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Meaning of Dog Body Language
Meaning of Dog Body Language

Meaning of Dog Body Language

You and your canine companion are so close, you know what every tail wag, eye squint, bark and head turn means, right?

Before you answer, read this “translation guide” and discover the real meaning of your pet's posture, sounds and expressions.

Dog Body Language Meaning

  • Form of communication

    Understanding dog body language means you are building communication skills with your fur baby. Dog body language is a form of communication that involves a series of unique methods for communicating emotions and intentions.

  • Look at verbal, posture, and facial cues

    Talking about dog body language is not only about how they wiggle their tail. There is so much more that you need to read and learn to understand how a dog communicates with you and their surroundings. Taking a closer look and watching their verbal, posture and facial cues can also help you understand the body language of dog position meaning.

  • Understand them better

    Dogs rely on nonverbal body language. This can lead to plenty of human-dog misunderstandings. Hence, dog parents must understand them better as sometimes, dog body language is unfamiliar. To better communicate with them, learn how to read dog body language chart.

Reading a Dog’s Body Language


  • Soft, Relaxed Eyes: When your dog's eyes appear soft and relaxed, it indicates contentment and a sense of ease.
  • Direct Eye Contact: Dogs use direct eye contact to convey confidence and attentiveness. This is often seen as a sign of trust and connection.
  • Avoids Eye Contact: Dogs may avoid eye contact when feeling submissive, fearful, or anxious. It's a way of signaling that they pose no threat.


  • Erect Ears: When a dog's ears stand erect, it signals attentiveness and curiosity. This stance is often seen when your dog is engaged or intrigued.
  • Pulled Back Ears: Ears pulled back against the head suggest fear, submission, or discomfort. It's a clear indication that your dog is feeling uneasy.
  • Sideways Ears: When the ears are positioned sideways, it's a friendly and playful signal. Dogs often display this when they're in a sociable and approachable mood.


  • Relaxed Mouth: A relaxed, slightly open mouth is a sign of a calm and content state. It's a common sight when your dog is at ease.
  • Lip Licking: Dogs may lick their lips when feeling anxious or anticipating something. It's a subtle signal of discomfort or unease.
  • Baring Teeth: Baring teeth can be a sign of aggression or fear. It's crucial to assess the overall context and other body language cues.


  • Wagging Tail: A wagging tail is a classic expression of joy and excitement. The speed and direction of the wag can convey different intensities of emotion.
  • Lowered Tail: A lowered tail can indicate submission or uncertainty. This is often seen in dogs trying to convey a non-threatening demeanor.
  • Stiff, Raised Tail: A tail held stiff and raised suggests alertness and potential dominance. It can be a sign that your dog is on high alert.


  • Relaxed Stance: A dog in a relaxed stance exudes calmness and confidence. This is when they feel secure in their environment.
  • Cowering or Crouching: Dogs cower or crouch when they feel fear or submission. It's a protective stance to appear less threatening.
  • Stiff, Erect Posture: A stiff, erect posture signifies heightened alertness or potential aggression. It's a stance that suggests readiness for action.


  • Open Mouth with Relaxed Jaw: An open mouth with a relaxed jaw signals friendliness and playfulness. It's a common expression during happy moments.
  • Yawning: Yawning can indicate stress or tiredness in dogs. It's a self-soothing mechanism often observed in anxiety-inducing situations.
  • Raised Hackles: Raised hackles on the back can signal heightened arousal, potentially linked to fear or aggression. It's an instinctual response to appear more significant in the face of a perceived threat.

Signs of a Stressed Dog

  • Low eye contact

    Eye contact is an important signal for your canine companion. When dogs feel stressed, they usually will pointedly look away and avoid and lower their eye contact. People often interpret this as the dog ignoring them, but this is an expression of discomfort.

  • Excessive scratching or licking

    Lip-licking is one of the dog's bodies language. Most people think that dogs love licking their lips after a delicious meal. Though, dogs will also do the same when they feel anxious. 
    While excessive scratching can be a sign of fleas or skin conditions, this also shows anxiety.

