Dogs use their entire body, from ears to tail, to communicate with other dogs and with people too! They tell us when they’re happy and relaxed, but also when they feel nervous or uncomfortable.
You probably think that your dog is very expressive and that the two of you understand each other very well.
That’s absolutely true… most of the time!
In some cases, dog body language can be a bit tricky to decipher. And sometimes, we may interpret what our dog is saying the wrong way. With a bit of practice though, you can become an expert in decoding your dog's body language.
Your dog is talking, are you listening? Read our tips to become an expert.
This is a calm and relaxed dog. You could interact with this dog comfortably.
Your dog is saying: “I’m all yours and I'm happy to interact with you!”
This is called a "play bow". Your dog is saying: “It’s playtime! Please come and interact with me… I’m waiting for you!”
This invitation to play can also be accompanied by excited barking and occasionally a nip from dogs who haven’t been well trained around people.
Worried or suspicious
IMPORTANT: The body language shown from this point forward is most often caused by fear. Your dog doesn’t know any other way to talk to you and is trying to communicate his feelings.
Your dog is saying: “You frown when you do not completely understand. I can do that too! Give me some time to assess the situation."
Your dog is unsure of the situation. Forcing interaction could make them more fearful.
Yawning doesn’t mean your dog is tired. Your dog is saying “I’m uncomfortable and trying to cope with the uncertainty of the situation. Please send me clear messages so I know what is happening!”
This can happen when dogs are not sure what will happen next. Yawning is something dogs do to help relieve tension and calm down.
Licking lips doesn't mean your dog is hungry. Your dog is saying “I’m struggling, the uncertainty of the situation makes me uncomfortable."
You can help your dog relax by sending clear signals that everything is okay.
Your dog is saying “I don’t understand what is happening. I feel something is wrong so I can’t relax.”
Your dog is saying “I feel something strange is happening and I’m wondering what it is. I’m not relaxed at all, I need to determine if there is a threat. Give me some time to work things out and please do not touch me. I may become startled and react defensively."
Pay particular attention if your dog starts retreating or trying to avoid a situation.
Your dog is saying “I feel anxious and would like to get away from here. Please don't force me to stay in this situation, otherwise I may react (bite) because I am distressed.”
Your dog is warning you, saying "I know you’re there, but please do not approach me. I'm unsure of the situation and need space right now."
Do not interact with dogs trying to avoid you, they may react by biting.
Your dog is saying "I’m scared. I just want to be left alone.“
When dogs are this scared, you should not touch or interact with them. They may feel threatened and react negatively.
Instead, your attitude toward the scary situation will help reassure and comfort your dog.
Your dog is saying “Stay away from me. I’m trying to scare you away."
Do not approach a dog that is growling, even if you mean well. This is a clear warning they are scared. Any further interactions could lead to them becoming more aggressive.
Your dog is saying: "Keep away from me. I am warning you!"
Be careful, and do NOT approach or make sudden movements around a dog in this state or you will almost certainly get bit. Slowly move away from this dog.