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Dog Body Language

Dogs are very good at expressing their emotions through body language. At times we may all wish that our dogs could just tell us how they are feeling. Fortunately we can come pretty close to knowing exactly how they are feeling through reading their body language.

If you can learn to interpret your dog’s body language you will be able to understand how he is feeling, and what he wants to do. This will allow you to develop a very close relationship with your canine companion and if you know what your dog wants, you can care for him more effectively. Observe the way your dog stands and the way he holds his ears, mouth and tail as these can all indicate how he is feeling.

A happy little puppy enjoying some exercise outside
A happy little puppy enjoying some exercise outside

Happy / Content

When your dog is feeling happy he will have a relaxed posture. His eyes will be open and bright, and the mouth may be slightly open (with his teeth covered). His ears will be in a relaxed position, and his tail will be gently wagging in a circular motion.

A happy and content Anatolian Shepherd Dog
A happy and content Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Excited / Playful

When your dog is feeling excited and playful he may have his front end lowered with his rear end up in the air swaying in a playful bow ready to move. His ears will be perked up and the eyes will be wide and alert. Often excited dogs will hold their mouths open and sometimes bark.

A happy and playful posture of a dog
A happy and playful posture of a dog


When your dog is being aggressive he will be bolt upright and tense. His ears will be flattened onto his head and his muzzle will be wrinkled. His lips will be pulled back over his teeth in a snarl. The tail will be extended and fluffed up, and your dog will be growling.

An agressive dog will bite in defence when challenged
An agressive dog will bite in defence when challenged


If your dog is feeling dominant he will stand up tall with his tail extended. The ears will be pricked up and forward. The hair may be standing up on along his back to make himself look bigger. The mouth may be closed or slightly open and he may be growling whilst making direct eye contact.


Sometimes submissiveness can be mistaken for aggression as there are some similarities in body language. Your dog will lie down on the ground either on his belly or rolled over onto his back. Some dogs particularly puppies may urinate. Your dog's ears will be flat on his head and his eyes will be either partly closed or wide open. The lips will be pulled back over the teeth showing a grin, and the tail will be in between his legs.

Anxious / Fear

Your dog will be tense and low down to the ground, and may be shaking. His ears will flat to his head and his tail will between his legs. You dog may or may not look at what is making him scared. A lot of the time they will have their weight over their hind legs or to one side so they can make a hasty retreat. You may also notice him licking his lips or yawning exaggeratedly to release tension.

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