Dog Body Language – What Is Your Pet Trying to Express?

Dog body language refers to an elaborate and sophisticated system of non-verbal communication through which dogs send their numerous messages to fellow dogs, other animals and humans. Dogs are very expressive as they communicate when they are nervous, happy, scared, angry, and more. Most of these expressions are displayed on their faces and / or different parts of their body.

The moment you get a dog, you have committed yourself to a relationship that may last between 10 to 15 years or more with a pet that, of course, does not speak human language. What makes it even more challenging is the fact that dogs don’t come with their communication manual that allows you learn their verbal and nonverbal communication system. The responsibility is therefore on YOU to pay close attention to your dog and understand everything he is saying every time, whether directly to you or not.

Though dogs don’t experience complex human emotions such as contempt, shame; they have basic feelings which they express at every point in time. The following are some of the basic emotions and feelings your dog may express and the various body languages associated with them.

Go ahead, check them out!


Scared Dog Body Language

You can tell from your dog’s dramatic body language when he is scared. Each dog will express this feeling in different ways. Some examples are:

  • Cowering in order to appear small
  • Standing completely still
  • Rolling on its back as sign of appeasement
  • Ears flattened against head
  • Licking of lips or yawning
  • Tail will be low, still or hidden between its legs


This feeling is one that is exhibited by virtually all dogs but the frequency and severity however varies from dog to dog. An angry dog is often aggressive and potentially dangerous. Take a moment and think about how many cases you have heard about related to dog bites. This anger feeling is usually responsible so even you as the owner need to watch out when your dog is angry or becomes aggressive. Some of the signals you would see in your dog when he is angry/aggressive include:

  • A stiff and upright body to appear as big and threatening as possible
  • Unblinking eyes with flattened ears
  • Wrinkled muzzle and nose to reveal teeth
  • Absolute silence or low threatening growl
  • Body slants forward slightly to indicating readiness to attack

You don’t want to make the mistake of provoking or shouting at your dog when you see all these signs. Instead, give him time to become calm again.


The joy of every dog owner is to see his dog happy every time. He may even display what looks like a smile! This emotion is among the easiest to spot in your dog. The various body signs associated with happiness in a dog include:

  • A gentle and softly-focused eyes
  • Going back and forth in a friendly manner
  • Wagging of the tail
  • Loose lips, slightly opened mouth with tongue poked out


Curious Dog Body Language

Curiosity starts very early on, pretty much the day they’re born! Licking, sniffing and exploring the unknown; everything and anything. Sometimes it gets them into trouble. Because of this curiosity, dogs are also naturally alert creatures — watching and evaluating different situations for threat or danger. Some of the signals you would see in your dog that suggest curiosity and alertness include:

  • Cocked head
  • Lifted front paw
  • Open eyes
  • Tail moving side-to-side
  • Ears may be up, sometimes forward when paying close attention to something


Anxious Dog Body Language

Like humans, dogs too can become anxious or stressed in different situations. Sometimes resulting from being left (home) alone, traveling, being in an unknown environment, going to the vet’s office, etc. The following signs when shown by your dog is an indication that he may be anxious or stressed.

  • Avoids eye contact or wide and staring eyes
  • Wrinkle or tension on forehead
  • If ears are long or hanging, they may be held closer to its head than usual
  • Mouth may be closed
  • Body and tail are often still and in a bit lowered position
  • Tail may be wagged cautiously


Relaxed Dog Body Language

Relief is another emotion that can easily be seen in a dog as it often comes after negative and tense emotional state. Just as it is with you, your dog experiences relief when a difficulty or challenge has been successfully handled.

  • Head lowered, softened eyes and relaxed body and face muscles
  • Yawning
  • Invite play by showing a play bow
  • Rolling on its back for a belly scratch
  • Charge around excitingly