How to Read Dog Body Language
Dog’s speak, learn, and interact with body language.
They don’t have the benefit of language – only humans have
that. So, instead, they teach their young, approach prey,
and even talk to you using the movement of their ears,
mouths, body, and tails.
As a dog owner, one of the most effective things you
can do to help train your dog is to learn the body
language cues he’s sending you and those around you. It
can help to recognize and curb aggression, reduce fear,
and minimize anxiety.
Aggressive Body Language
When a dog becomes aggressive, their ears will stay
close to the head and cock forward or back. Their eyes
will narrow and will often try to make direct contact with
their opponent in a challenge. Their lips will open and
draw back to bare their teeth and sometimes they will snap
The body will grow tense and very upright. Hackles will
rise on the neck to make the dog look bigger and their
legs will hold squarely to show they are in charge. Their
tail will then straighten out and, if they have long hair,
fluff out to make it look bigger as well. They might
snarl, growl or bark as well.
When a dog grows alert, their ears will perk up and
swivel to catch various sounds. Their eyes might widen
slightly and their mouths will remain closed or partially
open with teeth completely covered. Their body will remain
normal with weight up on the toes.
Their tails will usually stay up and wag slightly, but
very short and rapid wagging. They tend not to make any
noise, but may whine slightly or use an alarm bark.
When a dog grows anxious, their ears will go slightly
back, their eyes will narrow and their mouth will close
and look to be in a slight grin. Their body will remain
tense but will be lowered, in a submissive pose.
Their tail will lower slightly, not between the legs
but not up either. They will often whine or moan slightly
with their barks as well.
When a dog is excited, their ears will point forward
and perk up, and their eyes will open wide. Their mouth
will often be open with teeth covered and possible
panting. Their body remains normal with some dancing or
Tails are generally up and wagging and they might whine
slightly or have short, excited barks.
When a dog is trying to exert his dominance, he will
have his ears straight up or forward and will have wide
open, staring eyes. Their mouths will remain closed or
slightly open and the posture will be very tall with
hackles raised to make them seem larger.
Tails will be stiffened and fluffed and they might have
a low, assertive rumbling or grunting growl. You can often
differentiate dominant from aggressive by the mouth
motions and their body position.
The ears will be straight back or to the sides with
narrowed eyes that avert to the side, with extra whites
showing. Their body will grow tense and crunched lower to
show submission. They might tremble or shiver in fear and
will often secrete from anal glands.
Tails will usually go between their legs and they will
start to whine, yelp or even growl anxiously.
There are many other small cues you can take away from
a dog’s body language, but these basic, introductory cues
will hopefully help you understand when a dog has changed
their reaction to a situation or is feeling out of sorts.
Not everybody believes in clicker training.
If you’ve ever tried Clicker Training your
dog before, but dogs learn and understand commands that
you give him/her with a clicker very fast.
Imagine not only putting a stop to all dog behavioral
problems for good (digging, barking, aggression, jumping,
chewing and so forth), but also being able to train your
dog to perform impressive tricks like begging on command,
climbing ladders and more!
The great thing about clickers is that it can take as
little as 15 minutes to teach your dog that a click is a
good thing and even less time to start teaching them basic
commands with a clicker.
Additionally, a clicker is much more consistent than
your voice. It doesn’t have a tone and cannot be
misunderstood by a dog. Sometimes, our commands can get
confused with other words and can result in inappropriate
responses from the dog.
Combined with a good command word, a clicker will tell
your dog exactly what you want them to do and streamline
the entire process of getting your commands through to
them. You’ll never need to worry about whether they
understand that what they’re doing is right or wrong.
In the end, a clicker can be supplemented with simple
affection and positive reinforcement and you’ll never need
to resort to the more controversial and inhumane training
methods that are out there.
If you’re having trouble with a furry little friend,
one of the first things you’ll be taught by any dog
trainer is to exercise them and then train them with some
Do that and you’ll be well on your way to a happy,
obedient and healthy dog.