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  • Cierra Voelkl

What is Your Dog Telling You?


Dogs are extremely perceptive and intelligent, even if they can't speak our language. You know how they whine to go potty? By knowing how to interpret their behavior and body language, you can easily tell what is going on through your dog's mind and what they're feeling. This isn't just seeing a wagging tail and assuming their happy but observing their entire body including tail, hackles and ears. Are they being aggressive, fearful, submissive, in pain? Read on about some simple ways to interpret their body language.


Photo Credit: BarkPost

"I'm scared"

When trying to tell you they're scared, While teaching to shake is a simple trick most pet owners teach their dogs, the raising of a paw while also looking away with the head down can indicate that your dog is unsure or stressed by the current situation. Tails tucked with head down or turned away is also another way they're telling you they're scared of the situation.


Photo Credit: Patch

"I'm submissive"

It's fairly easy to tell when your dog is being submissive to either you or another dog. Rolling on their back is a quick indication and no, it doesn't always mean they want a belly rub (but a belly rub wouldn't hurt). Other ways they indicate submission can be dead bobbing or lowering, head turning, averting eyes, lip licking, low tail carriage, tail tucked between the legs, and/or curved and lowered body. These are all ways dogs try to avert from danger or being hurt even by showing weakness if you've never actually hurt them before.

"I'm curious"

There's nothing cuter than a curious puppy who is so amazed at all the sights, smells and sounds out there in the world. You know how they tilt their head, close their mouth and often lift their front paw up? This applies to all dogs in a curious state, no matter the age, to ensure safety in a new situation.


Photo Credit: Quora

"I'm defensive"

This kind of language is used to show who they are "speaking" to that they are basically on the defense or offense and ready to protect themselves against danger if needed. This type of language is meant to give off a threat and make the danger back down, usually against another dog. This really should be the #1 type of body language that someone should be able to recognize. According to Positively, the following are defensive body language signals:


  • Body leaning forward

  • Tense mouth

  • Lips pushed forward and vibrating as the dog growls

  • Air snapping - the dog snaps in the air to warn something to back away

  • Snapping with skin contact - also a warning to back away

  • Fast nip – an immediate bite and release with bruising or slight wound, telling a threat to back off

  • Deeper bite – a dog that bites with more intensity is intending to harm

  • Bite and hold - intent to harm

  • Bite, hold, and shake – intent to harm and potentially to kill. Some dogs will bite, hold, shake, and disembowel stuffed toys, simulating the killing of prey; while this is prevalent among dogs with high prey drive, even dogs with low drive can indulge in behavior of this type. If your dog likes to disembowel stuffed toys, this doesn’t mean he wants to do the same with people or other animals. Sadie loves to disembowel toys, but she is incredibly gentle with people, especially children.

  • Wagging tail – again, a wagging tail does not always mean a happy dog

  • Hard, staring eye

Photo Credit: Your Dogs Friend

"I'm Playful"

Ok, this one SHOULD be easy but we're going to add it in here anyways. It could be at the dog park or out for a walk but dogs know how to tell each other that they want to be friends and play. This is often indicated by a "play bow" where they bring their chest to the ground, ears are up, pupils are dilated, tail up and waving and most likely their mouth will be open with their tongue handing out.


Photo Credit: Dog Breed Journal

This is all we have for you today! And remember that just because a certain signal can mean one thing for one dog, it can mean something completely different for another!


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