Understanding your Dog’s body language

Even though you were only gone for five minutes, you’re still greeted by a whirlwind of excitement and happiness, propelled from a certain someone’s tail.

This is fairly easy to interpret. Obviously your dog is very happy to see you back home. However, learning to read your dog’s body language for all situations can be fairly important.

Your dog can’t physically tell you if there’s anything up, so if you’re familiar with its body language and signs then you’ll both understand each other a lot better. A dog’s behaviour can sometimes have multiple meanings, depending on the context, but here’s the most common expressions to look out for.

Directly Staring

It can get a bit creepy sometimes when your dog is just sat there, staring directly at you. If you have food in your hands then it’s quite obvious why, but generally, if your dog is staring at you then it wants your attention.

You’ll have to use other clues to try figure out what your dog really wants though. A tensed body and head down could mean they’re in pain. A relaxed body, yet eager face could be linked to that food in your hand mentioned earlier. If you’re getting the stare treatment, then you’re wanted for some reason or other.

Avoiding Eye Contact

If you make eye contact with your dog, then a common sign of submission would be to hold the gaze but then look away. However, if your dog refuses to make eye contact with you at all then it may be nervous or scared.

There could be a few reasons for this – If it was given reason to be scared of humans in the past, or if you recently told it off. If your dog is okay with it, the best thing to do is reassure your pooch by petting and talking to it.

Big Yawn

Just like people, dogs may yawn when they’re feeling a little sleepy too. But, if it’s a rather exaggerated whopping yawn, then it could be a sign of stress.

Being approached by a stranger, or an overwhelmingly large amount of people can trigger one of these huge yawns and it’s best to take note if so.

Keeping note of what causes your dog anxiety can help you keep it happier in future situations.

Tail between the Legs

Fear is identified in dogs by their tails being tucked between their back legs. If you ever make a loud noise, or shout in front of your dog etc then you’ll notice this gesture followed, by your dog trying to get away from you.

If you didn’t mean to scare your dog, don’t worry too much and just reassure it. However, if you did it on purpose then you’re likely just mean… so don’t.


Experts think that dogs may have learned to “smile” after seeing humans do it first. Although, it may be more to do with the fact that they’re rewarded for doing it.

The doggy smile is a sign of happiness and is also known as a submissive grin. If your dog gives you an unprompted smile after you get home from work or whatever, then it generally wants to appease you.

Head Lean

If you’re talking to your dog, and it just cocks its head side to side, then it’s their way of saying “I don’t understand”. It also happens to be rather adorable, especially with puppies.

You’ll often see this type of behaviour if you make an odd sound in front of your dog, or play some audio that they find confusing. Maybe a wolf howling or something similar. Us humans can be fairly terrible when it comes to teasing our pups.

Lifting the Paw

If you take your dog on a walk and it catches the scent of something, then you may see it lift its paw slightly and dangle it there… if it hasn’t gone to find the source of the scent instead.

This gesture can be a sign of uncertainty, anticipation or anxiety. If you see this paw lifting as well as ears flopping and tail between the legs when you approach a dog then it’s scared of you. However, if you’re carrying a meal about and your dog is giving you the look with a raised paw, then it’s a sign of anticipation.

Depending on the situation, it’s fairly easy to see why your dog carries out this behaviour, even though it can have multiple meanings.

Bared Teeth

If a dog is baring its teeth and growling, then it’s fairly obvious that it’s distressed and you really shouldn’t be approaching it. This can be commonly seen when you approach a nervous dog.

Keep your distance, and let the dog come to you first if this is the case. If you have problems with your dog displaying this behaviour constantly, then you may want to get advice from a dog therapist and figure out the cause behind it.

Hopefully this list has helped you keep on top form with doggy behaviour, so you and your pooch can understand one another a lot easier.

Image credit: dogtime.com

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