How to Read Your Dog's Body Language

Anyone can listen to their dog to determine their needs or look out for physical symptoms that something is up, but do you know what your dog is saying to you through their body language?

 As humans, most of our expressions are shown through our body language and facial expressions. It’s the same for dogs. It allows them to communicate with you when they can’t verbally or physically. Reading dog body language can be difficult if you don’t know how – that’s the same as anything! 

Understanding dog body language can help you and your dog to perfect your communication skills with each other as well as create a closer bond. To help you, we’ve put together a guide on how you can read this special kind of dog language.


dog play time, dog play, dog surrendering to other dogs



Just like us, your dog’s eyes can say a thousand words. If they are feeling tense, they are rounder than normal; stressed, threatened or scared and they become glassy and dilated; or simply relaxed, they’ll hold a slight squint.


People often mistake a mouth full of scary teeth as aggressive dog body language but in actual fact, an open mouth with no tension generally means that they are relaxed and happy and maybe even showing you a smile. Your dog will present a physical warning if they are frowning and showing their teeth in an aggressive manner. 

If they are feeling fearful or tense, they will greet you with a closed ‘long lip’ mouth and may be drooling and panting. 


Basset Hounds in particular have the ability to move their ears back and forth to show their emotions. Most dogs have some movement in their ears, perhaps just not as much as Bassets!

If they are back or out to the sides, this means they are comfortable. They may point their ears towards their area of interest. If aroused or curious, they may also perk up or forward.


A dog’s tail tells you a lot about how they are feeling. We all love it when they are waggling away with excitement – this is the easiest part of their body language to recognise. A neutral tail means that they are content and happy. If they are fearful or sad, watch out for a tucked tail or a stiff, rigid wag.


Goosebumps in dogs are a thing! It indicates that they are upset (or cold). They may also be stressed or scared which will cause them to shed more of their hair.


Dogs have sweat glands in their paws. Keep an eye out for wet paws or trails of this as it could imply that they are upset or anxious. Sweating due to stress is usually accompanied with rapid panting, a tight mouth and stress wrinkles.

Now that you are clued up on individual parts of the body, it’s time to show you how your dog can use their full body to communicate their needs to you.


playful dog


The friendliest look of your dog is when they want something from you and that doesn’t exclude when they want to play! 
Accompanied by an excited bark or light-hearted attacks, your dog’s front end will be lowered with their tail pointing upwards if they are feeling playful. You’ll notice their dilated pupils and open mouth before breaking this stance and initiating play time. 


cute looking boston terrier, relaxed dog


Dogs are curious creatures, there’s no shying away from that. They’ll tell you what they’re interested in too by using their ears to point in the direction of concern, (if they’re able to). Their eyes will be wide open, mouth usually closed and don’t mistake their horizontal tail wagging for a playful one if it is alert. 


dog wearing costume, happy dog


A dog that is unconcerned, unthreatened and generally happy will have a relaxed stance and be approachable. Their mouth may be open and their tongue exposed or they could simply have a neutral expression. Their eyes will be relaxed as well as their tails and if standing, their heads high.
Even if you see a dog in this stance, continue to approach them with caution if they are unsure who you are.


curled up and scared dog


Our furry friends get scared too! Check your surroundings and gage what it is they could be in fear of.
They will show you this emotion by shying away with their head turned from you. They may have closed eyes and mouth and their body tucked away or lowered. Look out for their tail. If it’s tucked underneath them or down, this is usually a good indicator that they are letting you know they are frightened. 


dog is trying to bite other dog, aggressive dog, dog aggression


Your dog may want to assert their dominance at times and might give warnings that they aren’t afraid to become aggressive. Watch out for their perked ears, wrinkled nose and pursed lips combined with teeth baring and stiff upwards tail. This means that they are ready to act aggressively if challenged. You might also notice your dog slightly leaning into the threat. 

Understanding what the stance your dog is presenting to you will excel your relationship with each other. Communication is key in human relationships and it doesn’t change for the relationship you have with your dog!

Do you have something to add? Get in touch! We’d love to hear how you best keep the connection between you and your dog through body language – our inbox is waiting; Petz Park.