How to Read a Dog's Body Language for Better Communication

Ever wonder what your dog is thinking? Dogs can't speak our language, but their bodies tell a story. Understanding canine body language is key to developing a deeper connection with your furry friend. This skill improves communication and plays a crucial role in behavioral training and safety, making daily interactions more rewarding for both pets and owners. 

The key lies in deciphering the subtle cues your dog sends. A study

found that misinterpretations of dogs' signals during interactions such as play and petting frequently lead to stress behaviors. These misunderstandings can escalate to discomfort, anxiety, and even defensive actions.

Basic Canine Gestures

So, how can you learn to "speak dog"? Canine body language consists of subtle cues, facial expressions, posture, tail wags, and even vocalizations. Here are key gestures to watch for:

Body Part



1. Tail Position

High and Wagging

Indicates happiness and confidence

Tucked Between Legs

Suggests fear or submission

2. Ear Movements


Signifies alertness or curiosity


May indicate fear or aggression

3. Eye Contact


Could imply a challenge or threat, depending on context

Averted Gaze

Often signals submission or discomfort

Understanding a dog's body language chart with illustrations depicting these gestures can help owners accurately interpret these cues. For instance, a visual illustration of dog body language pictures displaying various ear positions and tail heights can help owners and trainers recognize the subtle signs that communicate a dog's emotional state and intentions. This knowledge is crucial for responding appropriately to a dog's needs.

Dog Body Language with Other Dogs

Learning how to understand your dog’s body language goes hand-in-hand with observing how they interact with other dogs. Dogs communicate with each other through a complex language of body signals that can sometimes be misinterpreted by humans. 

Observing these interactions is crucial for ensuring peaceful encounters and for recognizing the difference between playfulness, aggression, appeasement, relaxation, and fear. Here are some key signs to remember:


  • Play Bow: A clear invitation to play, where the dog stretches its front legs forward and lowers its chest while keeping its rear up.
  • Wagging Tail: A relaxed, broadly wagging tail generally signals happiness, though the tail's motion should be observed in context with other body language.
  • Loose, Exaggerated Movements: Indicates friendly interaction with exaggerated, bouncy motions.
  • Open Mouth and Relaxed Ears: A relaxed, open mouth and ears positioned naturally and without tension often accompany playful behaviors.


  • Stiff Tail Movements: A stiff, slow-moving tail can indicate tension or alertness to a potential threat.
  • Direct Stare and Furrowed Brows: Signals a potential threat, possibly leading to aggressive reactions.
  • Growling and Snarling: Vocal signs of discomfort or aggression, often with visible teeth.
  • Rigid Body Posture: Shows aggression or fear with a stiff stance, ears pinned back, and raised hackles.


  • Licking: Dogs often lick as a sign of appeasement or to solicit friendly interaction.
  • Lowered Body: Includes crouching or rolling over to expose the belly, signalling submission.
  • Averted Eyes: Looking away from another dog or person to avoid direct confrontation.
  • Tail Wagging Low: A low, slow wag can indicate a non-threatening stance, often seen during submissive interactions.


  • Soft Eyes and Smooth Forehead: Indicative of contentment, with no signs of tension.
  • Neutral Tail and Body Posture: Tail held in a natural position, body relaxed without any rigidity.
  • Slight Mouth Opening: A relaxed dog may slightly open its mouth, occasionally panting gently in a calm manner.
  • Loose Leash Walking: A dog that walks with a loose leash, showing no urgency or pull, is typically relaxed and comfortable with its surroundings.


  • Tucked Tail: A tail tucked under the body is a classic sign of fear.
  • Pacing or Trembling: Fearful dogs may pace excessively or tremble, unable to settle.
  • Avoidance Behaviors: Avoiding eye contact, turning away, or trying to hide can indicate fear.
  • Ears Pinned Back: Ears flattened against the head are a common sign of fear or anxiety in dogs.

Practical Tips for Owners

Responding appropriately to a dog's body language can prevent behavioral issues. Here are some practical tips on how to read and react to your dog's non-verbal cues, along with answers to frequently asked questions.

Observe Context: Canine body language can vary depending on the situation. For example, unusual agitation or anxiety might be caused by unseen external disturbances such as pests. Securing an experienced commercial pest control service can help create a more stable and comfortable environment, reducing stress for both you and your pets.
    Consistent Responses: Respond consistently to certain behaviors to reinforce learning. An app for understanding dog body language, among other resources, can help you recognize these behaviors more accurately so your dog understands and remembers which are acceptable and which are not.
      Stay Calm: Maintain a calm and assertive demeanor. Dogs are highly sensitive to human emotions and react accordingly, becoming stressed if you do.

        Frequently Asked Questions

        How do you know what your dog is trying to tell you?

        Pay attention to combinations of cues such as tail wagging, ear positions, and overall posture. Changes in normal behavior can often indicate that your dog is trying to communicate something important.

        What is the body language of a dog that likes you?

        A dog that likes you will show relaxed postures, wag its tail at a medium height, have a soft gaze, and may lean into you or initiate contact through nuzzling or licking.

        What are signs that my dog enjoys the toys I've chosen?

        A dog that enjoys its toys will be visibly excited when it sees them, wagging its tail, barking playfully, or immediately engaging with them. Upcycled pet toys provide a unique sensory experience for dogs, with different textures and smells that can keep them intrigued and mentally stimulated during playtime.

        What is a dog's body language when sitting down?

        When sitting, a relaxed dog might have a straight posture but loose limbs, often looking around calmly. If the dog sits rigidly with its tail and ears tucked back, it might indicate discomfort or anxiety.

        What body language indicates dogs are uncomfortable?

        Signs of discomfort in dogs include avoiding eye contact, licking lips, yawning, lowering the body, tucking the tail, and showing the whites of their eyes (whale eye).

        Final Thoughts

        Mastering your dog's body language not only enhances your relationship but also allows you to meet their needs more effectively. By interpreting their signals accurately, you cultivate trust and understanding, key components of a thriving partnership with your pet. This also helps guide your training strategies, making them more effective and tailored to your dog's unique cues and responses.

        About the Author

        Luqman Butter is a certified pest exterminator with over a decade of experience in wildlife removal and pest control in Toronto, Canada. He has had the pleasure of dealing with every pest imaginable, from bed bugs to rats, skunks, snakes and bats. His passion for pest and wildlife control has led him to become a trusted voice in sharing knowledge and information about pest and wildlife control with the mission to educate people on how to deal with various pest issues in the most effective way possible.

        Leave a comment

        All comments are moderated before being published