Reading Your Dog’s Body Language

Have you ever wished your dog could tell you exactly how he is feeling? Fortunately, if you know how to read your dog’s body language, he can! Even though your dog cannot speak, he can communicate his feelings to you by using three areas of his body: his tail, his ears, and his face. Once you know the signs he uses, you will be able to understand when your dog is happy, relaxed, nervous, or afraid. Reading your dog’s body language is important because it can help you calm your dog down in a situation where he may become aggressive. 5 Points Animal Hospital would like to tell you more about the communication signals your dog uses.


Most people think when a dog wags his tail, it means he is happy. However, according to VetStreet, while a wagging tail does mean a dog is ready for interaction, it does not always signal happiness. Typically, a happy dog will wag his tail in wide sweeping motions at a comfortable height. When your dog is nervous, he may slowly wag his tail back and forth. If your dog is holding his tail in a high and erect position, he is most likely focusing on something and could be ready to attack. You will know when your dog is scared when he tucks his tail under his belly.


When your dog is relaxed, he will hold his ears forward and slightly to the side. When he is feeling friendly, he may move his ears back and lower them. However, if you notice that your dog is flattening his ears against his head, he may be nervous or fearful. The more afraid your dog is, the farther back his ears will move. This signals a defensive position, and your dog may become aggressive as he feels he needs to protect himself.


If you have ever thought your dog is smiling at you, he probably is! A dog’s mouth is usually slightly open when he is relaxed and happy. When you can see the whites of your dog’s eyes, he could be anxious. He may also furrow his brow and stare intensely. You may notice that his pupils are dark and dilated. Nervous dogs tend to hold their mouths tightly which can make their whiskers more visible. Your dog may even snarl and show his teeth. It is important to remember, however, that friendly dogs sometimes give submissive grins and show their teeth as a greeting.

You should always keep the context in mind that surrounds your dog’s behavior as some behaviors can be normal in one context but stressful in another. 5 Points Animal Hospital wants you to be familiar to your dog’s reactions to different situations. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s behavior and body language.

By Dr. Janet Grace | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Comments Off on Reading Your Dog’s Body Language

Come See Us!

5 Points Animal Hospital | 1103 Woodland St., Nashville, TN 37206 | Click to Call Us Now