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15 Scientific Facts About Your Dog’s Body Language (2024)

Dog's Body Language

You can find a lot of info online about your dog’s body language. 

But most of those are just observations by other fur parents too. 

So what about the real answers from the true experts?

Well, search no more…

I have science backing up all the truth about Fido’s body language.

Continue reading to learn:

  • 5 surprising facts about your pup’s body language.
  • 7 proven signs that your pooch might feel stressed.
  • 15 scientific facts about your dog’s body language (check #1, #3, and #15). 
  • And many, many more…

Dog’s body language – 15 scientific facts

#1: Smiling

Humans usually smile to show happiness. 

But have you ever wondered if dogs do the same? 

Luckily, experts have the answer for fur parents:

Fidos don’t know the concept of smiling. If anything, they’re just grinning to show that they’re at ease. 

In a sense, it’s like your dog’s way of saying…

“Don’t be afraid, hooman. I come in peace.” 

Moreover, scientists also add: 

Dogs tend to mirror their fur parents. That means Fido might copy your emotions too. Like when you’re happy or anxious. 

And that’s how your pooch could learn how to grin. 

But ultimately, it’s their way to show that they’re just a good doggo.

#2: Cowering 

Pay attention to your pup’s posture…. 

Usually, they’ll look relaxed. And you can tell that if your dog shows the following signs: 

  • Loose shoulders.
  • Soft, gentle gaze.
  • Tongue hanging out.
  • Ears aren’t pulled back.
  • Slightly open, curled mouth.

But when Fido’s cowering… 

That’s a clear sign of fear in dogs, researchers say. Plus, this act’s often paired with raised hackles. 

And if you look at it closely, it might remind you of a hissing cat. 

Yep, dogs can react the same as felines

But why do Fidos do this? 

Well, it works the same way for humans. 

You see, when a person’s afraid of someone or something… 

They try to look as small as possible. And the person might do this without knowing too. 

By looking tinier, you can hide from what you’re afraid of, right? 

Now, that’s exactly why your pooch cowers in fear. And you might see this reaction more in rescue dogs.

“But what causes fear in my pup?” 

Vets say there are 7 common reasons, such as:

Warning: A scared dog is more prone to snapping or biting. This puts anyone at risk of getting hurt. So if you think your dog’s always afraid of everything, ask a professional for help. 

Read next: 7 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Is Acting Scared + Tips

#3: Whale eyes aren’t a sign of guilt 

Whale Eyes Aren't A Sign Of Guilt

Many dogs seem cute or funny when they stare at you with whale eyes

That’s when they sneakily look at you from the side. 

Now, many fur parents believe: 

Dogs give you the side-eye out of guilt. That means Fidos might react like this if they do something bad. 

While that idea sounds accurate… 

In truth, it’s not even factual. You see, research reveals: 

Dogs can’t feel guilt

After all, they have the same innocence as a young child. 

In that case, most Fidos won’t know if they did something wrong. 

So why do they look so ashamed? That’s because they’re afraid of what might come next. 

It’s like knowing that you’re about to get scolded. Even though you’re not sure what you did wrong. 

So, next time your pooch looks at you with a side eye…

It’s best if you help them relax. That’s because too much stress could lead to other health issues in dogs, like: 

  • Depression.
  • Sudden diarrhea.
  • Destructive behavior.
  • Loss of bladder control.

Warning: If you notice these concerns in Fido, talk to an expert ASAP. Only they can give the right therapy for your pooch.

#4: Dogs can catch your yawn too

People can catch your yawns… 

But did you know that dogs can do it too? 

A study reveals that Fidos might catch their fur parent’s yawns. Plus, your pooch can pass it on to other doggos too. 

But unlike you and I… 

Dogs don’t always yawn out of boredom or even tiredness. Instead, they typically do it out of stress. 

That’s why you’d often see Fidos yawning at the animal clinic. 

And that’s based on the same study I mentioned above. 

Moreover, vets also state: 

Dogs yawn to calm themselves. It’s like when humans take a deep breath to relax. 

But stress isn’t the only reason why Fido would yawn. 

In fact, experts say that dogs might also do it when:

  • Waking up.
  • Falling asleep.
  • Suddenly alert.

Continue reading: 17 Clear Signs Of Dog Stress (Stressed Dog Body Language) 

#5: Tail wagging isn’t always a good sign 

As most fur parents know…

Tail wagging means that their fur babies are happy or excited. 

