Do you ever wish your dog could talk? It would be nice to hear what our furry friends are thinking sometimes! Luckily, dogs have their own way of talking to us, and you don't have to be a mind reader to get a pretty good idea of how your dog is feeling and what he might be thinking. Today's blog will give you a run-down on your dog’s body language, from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail, so that you can better understand what’s going on in your dog’s head.
Just like humans, dogs can express a lot through their eyes. When your dog is happy, he’ll look at you with relaxed “soft” eyes, much like you would, too. It might look almost as if your dog is squinting, and his eyelids will be relaxed. If you see your dog holding direct eye contact, it can be a sign that he is trying to assert dominance or that he feels threatened. If your dog looks away and avoids looking into your eyes, it usually means that he is trying to diffuse a situation and show submission.
Dogs have many emotions and feelings that they can express through their mouth. The one you are probably most familiar with is a relaxed, sometimes open mouth, which indicates that your dog is feeling relaxed and happy. It may even look as if your dog is smiling! This shouldn’t be confused with a “submissive smile,” which is when your dog shows his front teeth with a loose, happy posture. It can look a bit frightening if you are not used to it, but it will be easy to tell the difference between this and a dog that is baring his teeth as a warning sign. A dog that is baring his teeth as a warning will also be growling and have a tense body posture. One of the most commonly misinterpreted body language signs from your dog is a yawn. Unlike humans, dogs don’t yawn because they are tired—they yawn as a way to comfort and calm themselves and others, especially in stressful situations. Another mistake that many people make is interpreting lip licking as hunger. Unless your dog has just eaten a meal, lip licking is another way that your dog will try to comfort himself when he is stressed or anxious.
Your dog’s ears are pretty easy to read! If they are in a relaxed position, your dog is happy and content, if they are pinned back, he is showing fear, worry, or submission, and if they are pointed up and alert, it can signal interest or dominance.
Looking at the bigger picture of your dog’s posture can give further insight into how he’s feeling. If your dog is cowering and hunched over, it means he is either stressed or afraid. This posture makes him appear smaller and less threatening to whatever if scaring him. You are likely very familiar with the “play bow,” where your dog places his chest on the ground while keeping his back half in the air. When your dog does this, he’s saying “I’m ready to play!”
Most people are used to looking at their dog’s tail to see how he’s feeling. A wagging tail obviously means that your dog is happy! Be careful though, because there are different ways that your dog can move his tail that mean different things. If it is high and wagging quickly, this means that your dog is in a good mood. If it is straight out and wagging slower, this can signal that your dog is feeling cautious or nervous. And if your dog’s tail is tucked between his legs, he’s feeling scared and nervous.
With these tips and insights into reading your dog's body language, you're sure to become a dog whisperer in no time!