Dog Body Language:
Tips to Build a Stronger Bond
with Your Furry Friend

Do you “parley-vous dog”? Understanding dog body language is an essential part of dog communication and is vital to building a stronger bond with your furry friend.

dog body language - boy hugging golden retriever

Since dogs can’t talk, it makes what they’re “saying” with their bodies even more important. And, if you’re paying attention, you’ll find that they get their point across loud and clear!

But if you don’t know how to interpret your dog's body language, the result can be a lot of miscommunication. This miscommunication can even turn tragic, such as in cases when a dog is telling you with his body language that he is ill or distressed, or when he is warning you that he’s frightened or intimidated and that he just might bight at any minute. This is why it is very important to supervise the interactions between dogs and kids, since children will not understand how to interpret the dog's body language.

Dog body language has a lot of complexities and nuances to it. To understand it in depth, consider reading a book such as Dogspeak: How to Understand Your Dog and Help Him Understand You (Dog Care Companions) or How To Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication

In the meantime, here are some common signals dogs send when "speaking" with their bodies, to get you started on the path to clearer communication with your canine companion.

10 Dog Body Language Signs and Their Meanings

  • Eyes squinted or half-closed
    happy, relaxed, blissful
  • Eyes averted, avoiding direct eye contact
    submissive, fearful
  • Direct, wide-eyed stare
    bold, alert, confident, dominant, controlling
    depending on the situation could be a threat or warning of attack
    also used to control humans into giving food!
  • Lips pulled back, slightly curled
    warning sign of annoyance or aggression
  • Mouth closed (teeth and tongue are not visible)
    attention, interest, appraising the situation
  • dog body language - smiling golden retriever

  • Mouth relaxed, slightly open (tongue may slightly hang over lower teeth)
    the doggy version of a human smile!
  • Ears pricked up and pointed forward
    can also be a sign of aggression and dominance if combined with facial expressions such as bared teeth and wrinkled nose
    more tension in the ears indicates more aggressive feelings in the dog
  • Ears in neutral position
    relaxed, happy
  • Shoulders lowered, front legs extended, rump elevated
    a “play bow” – this is a sign of happiness and your dog saying, “let’s play!”
  • Scratching for no apparent reason
    a calming gesture to relieve stress and anxiety

Dog parents know how masterfully our dogs can read our human body language. So, let’s return the favor and practice understanding dog body language so that we can forge an even closer bond and level of communication with our canine companions.

Share This Page.

Your Dog: The newsletter for caring dog owners, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

Dogspeak: How to Understand Your Dog and Help Him Understand You (Dog Care Companions), from the editors of Pets: Part of the Family

How To Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication, Stanley Coren

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