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Guide to Reading Your Dog's Body Language

guide to reading dogs body language

Dogs are the most popular pets in the world. Globally, nearly one-third of households include at least one canine family member. In the United States, a full 44 percent of families own a dog.

Dog's Body Language

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But no matter how many millennia we live side by side with our precious pups, there is still so much more to learn about dog body language. Some researchers and behavior experts spend their whole career just studying how dogs communicate with their people.


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The better you get at reading your dog's body language, the better your relationship will become. This handy guide to reading dog body language will definitely help!


Have you ever watched your pup perk up their ears when they hear another dog bark or see a squirrel run across the lawn? Then you know the ears can give you lots of great information about how your dog is feeling.

A relaxed dog will have relaxed ears. The position of relaxation can vary a great deal based on your dog's breed.


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Ears pulled flat or raised up erect is generally a sign of stress. Stressed out dogs are the most likely to become aggressive or self-harming. Giving your dog calming dog treats is a kind gesture to ease stress.


Did you know that the modern dog's facial structure has literally evolved over time to more closely mirror human facial expressions?

So the next time your dog makes "puppy dog eyes" at you, just know this is no accident. This facial expression is designed to connect with you and generate feelings of warmth, love, sympathy and affection.


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However, if your dog averts their gaze, it is usually a sign of fear or submission.

A direct stare may indicate excitement or aggression. Side-eye looks or a gaze with dilated pupils is another sign of aggression.


If you are like so many dog owners today, you would probably swear that your dog smiles.

In fact, canine biologists have evidence to indicate that dogs will adjust their mouth positions to mirror human emotions (in similar ways to how dogs adjust their eyes to solicit specific responses from "their" people).


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Dogs that display curling lips, bared teeth or tight lips and mouth are often feeling aggression. Licking frequently or constantly may be a sign of allergies or it could be a symptom of anxiety.

When a dog yawns a lot, this is most frequently a sign of stress and an attempt to calm down.


Next to your dog's eyes, the tail is the most expressive body part your dog has to communicate with you. A wagging tail is often perceived as the universal sign of canine happiness and affection, but this isn't always the case.


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A dog can wag out of excitement or nerves. Recently biologists published a report in the Journal of Cell Biology citing evidence that the direction of a dog's tail wags is an important determinant of mood.

A tail that wags to the right indicates a more positive feeling than a tail that wags to the left, which may be a sign of anxiety, fear or aggression.

Body Posture

Last but not least, how your dog stands can also tell you a lot about feelings and mood.

As the American Kennel Club (AKC) points out, a dog that is hunched over or cowering low is stressed out or feeling fear or submissiveness. A more extreme form of this posture can occur when your dog rolls over onto their back to expose the vulnerable belly area.


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A play bow nearly always means your dog wants to play. The hardest posture to interpret is a forward facing erect posture. You may need to look for additional body language and context clues to figure out if this is an aggressive, friendly or simply keenly interested posture.

In an older dog, sometimes a rigid or hunched stance can also indicate that your dog is in pain. CBD for dogs can help ease discomfort and restore range of motion.

With this dog body language guide, you will be better able to help your dog when they feel stressed out, anxious, uncomfortable or afraid.

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