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Canine Body Language – What’s Your Dog Trying To Tell You?

How many times have you wished your dog could just tell you what he wants? Actually, he probably is telling you, but you don’t understand “dog” language. Dogs can’t use their words, but they can use their bodies to communicate. Following is a list of ways that dogs communicate their feelings with canine body language.

I’m Happy

When a dog is happy, his entire body lets you know. His tail wags in big helicopter circles. His eyes and ears are relaxed. His mouth is closed or slightly open, or he may even be grinning at you. Happy dogs make for happy owners.

I’m Scared

When a dog is scared or nervous, they might pant or drool excessively. They may hold their ears flat against their head. They may be unable to sit still and pace nervously to try to relieve some of the nervous tension when they are scared, much like people do. The most obvious sign is when they hide or tremble. A scared dog can get aggressive, so try to calm your dog down by dealing with whatever is scaring them.

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I’m in Pain

It may be difficult to tell if your dog is in pain, but it is important to recognize the signs. Obvious signs are limping or a reluctance to move certain parts of their body. Excessive panting can indicate pain. A dog in pain may quit eating or eat less, or his sleeping habits may change. Your dog may whimper, groan, whine, yip, moan, or even growl. A great resource to help you tell if your dog is in pain is

I’m Excited

Dogs show excitement when their ears are pricked forward. Their entire body is tight with excitement, and their eyes on glued to your every movement. Your dog may spin in circles, bark, wag it’s entire body, or just run out of pure joy. Some words may trigger this response, such as “walk” or “car ride”, or just seeing the lease, tennis ball, or frisbee may be all your dog needs to get excited.

I’m Going to Attack

Dog show aggression in several obvious ways, and people need to pay attention. When a dog gets anxious it can escalate to aggression and biting unless you find a way to defuse the situation. Growling, snapping, and showing their teeth are obviously signs that your dog is saying “back off or else”. A rigid body, ears perked, and tail up is another sign your dog is uncomfortable with the situation. Raised hackles are an obvious sign your dog perceives a threat. Once you learn the signs that a dog feels threatened, you can either remove the threat or remove your dog from the situation.


It’s up to you to interpret what your dog needs by recognizing the signs. Learn to read your dog’s basic body language and you won’t have to wonder what your dog is trying to tell you.


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