what does it mean when your dog

What does it mean when your dog…?

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 fearful or anxious. 

You probably think that your dog is very expressive and that the two of you understand each other very well.

Sometimes miscommunications occur. 

In some cases, dog body language can be a bit tricky to decipher. We may interpret what our dog is saying the right way. Decoding requires some practice to learn to read your dog body language.


Read our tips to become an expert.

1 Happy

This is a calm and relaxed dog. You could interact with this dog comfortably.

2 Playful

This is called a "play bow" - Your dog is saying "I want to play now."

This invitation to play can also be accompanied by excited barking.

worried dog body language

3 Worried

Please note: All the body language from here to the end are most often caused by fear. Your dog doesn’t know any other way to talk to you and communicate his feelings. 

 Your dog is unsure of the situation. Forcing interaction could make him more fearful.

uncomfortable dog body language

4 Uncomfortable

Yawning doesn’t mean your dog is tired. Your dog is saying “I’m uncomfortable and I’m relieving some tension.”

This can happen when dogs are not sure what will happen next.

5 Stressed

Licking lips doesn't mean your dog is hungry. Your dog is saying “I’m struggling, the uncertainty of the situation makes me uncomfortable."

dog body language - anxious pacing

6 Anxious pacing

Your dog is saying “I don’t understand what is happening. I feel something is wrong so I can’t relax”

7 Hypervigilance

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. Please do not touch me. I may become startled and react defensively."

Dog body language - retreating

8 Retreating

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.”

Dog Body Language - avoidance

9 Avoidance

Your dog is warning you, saying "I know you’re there, but I’m really scared right now.”
Do not interact with dogs trying to avoid you, they may react by biting.

Dog body language - scared

10 Scared

Your dog is saying "I’m scared. I just want to be left alone.“
When dogs are this scared, you should not interact with them. They may feel threatened and react negatively.

Dog body language - defensive fear

11 Defensive fear

Your dog is saying “Stay away from me. I’m trying to scare you away.” 
Do not interact with dogs that are growling. This is a clear warning they are scared. Any further interactions could lead to them becoming more aggressive. 

Dog body language - assertive aggressive

12 Assertive agressive

Your dog is saying "I'm being threatened. I’m going to get hurt, so I’m going to bite first."

Never interact with a dog in this state, you will get bit. Slowly move away from this dog.

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