Understanding your dog's body language

Dogs communicate through barking, whining and growling but they also use a lot of non-verbal communication. Here are a few pointers to help you read your dog's body language.

Tail wagging

Tail wagging is the most common body language signal, but it's often misunderstood. Tail wagging doesn't necessarily mean that you dog is happy, but that he is emotionally aroused. It can be a sign of excitement but it can also indicate frustration or anger (especially if it's a fast, twitch-like wag).

Experts also suggest that the direction of the wag can help reading your dog's emotions: tail wagging to the right can be a sign of positive emotions, whereas tail wagging to the left is associated with negative feelings.

Finally, if your dog is moving their tail in circles, like a helicopter, then it's a sign a happiness and enjoyment!

Dog posture

Is your dog hunching toward the floor? Take it as a sign of fear or stress. They are trying to look smaller.

If they start rolling on their back, it doesn't always mean that they want a belly rub. It can also be their way of showing anxiety.

On the other hand, when your dog shifts their weight forward, it can mean that they're interested in what's in front of them but if they are displaying some other aggressive signs then they are on high alert and perceive a threat.

What about dog's facial expressions?

Lip-licking can be misinterpreted as dogs can lick their lips after eating but also when they are anxious and uncomfortable.

Dog smiles are confusing too and can actually look quite scary. When a dog bares their teeth whilst growling and twitching their tail, they send a warning to the perceived enemy.

But if your dog shows their teeth whilst adopting a loose posture, it's a sign that they feel at ease and happy.

Eye contact

A long stare is a sign of aggressiveness and a way for your dog to seem threatening.

On the other hand, if your dog is looking away, it doesn't mean that they are ignoring you. Dogs avoid eye contact when they feel stressed and uncomfortable.


For more tips on dog's behaviour, read our blog posts about dog growling and excessive barking.