture means.

Types of communication in canine language

There is various ways that a dog can communicate, Among the most common are body language and facial expressions. Sometimes they also use verbal cues (barking, moaning, grunting, etc.) in the same way as man.

Man, of course, has a much more advanced language than dogs, but dogs can learn hundreds of human sounds, although they never compare with us. This is why they need to receive short orders, plus we must quickly understand their body language or facial expressions.

Body language and expressions

empathize with the canine language of our pet

Good, the most important thing is to know your dog and, based on these tips and recommendations that we are going to give you, communicate with him in a more effective way. Remember, it is much easier to learn their language than ours.

Every day I think it is worth investing a little more effort in improving communication, especially when buying a puppy or acquiring it by other means, since there is generally limited time to choose a dog from the litter. For this it is advisable to try to caress the puppy, load it and if it is possible to feed it in the hand, in this way we can learn a little more about its behavior.

So let’s explain the most common canine body language postures among almost all races. Look closely at each part of the body as we analyze them, since the meaning can vary greatly.

Playful and happy

Canine body language: playing

  • The ears are relaxed.
  • Eyes wide open, happy and bright.
  • The mouth is relaxed and slightly open, the teeth remain covered by the lips and the breath is excited, as if breathless.
  • The body is relaxed, the front part of the body is lowered and the rear part is raised, asking jokes, jumping from one side to the other.
  • The tail turns vigorously (note well: tight and relaxed, not taut).
  • He barks in excitement and lets out some delicious grunts, but nothing threatening.


Canine body language: friendly

  • The ears are relaxed.
  • Eyes wide as if alert, but without that piercing gaze. Making eye contact without challenge.
  • The mouth relaxed, remains half open and sometimes showing a “smile”.
  • The body is in the normal position. It usually shakes the entire body from head to tail.
  • The tail is visibly up. It does move her in this situation, but she is usually relaxed and with a greater range of motion.
  • The sound may be a wail or a small growl.


Canine body language: anxiety

  • With ears partially back.
  • Eyes slightly closed.
  • Mouth closed or partially closed, as if you were smiling.
  • Body tense, but lower than usual, presenting a submissive posture.
  • The tail is usually between straight and down.
  • You can hear howls or moans that resemble the crunch of a tree bark.


Canine body language: fearful

  • The ears are lowered, lying down and glued to the head.
  • With eyes half closed or looking away.
  • Lips show bare teeth.
  • The body is tense, crouched in a submissive and trembling position. If the situation is too scary for him, look at his nose. The anal glands lose a discharge with a very strong odor.
  • The tail is down and between the legs.
  • A low-pitched sound is emitted, a cry of concern.

Curious and / or anxious

Canine body language: curious

  • The ears are in motion, pointing forward.
  • The eyes are wide open.
  • The mouth is open with the teeth covered, possibly with throbbing movements on the lips.
  • The body maintains a correct posture. It can be moving, standing still, or just shaking or shaking it.
  • The tail rises and moves.
  • The sounds are short but enthusiastic. Sometimes of complaint.

Signs of aggression

Canine body language: aggressiveness

  • The ears are tilted back, always close to the head.
  • The eyes are narrowed, the gaze remains fixed in the eyes of another dog or person, asking for a challenge.
  • The mouth is open-lipped, teeth showing, and they often make a threatening growl.
  • The jaw may quiver and tremble with the growl.
  • The body tightens. When the dog wants to look menacing, it tries to look bigger. The hair is stiff in the neck and is in a very dominant position.
  • The tail is taut and continuous as an extension of the body, never downward.
  • In terms of sounds, he only growls and barks out loud.


Canine body language: alert

  • Ears are raised and moved to better capture sounds.
  • The eyes remain wide open and observant.
  • The mouth is closed or slightly open, but without showing the teeth.
  • The body is in a normal position, but less relaxed, in an almost dominant position.
  • Tail up. Sometimes on the move (see? Tail wagging doesn’t always mean you want to play).
  • It does not make any sound, but it can give an alarm bark.

About to hunt something

Canine body language: hunting

Note: The hunt in question may be a toy, a meal, or your favorite shoe, not necessarily another animal.

  • The ears are in motion, pointing forward.
  • The eyes are wide open, on constant alert.
  • A slightly open and panting mouth.
  • Tense body. If you are squatting you are in a predatory position, with curved legs and ready to hunt.
  • Tail straight along the body or slightly higher.
  • Does not make any sound.


Canine body language: dominant

  • Contrary to what many people think, the dominant dog is not necessarily the physically largest dog. You have to differentiate between fighting and playing between several dogs outside the house, getting the reward and that often small dogs are the leaders in the house over us or over larger dogs.
  • Ears remain firm or pointing forward.
  • The head is very high when other dogs are around, trying to put the head above the heads of the others. You can also use the front legs, climbing on the backs of other dogs.
  • The eyes are wide open with penetrating gaze.
  • Mouth closed or slightly open. Showing teeth.
  • The body is as high as possible, with the hair standing on end.
  • The tail is located as high as possible by moving it rigidly.
  • The sound turns into an aggressive growl.

About to run out

Canine body language: physically exhausted

  • The ears are left behind.
  • The eyes remain wide open and fixed.
  • Mouth slightly open and tongue out.
  • The body is tense. Crouched or seated and ready to act.
  • The tail is low or between the legs.
  • It does not make a sound, but it can give a bark.

Caring for something, somewhere or a person

Canine body language: care things

  • Ears straight and forward.
  • Alert and eyes open.
  • Semi-open mouth, showing teeth, and may squeak or nibble.
  • Tense and rigid body.
  • The hair stands on end and trying to increase his height from a dominant position.
  • Tail rigid upward as an extension of the same body.
  • Loud barking and growling at the site / person / thing where care must be taken.


Canine Body Language: Submissive

  • The ears are lowered, almost glued to the head.
  • The eyes remain almost closed and avoid “face to face”.
  • The lips “stick” to the teeth, some dogs manage to smile.
  • The body is lying, accepting the domination of other dogs. The front paws can tap for affection and sometimes even the back to play. They can urinate on top.
  • The tail is low.
  • It doesn’t make a sound, but sometimes it can make some grunting sounds like fear.

Basic Canine Body Language

We leave you a small Very cool infographic that we have taken from the Breeder Portal with the most basic postures and language for you to remember at first glance:

How to understand the body language of our dogs


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About the Author: Catherine Rose

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