Dog’s Body Language

Understanding What Fido Is Trying To Tell You

By Elizabeth Parker

No matter how hard he or she may try, a dog cannot hide their feelings. Whether happy, sad, tired, stressed, neurotic or bored, their body language reveals all. We know dogs don’t converse in a human language, but they do communicate.  And not only do they communicate, but they observe, listen and learn from us.

You’ve probably noticed that your dog seems to predict your next move, using some of the most subtle clues as their guide. For instance, has your dog ever realized that you’re done eating before you even get up from the dinner table? They know not only our words, but our mannerisms as well, and if you’ve owned dogs for any length of time, then you are already communicating with your dog and reading their body language also.

So what signs are we seeking?
Take small scenarios.  When your dog lingers by the door, that indicates that they want to go out. It may mean they have to go potty, or perhaps they just like the outdoors.  The bottom line is that they just told you they wanted to go outside.  Perhaps if they are pacing by the door and whining, it’s urgent, and they are about to have an accident if you don’t open the door for them.

If they are wagging their tail, they’re usually happy, but if their tail is tucked between their legs, they are frightened, ill or uncomfortable. You can also learn a lot from a dog’s posture.  Two friendly dogs at play have a completely different posture from two aggressive dogs.

Take a look at their eyes and ears.  When your dog is happy, their eyes are wide.  Their body might be writhing, but not tense, and their ears are relaxed.  They might even appear to be smiling.

A frightened or aggressive dog will appear to be squinting, pulling their ears back or up and their body and face are rigid.  They may also show you every tooth accompanied by a growl as a means to intimidate and hopefully, if you back off from them, they will too.

A dog that lacks confidence may cower if you raise your voice or make sudden movements.  You may see them fall into a fear-aggressive stance which appears as if they are protecting themselves while warning you to stay clear.

A depressed dog may not eat or spend the entire day sleeping, only to glance up for a moment. They may drag their paws and hang their head down, similar to a second grader who just failed their spelling test.

Then there’s the anxious dog who may whine, pace, pant, yawn or chew things.  They won’t settle down.  Chances are if they are making you anxious, then they are anxious.

Learning to read a dog’s body language is an integral part of communicating with not only your own dog, but any dog… and they don’t lie.  Observing your pooch helps keep those lines of communication wide open for a happy and healthy relationship!

Elizabeth Parker – Author of Finally Home, Final Journey, My Dog Does That!, Bark Out Loud!, Paw Prints in the Sand,Paw Prints in the Sand: Mission Accomplished, Unwanted Dreams, Phobia, Evil’s Door and Faces of Deception.  Available on!