Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language

By Valdette Muller| July 18, 2016 | Blog


Dogs are very expressive animals and communicate many of the same emotions that we as humans do such as happiness, sadness, fear and anger. They  don’t just communicate with sound, but use their faces and bodies as well to convey many of their feelings. A dog’s body language is a complex system of signals that reflect what they are thinking and feeling and with careful attention most people can learn to interpret their this language, opening up a whole world of communication.


When your dog is relaxed and calm his eyes will be their normal size. Eyes that appear larger, normally indicate that your dog is feeling threatened. He may be feeling stressed or he may be frightened. An aggressive dog is also likely to have eyes that look larger than normal. Dogs who are not feeling well or in pain often look as though they are squinting their eyes. A dog that looks at you with a relaxed facial expression is just being friendly but a direct stare is more likely to be a threat if you are close to the dog. It is wise to look slowly away as this will signal that you are not a threat. When a dog looks at you and you see a lot of the white of his eye this is known as “whale eye” and is a sign of aggression.


A happy and relaxed dog is likely to have his mouth closed or slightly opened. A dog who is signaling his intention to act aggressively will often pull his lips back and display his front teeth. When a dog is ready to bite, he pulls his lips up and opens his mouth to display all his teeth.


Dogs have a wide variety or ear sizes and shape according to their breed.  The shape and size of your dog’s ears will determine how well he can use them to communicate. A relaxed and calm dog will hold his ears naturally. When something holds his interest and when he is alert he may raise them higher. An ear pulled back slightly is a sign of friendliness. If your dog’s ears are flattened or stuck out to the sides of his head it’s a signal that he may be frightened.


Dogs wag their tails for many reasons and expression is limited by the type of tail he has. If your dog is feeling happy he’ll wag his tail gently from side to side. If your dog is feeling nervous he may tuck his tail between his back legs. When your dog is alerted by something he may hold his tail up higher than normal. When threatened he may hold his tail up high and stiff.

Body Posture

If your dog is contented and happy his muscles will be relaxed and his body will look normal.  A scared dog often cowers and hunches over.  He may recoil from something that he is frightened of.  An alert dog will tense his muscles and raise his neck and head. An angry or aggressive dog will appear the same but will display other aggressive behaviour.

Understanding your dog’s body language will give you greater insight into his or her world, enhancing your experience of them.


(Image via Pinterest)



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