Tricks to Understanding and Interpreting a Dog’s Body Language

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to communicate with our pets if they could actually talk? Since that’s not the case, we need to rely on doggy body language to help us understand what our pets are thinking, feeling and trying to say.

Generally, we interact with other people and their pets on a daily basis, so it’s important to know how to facilitate fun and playful interactions for your dog, while keeping conflict at bay. Identifying your pet’s non-verbal cues is helpful during situations where he’s feeling scared, threatened or uncomfortable.

And understanding dog body language may not be as difficult as you think. With a little bit of research, The Barking Lot put together a list of things to look for when trying to interpret canine behavior.  Pay special attention to these areas:


When a dog is in a calm, relaxed state, his lips will be pulled back, almost like a grin. His mouth might be open while panting, with the corners turned slightly turned upwards.

You can detect stress or fear when a dog is panting rapidly and licking his lips. The corners of his mouth are pulled back – he may begin to drool even though he’s not eating.

When a dog feels threatened or is in an aggressive state, he could display an “offensive pucker”. This is when his lips are pulled back with teeth exposed and the corners of his mouth form the shape of a “C”.  It could also include snarling.


It’s important to look at the white’s of a dog’s eyes to understand what he might be feeling. When in a submissive state, pets may avoid eye contact.

Squinted eyes showing very little white, means the dog is happy or relaxed.

When pupils are dilated or have a glossy look, a pet could be stressed or frightened.

Many times dogs give off a hard if they’re in an assertive mood.


There a couple of things you want to look for when observing a pet’s tail – position and movement.  If the tail appears tucked under his body, rigid or wagging stiffly this usually indicates deference of fear.

A tail that stays at about spine level, while wagging gently means the dog is relaxed and friendly. If the tail is at spine level, while wagging quickly, it means he’s happy.

If you notice the tail is above spine level, moving in a short, rapid wagging motion, it means the pet is either tense, excited or aroused.


The ears are another key way to tell how your dog is feeling. When pinned back, a dog is feeling submissive or obedient.

When the ears are out to the sides, it means he’s calm and relaxed.

When the ears are moved forward – pointing in your direction- that indicates alertness, play arousal or aggression.





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