A Quick Guide to Reading Your Dog’s Body Language


How amazing would it be if you told your dog to “speak” and instead of barking, she actually spoke? Well, until technology catches up to our wishes as pet parents, we have to rely on what we do know about our dogs’ ability to communicate with us. 

Our dogs use their eyes, ears, tails, mouths, fur, and bodies to tell us what they’re thinking. And this insight helps us, as pet parents respond appropriately with pets, play, or mealtime. The ability to read your pup’s mood and decode her message can go a long way in fostering a strong bond and deep friendship


Do you know what your dog’s body language means? Here are some of the most common signals your pup might send you on a daily basis:

1. “I’m feeling nervous or scared about what’s going on”

When a dog is fearful, she will let you know. She may cower, tuck her tail, and avoid looking at the source of her fear. Additional signals she may send include shivering, crouching down, flattening her ears, and tucking her tail. Some dogs will raise their hackles and begin looking for an escape route. If you notice your dog’s paws are sweaty, you can bet she’s terrified.

When chaos and ruckus erupt, dogs will often yawn to relieve some of their stress and tension. This is frequently paired with panting. These are not a sign of fear, but signals that she’s feeling overwhelmed.

How You Should Respond: When your dog feels scared, it’s best to remove her from the situation. Lead your dog away from the source of her anxiety and give her space and time to recover. As she regains her confidence, praise her and distract her with some commands. 


2. “Go away! Please don’t pet me. I’m feeling grumpy.”

If your dog cowers or leans away from touch, it means she’s not in the mood for affection. Some dogs will freeze and stiffen and pull their ears directly back. Showing the white of her eyes or her teeth means she’s ready to nip—watch out!

How You Should Respond: Give your dog space and room to move away on her own. Don’t corner a grumpy dog or insist that she put up with unwanted attention.


3. “This is awesome! Let’s keep this going!”

Excited dogs wiggle, raise their ears and eyebrows, and watch you see what you’re going to do next. If you’re ready to stop the belly rubs or play before she’s gotten her fill with the fun, she will let you know. How? Poking you with her nose, pawing you, running alongside you, wagging her tail as she stares intently at you, or even yip with joy and anticipation.

How Should You Respond: Keep playing or petting her if you’re up for it. Your best friend is having a blast— why stop the party too early? Can’t keep the play alive? There are ways you can distract her, though. 

  • Switch to a toy or tug rope to help her burn off that extra energy. Toys with squeakers help her entertain herself and rug ropes are excellent for encouraging play between your dogs.

  • A quick walk provides a positive outlet for her energy

  • Hide some treats in her snuffle mat. This will provide her with mental stimulation and distract her as you relax.


4. “I’m ready to relax.”

Sure signs that your furry best friend is ready to kick back and relax include half-closed eyes and slow blinking, walking in a circle to find a comfy position, yawning without panting, relaxed ears, and slow tail wagging.

How Should You Respond: Encourage your pup to take it easy. If her bed is in the other room, grab it and set it next to you, so she can curl up. You can even dim the lights to make it easier for her to fall asleep.


Our dogs may not speak our language, but they sure do understand what’s most important: love, companionship, and trust. Keep these intact by responding to the signals your pup sends you and giving her those tasty treats when she responds to your commands. Keep a close eye on her body language and remember to be her voice when she’s nervous or scared. Your 4-legged best friend will surely say “thank you!” with some kisses, snuggles, and tail wags when you do.

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