All Things Dog

Body language

Share

Dogs communicate by giving certain signals. Learn how to interpret what these mean.

One of the reasons dogs make such good pets is the remarkable way they can communicate with humans. Pet dogs see us as an extension of their own canine family, and are very quick to interpret our own moods and intentions. An understanding of how dogs communicate with other dogs will help the observant owner to correctly figure out the message their pet is trying to give.

Dogs can communicate with other dogs through a series of signals, including a variety of facial expressions, body postures, noises and scents. Your dog will use his mouth, eyes, ears and even his tail to express his emotions. By reading the combination of body signals, you should be able to work out who is top dog in any confrontation or situation.

A dog who's feeling brave or aggressive will try to give the impression of being a larger, more powerful animal. He will stand tall with his ears and tail erect, thrust his chest forward and may raise the hairs around his neck and along his back (his hackles). He may also wave his tail slowly and growl

A submissive dog, on the other hand, will try to appear small and puppy-like - adult dogs will chastise puppies, but they don't attack them. His approach to a more dominant individual is likely to be from the side, crouching near to the ground with the tail held low and wagging enthusiastically. He may also try to lick the hands or paws and face of the dominant dog or person, and if this isn't appeasing enough, he might then roll onto his back to expose his stomach. In this position, some dogs will involuntarily pass a small amount of urine.

One pattern of behavior that's characteristic of dogs and familiar to almost everyone is tail wagging. Most people would recognize that loose, free tail wagging indicates pleasure and a general friendliness. Exaggerated tail wagging, which extends to the entire rump, is seen in subordinate dogs - as well as dogs with very short tails.

The tail, however, is also an indicator of other emotions. A tail waved slowly and stiffly, in line with the back, expresses anger. Clamped low over the dog's hindquarters, it's a sign that the dog is afraid. Anxious or nervous dogs may stiffly wag their drooping tails as a sign of appeasement.

The normal tail carriage of the dog has been modified through breeding and docking. Some breeds - such as the Whippet and the Italian Greyhound - naturally carry their tail in the clamped-down position, but in general, a tail held at higher than 45 degrees to the spine expresses interest and alertness.

The facial expressions of your dog will tell you a lot about his mood - whether he's anxious or excited, frightened or playful or any one of a vast range of emotions he may express. His ears prick up when he's alert or listening intently, but are held back or flattened onto the head when expressing pleasure, submission or fear. To read his mood correctly, you must watch for other body signals at the same time.

The narrowing or half-closure of the dog's eyes indicates either pleasure or submission, but when his eyes are wide open, he intends to be aggressive.

In the wild, the pack leader can maintain control simply by staring at a subordinate dog. The two animals will continue to stare at each other until one challenges the other, or until one lowers his head and turns away. If the staring continues after the submissive dog has looked away, he will feel confused and may bite out of fear. If eye contact is not broken, the dominant dog will reinforce his threat by snarling, growling or even attacking.

You should not try to outstare your dog if he has aggressive or nervous tendencies - this could provoke an attack. Nevertheless, regular, gentle eye contact reassures the dog and reinforces your relationship.

Submissive dogs and those of certain breeds, notably Labradors, may appear to be 'smiling' when they open their mouth to show the teeth in a lop-sided grin of friendliness. In the snarl of aggression, however, both lips are drawn right back to expose most of the teeth, and may be accompanied by a growl.

A dog will indicate his desire to play, raising a front paw, or by performing the play bow, which is often accompanied by barking to attract attention. Other gestures include offering a play object or bounding up to another dog to invite chase.

Recommended For You

Not on Facebook? You can register by clicking below.

Sign up on this site
We just need a little information.
All fields required.
FIRST NAME
PassedFailed
LAST NAME
PassedFailed
EMAIL
PassedFailed
A confirmation e-mail will be sent to
the address you provide here.
PASSWORD
PassedFailed
password must contain between 6 - 10
characters, no spaces.
ZIP CODE
PassedFailed
This will help us provide you with information
that's specific to your area.
Yes, I'd like to receive updates and special offers from PEDIGREE® Brand. You can withdraw this consent at any time.
Check if you'd like to give permission for future special offers and additional useful information from Mars, Incorporated. (We will collect the information you've entered here, store and process it in the U.S.) You can withdraw this consent at any time.
Go to last step >
Privacy Policy. We will never share your information.
Thanks for the information. This is the final step.
To get personlized special offers and alerts, enter your
information below:
EMAIL
PassedFailed
STREET ADDRESS
PassedFailed
CITY
PassedFailed
STATE
PassedFailed
ZIP CODE
PassedFailed
Get Special Offers and Updates on Your Mobile Phone
This is the convenient way to get the latest info when you're on the go.
-
-
PassedFailed
Providing your mobile phone number is optional. Msg & Data Rates May Apply
Submit >
Privacy Policy. We will never share your information.
All information will be sent to the mobile phone number you provided:
MOBILE PHONE #
-
-
PassedFailed
You can also sign up by sending a text: PEDIGREE to 97979

Msg & data rates may apply. You will receive up to 4 text messages per month. For HELP, please text HELP to 97979. You must be the account holder or have the authorization of the account holder to request this text service.

This text service works on on Alltel, Appalachian Wireless, AT&T, Bluegrass Cellular, Boost, Cellcom, Cellular One, Cellular One of East Central Illinois, Cellular South, Centennial Wireless, Cincinnati Bell, Immix Wireless, Nextel, Revol Wireless, Sprint, Unicel, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless, Virgin Mobile, and West Central Wireless. This is a subscription service. You can cancel your subscription at any time by texting a STOP to 97979. Terms & Conditions apply. For support, call 1-888-782-2180.
PLEASE ENTER THE CODE DISPLAYED TO VERIFY YOUR REQUEST:
Terms: I have read & agree to the Terms & Conditions.Failed
Submit >
View our Privacy Policy.
Now that you're registered, you can subscribe to our free e-newsletters. There's one for every stage of your dogs life.
Puppy Planning E-Newsletter > Puppy Scoops E-Newsletter >
Dog Knows E-Newsletter > Healthy Living E-Newsletter >
Close x Subscribe Now
Look to receive your coupon by mail within the next 10 - 15 days. We hope you enjoy our best Dry Food ever.
Puppy Planning E-Newsletter > Puppy Scoops E-Newsletter >
Dog Knows E-Newsletter > Healthy Living E-Newsletter >
Close x Subscribe Now
Or log in to the PEDIGREEĀ® website using the fields below
EMAIL
PASSWORD
Having trouble with your password?
Click Here
Forgot your password?
No problem. If you originally registered on our website, just enter your information below and we'll e-mail your password.
EMAIL
Password sent
Your password has been sent to the e-mail address you provided.
We're always happy to be of assistance.
Close x