Dog Body Language: 5 Surprising Cues to Watch Out For

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How do our canine friends communicate using dog body language?

Our furry friends have their own dog body language that lets them convey their intentions and their emotional state to others around them. Even though dogs also use signals and sounds, most of the information that they convey is by using dog body language, particularly their body postures and facial expressions.

Dog Body Language

Deciphering what your pup is trying to say could provide you with useful information, like when your furry friend is nervous or scared about what’s happening or when he is edgy and ready to snap at someone.

Dog body language entails unique means for conveying intentions as well as emotions. It could be somewhat different from how we humans communicate.

Most canine communication involves whines, barks, and growls, so it is crucial to understand what different dog sounds mean. Oftentimes, though, they depend on dog body language. That could lead to a lot of human-dog confusion. To communicate with your furry friend better, here are some of our tips on deciphering dog body language.

Dog Body Language
Tail Wagging

Tail wagging is an obvious dog body language signal. If your dog’s tail is wagging, you might think that he is happy. Wrong. Many people misinterpret this body language all the time. What a wagging tail means is that your dog is aroused emotionally.

It could be because he is excited, but it could likewise be because he is frustrated or worse. To understand the dog’s intentions and emotions, observe the direction and speed of the wag.

Essentially, the faster the dog wags his tail, the more aroused he is. A faster twitch-like tail wag shows a higher level of arousal and quite possibly in a negative way. It could be that your dog is on alert.

The direction of your dog’s wag could hold clues too. Dogs are likely to wag their tails to the right when they are happy about something, like playing with their owner. On the other hand, tails wagged more to the left means that the dog has a negative feeling.

Raised Hackles

When your pup’s hackles are raised, it is technically referred to as piloerection; their fur could fluff up across their shoulders or down their back to their tail. This is a sure sign that the dog is stimulated, but not exactly in a negative way. He might be stressed or upset, but he could also be intensely interested in something or just plain excited. It’s usually an involuntary reaction, just like we people would have goosebumps.


Dog Body Language: 5 Surprising Cues to Watch Out For

A dog’s posture could speak volumes about its intention and mood. A cowering dog hunched toward the ground could indicate a stressed or scared dog. He could be trying to flee from something, and this posture causes the dog to look smaller. The dog might even urinate a bit in appeasement.

However, when your dog’s weight is shifted forward, it means that he’s trying to get nearer to something. It could indicate your dog’s interest.

However, it could also mean offensive intentions, especially when manifested with other aggressive body language cues such as a twitching tail held high.

Moreover, when pups lower their chest on the ground with their rear end in the air, it means that they’re trying to initiate play with people or even other dogs.

Facial Expressions

Like people, dogs also have facial expressions, but they do not use them in the same manner. For instance, we people yawn when we’re bored or tired, but dogs actually yawn when they are stressed. Dogs yawn to calm themselves and others during stressful situations.

Another dog body language cue that people usually misinterpret is lip-licking. Just like us, dogs would lick their lips after eating, but they would also do it whenever they are anxious.

Nonetheless, perhaps the most confusing among dogs’ facial expressions is smiling. Indeed, dogs can smile, and if you are not familiar with this expression from them, it could look terrifying.

Dog Body Language: 5 Surprising Cues to Watch Out For

Oftentimes when dogs show their teeth, it acts as a warning. It’s tough to mistake the intention of a snarl, particularly when it is paired with a scary growl. The dog’s lip corners form a C-shape, and their front teeth are all bared.

Smiling dogs likewise show their front teeth, though the meaning of this expression is the opposite. Likewise called a submissive grin, this gesture is usually found on happy dogs with a wiggly and loose posture.


You could learn a lot about your pup’s emotions and internal state by observing their eyes. A dog’s eyes can be hard or soft. Soft eyes show relaxed eyelids and could sometimes look like your dog is squinting. This means that the dog is happy or calm. Hard eyes, however, seem to look cold.

These could indicate a negative mood, and you will recognize them when you see them. Your dog might be feeling aggressive or is feeling a threat. A hard gaze, where the dog stares intently at something, particularly for a long time, oftentimes signals danger.

Eye contact is a vital dog body language. Just as the hard stare could lead to aggression, looking away is intended to calm a situation. Keep in mind that when dogs feel stressed or anxious, they will tend to look away to avoid eye contact. Some people think that this gesture means that their dog is ignoring them or just being stubborn, but their dog is actually expressing stress or discomfort.

The whites of the dog’s eyes are also a key indicator. Likewise known as “whale eye”, when your dog shows the whites of his eyes, it means he is feeling stressed or anxious. You may see them when your dog is uncomfortable or when they are afraid someone would steal their toy or food.

Understanding Dog Body Language

These dog body language cues are almost always a part of the package. So, when you decipher your dog’s intention, observe every cue that your dog is showing, from their posture to the eye shape. Your dog is communicating with you all the time.

Dog Body Language: 5 Surprising Cues to Watch Out For

Hence, if you try to understand what their dog body language is saying, you will surely develop a deeper bond of respect and trust. Also, your understanding of your dog’s expressions and mood would help you anticipate your dog’s behavior and avoid potential problems before they even occur.

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