  • Trembling

    When your dog is feeling stressed out, you will find them shaking or trembling. This gesture is a common stress response. If they do this often especially when you leave them, it is possible your dog has separation anxiety.

  • Frequent yawning

    Yawning is a common sign of feeling sleepy or bored. But, dogs also yawn when they’re stressed. This is their way to calm themselves and their owner in a tense situation.

  • Flattened ears

    Stressed-out dogs usually keep their ears back, or flat instead of upright and alert.

  • Tail tucked between legs

    It is very important to understand the body language dog's position meaning to understand what a dog is thinking or feeling. If your dog is feeling stressed, you will be able to tell by his body language the dog's position meaning. A stressed dog may keep his tail between his legs.

  • Whale eyes

    Apart from keeping the tail between their legs, stressed dogs usually show some changes in their eyes. Although it is not easy to see them, stressed dogs might show whale eyes.

Signs of a Happy Dog

  • Tail wag

    A happy dog can also be recognized by the signs of the dog’s tail, mouth, and ears. One of the signs of a happy dog is tail-wagging. You may have noticed this while giving them Cesar’s wet dog food!

  • Softened features & relaxed posture

    Another sign of a happy dog is no part of its body appears tense. When a dog feels content, he will lean into you when you pet him.

  • Play bowing

    A play bow is also another sign of a happy dog. A play bow is where a dog lowers their front end until its elbows are on the ground, tail wagging, and butt in the air. This is what a happy body language dog position meaning is.

Signs of Aggression in Dog 

  • Stems from fear

    This is the first sign of aggression in dogs. Dogs will stem from fear because they’re agitated or uncomfortable.

    Body language to be aware of includes:

    • a high wagging tail accompanied by stiff movements
    • narrowed eyes
    • hard stare
    • raised hackles
    • weight shifted back

Dog Body Language Translation

Body Language Translation
I'm standing as tall as possible, with raised hair on my neck and back. My tail is erect and my ears and chest are thrust forward. I'm feeling aggressive or brave. Don't mess with me, stranger!
I'm trying to make myself look small and puppy-like, staying low to the ground and rolling on my back. I may even pass a little urine. I'm feeling weak and submissive. Please don't hurt me.
I'm wagging my tail in a loose and carefree way. I'm feeling frisky and friendly. Let's play!
My tail wag is stiff, slow and in line with my back. I'm angry! Approach me with caution.
My tail is clamped low over my backside. I'm afraid. Something has spooked me.
My ears are pricked up high, like antenna. I've heard, smelled or noticed something that demands my attention. I'm in "alert mode!"
My eyes are half-closed, like a squint. I'm feeling pleasure … or submissive.
My eyes are open wide, wide, wide! Watch out, I may attack if provoked!
I'm intensely staring into the eyes of another dog. I'm top dog here!
Look, I'm raising my front paw and barking to get your attention. It's playtime! What are you waiting for? Let's grab a ball and hit the dog park!

These are just general guides, of course. Canine body language is a complex and profound form of communication. You would be interested to know that a dog's sleeping position also says a lot about how they feel.

Sometimes you have to look at more than one part of your dog's body to understand what he's trying to tell you. But as you scrutinize your dog closely, remember not to stare at him in the eyes for too long. He may consider this a form of aggression on your part.


  • How can you tell a dog's body language?

    It is not hard to tell a dog’s body language. If you’re a new dog parent, you can start paying attention to your dog’s tail. When the tail is pointing down or tucked between their legs, this could be a sign of fear or stress. Meanwhile, a wiggling tail is one of the happy signs.

  • How do I talk to my dog?

    There are so many ways to make your dogs understand you. You can use facial expressions and gestures to talk to your dogs. Keep maintaining eye contact and use a dog treat while you talk.

  • What do dog gestures mean?

    Dog gestures are how dogs express their feelings and one of their ways to communicate with a human. Try to learn common dogs gesture to understand them.

  • Why do dogs give you their paw without asking?

    Giving paw without asking usually because they seek attention. They want to play with you or ask you to show affection. Another reason is they’re trying to apologize after they did something wrong.

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