How to Read Your Dog's Body Language

Just because your dog can't talk doesn't mean that it's not trying to tell you something. Dogs use a variety of movements and actions that indicate their feelings and thoughts. Deciphering your dog's body language is a key to understanding its personality and learning how to best train it. Read the tips listed below and learn about how to read your dog's body language.

  • Relaxed and happy There are a number of signs to show you that your dog is content and calm. If its head is up, its mouth is open, its weight is evenly distributed over all its limbs and its tail is wagging, it wants you to know that it's relaxed and happy [source: ASPCA].
  • Playful When your dog is ready to play, it will let you know. Watch its legs, tail and face to see if it wants to have fun. Having its front legs lowered, broadly wagging its tail and exposing its tongue are all signs that your dog is inviting you to play. Any pushing or gentle nipping is meant to be playful and engaging prompts to get you up [source: Coren].
  • Aggressive Dogs will let you know when they feel threatened or ready to attack. Their whole body will be postured to strike. If your dog is barking loudly with its tail stiff, its ears erect, its teeth showing and its legs charging, it's getting ready to attack [source: ASPCA].
  • Stressed There are a wide range of signs that your dog may display to show its varying levels of anxiety, stress and worry. If its tail is down or tucked in, it's panting rapidly and its ears are back, your dog may be trying to tell you that it's scared. Sweating paw pads or sweaty paw prints are also signs of a distressed dog [source: Coren].