HOW TO READ 8 KEY DOG EMOTIONS AND BODY CUES

Updated on April 16, 2023

Read on to learn how to decipher eight canine emotions and canine body language cues, and gain a deeper understanding of your dog’s behaviour and emotional state. Emotions such as fear, anger, and playfulness are expressed predominantly through a dog’s body language, much as they are in people.

The tails and ears of their pets require extra care from their owners. Similarly to how humans express themselves through body language, dogs may do the same with their canine companions. A dog’s expression may tell you a lot about its mood: an excited dog will have perked ears and a wagging tail, while a nervous or scared dog will hide its face and tuck its tail between its legs.

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The owner has the most in-depth familiarity with the dog. Their bond will become stronger as they spend more time together and the owner becomes more attuned to their dog’s cues.

HAPPY

If your dog is happy, it will have its ears perked up (not forward) and its tail tucked between its legs. Their eyes will look natural and relaxed, with the whites barely visible, and their mouth will be soft and open, almost like a dog’s smile.

Your dog’s coat will be sleek instead of bristly, and he or she may even play bow or roll over to expose their stomach.

ALERT

When a dog is attentive, it will have its ears perked up and may even twitch as it listens for a particular sound. Their focus will cause them to keep their eyes awake and bright. Your dog is assessing the safety of its immediate area to determine if it poses any danger and so requires its attention and action.

Their tail will be either still or wagging slowly from side to side, and they’ll have a serious look on their face with their jaws tightly closed while they search their surroundings. Depending on the context, some dogs may even growl or bark.

ANXIOUS

Anxious dogs tend to avoid making eye contact. Their tail will be tucked under their body, and they’ll stand perfectly motionless with their ears flattened and one paw lifted. Aside from yawning, sweaty footprints might also be a telltale indicator. Yawns can be a symptom of fatigue, but they can also reveal psychological distress.

Another telltale indicator of anxiousness in your dog is excessive lip licking, or even licking the air or the dominant dog’s face. Submissive body language, such as a lowered head and, in severe circumstances, urinating, are common responses to such treatment from dogs.

FEARFUL

There is a wide range of behaviours that can indicate fear in a dog. Some will scurry away, some will roll over to display their weakness, and some will bark or snarl in defence.

They typically give themselves away by hiding their tail and blinking rapidly as they focus on whatever is making them so afraid. Many will strive to shrink as much as possible, adopting a stiff, stooped posture (quite similar to the symptoms of anxiety indicated above).

VULNERABLE

Upon first meeting a new human, many dogs experience anxiety and become a bit shy. Sometimes they’ll roll over onto their backs, exposing their bellies and throats. Be cautious while introducing your dog to others, as many people mistake this behaviour for wanting to have its belly rubbed. Since the stomach is the weakest part of the body, your dog is simply showing that they are giving up when they roll over and expose it.

You might also see your dog’s tail tucked under its body, some droplets of pee, and avoidance of eye contact.

ANGRY

It is normal for a dog’s body to stiffen and its fur to stand on end in response to a perceived threat. When a dog is getting ready to lunge and attack, it will put most of its weight on its front two feet. Either their tail is held high in a dominant stance, or it is tucked under, and their eyes are widened and look black, harsh, and menacing.

Furthermore, they may snarl, bark, or growl while baring their fangs in an open jaw.

RELIEVED

When a dog’s posture transforms from one of anger or anxiety to one of relief, it’s usually easy to tell that it’s feeling better. Visual cues of relaxation include drooping eyelids and a re-slung head.

When at ease, the animal’s tail will be lowered, loose, or wagging, and their entire posture and demeanour will be more natural, loose, and satisfied.

PLAYFUL

The most obvious signs of a playful dog are a lifted bottom while resting on the front legs and a wagging tail. Bringing a plaything over is also an encouraging indication. You can tell they want to play because their whole body will be bouncy, and their tail may be waving wildly from side to side. For a few seconds, they’ll probably stay in this bowed position before breaking free and running in an unpredictable direction, or, of course, getting the zoomies.

They’ll also appear to be smiling because of their open, relaxed mouth and possibly lolling tongue.

RECAP

It’s important for dog owners to be aware of the numerous canine body language signs. Since we can’t have a one-on-one conversation with our canine companions, this is our best approach of understanding their mental state and responding appropriately to their needs.

You know your dog better than anyone else, so even though most dogs use similar body language cues, each dog has its own subtle and unique style of communicating.

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