Now, that’s actually true. But science would like to add: 

Dogs might wag their tail to the left side of their body for a reason. And it’s when Fido feels unhappy. Or even when they’re threatened. 

“But what if my pup wags their tail to the right side of their body?” 

Interestingly, that’s when your pooch feels happy. 

So when you meet a new furry friend, pay attention to their tail. 

With this, you’ll know if Fido’s relaxed or not. And that could help prevent sudden bites, too. 

But aside from this… 

A dog’s tail can tell more tales. Just look at the table below for reference:

Tail language of dogsWhat it means
Tail raised highYour pup is on alert and might show aggression
Mildly raised tailYour pooch feels relaxed or confident
Tail tucked between their legsYour dog’s afraid 
Tail wagging rapidlyFido’s overjoyed. Beware, this might lead to tail injury
Tail wagging slowlyIt’s often a sign of ease. But it could also be a sign of an illness
Tail hanging downYour pup might feel bored

Note: Every dog is different. So this table is only a guide for typical tail behavior in Fidos.

You might also like: 11 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Never Wags His Tail + 3 Tips

#6: Drooling is a sign of fear 

Does your pooch drool a lot? 

If that’s the case, you might think Fido’s just hungry. Or it could be due to the heat. 

But truth be told… 

Scientists found that drooling could be a sign of fear in dogs. 

And it’s usually an abnormal reaction. In fact, it might mean that Fido has a phobia. 

Moreover, this issue is common in dogs who are:

  • Abused.
  • Rescued.
  • Not socialized enough.

However, any pooch could still drool due to stress.

But aside from that…

Your pup might also show other signs of fear, such as: 

  • Shaking.
  • Whining.
  • Freezing.
  • Paw-lifting.
  • Having dilated eyes.
  • Abnormal breathing.

Warning: Extreme phobia could lead to snapping. That means your pup might show aggression. In that case, call an expert for guidance.

Find out more: 17 Most Effective Ways To Get A Scared Dog To Trust You 

#7: Stress can lead to sudden diarrhea 

Stress Can Lead To Sudden Diarrhea

There are many causes of diarrhea in dogs. And typically, a poor diet’s the culprit. 

But surprisingly…

Stress can also lead to diarrhea in dogs. And specialists call this: 

Stress diarrhea syndrome (SDS). 

Plus, it commonly happens to show dogs. Or Fidos who join races.

Moreover, the experts added: 

Over 60.8% of sled drivers said their pups had signs of SDS. Especially after a race.

In this case, even if your pooch is typically healthy…

It doesn’t mean they can avoid diarrhea. Your pup might still face SDS if they feel too stressed. 

“What should I do at home if my dog has SDS?” 

In that case, try the following simple tips:

  • Let your pooch rest. 
  • Avoid sudden or loud noises. 
  • Don’t force Fido to do any activities.
  • Healthy adult dogs can do fasting for 1 day.
  • Keep other people or animals away from your pooch. 

Note: Some Fidos can’t skip their meals. Those are puppies, seniors, sick and pregnant dogs. As these pups might end up weaker. So if you’re dealing with SDS, it’s best to contact the clinic.

Reading tip: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Has Diarrhea At Night + 5 Tips

#8: Uncontrolled peeing

You’ve read about sudden diarrhea. 

Now, let’s talk about uncontrolled peeing in dogs. 

At first, this body language might just seem normal. Especially when Fido’s still a puppy.  

Not to mention…

Most dogs need training before they can pee in the right place. 

But let’s say that your pooch is already potty trained. Plus, they’re typically healthy too. 

Then suddenly, they start peeing themselves. 

If this happens, science warns that it could be due to fear or anxiety. And you might notice this in some Fidos when: 

  • You greet them.
  • There are loud noises.
  • Fido’s crouching or rolling over. 
  • Someone approaches your dog.

Note: If your pup does this, don’t get mad at them. Instead, just focus on fixing their habit. 

In that case, use these helpful tips from PetMD:

  • Avoid showing Fido that you’re upset.
  • Build your dog’s confidence by showing them where to pee. 
  • Praise and give your pup a treat if they follow. Then repeat the process.
  • Don’t say negative things such as calling them a bad dog. It might worsen the issue.

If your pooch doesn’t stop peeing, you might need a dog trainer’s help.

That aside…

Excitement can also make a dog pee 

My friend has a nice male pup named Bolt. And we became buddies. 

But since I moved away, I couldn’t visit Bolt for a long time. 

So when I finally had the chance… 

My friend’s dog ran and jumped on me. I could tell he was so excited to the point he peed himself. 

Luckily, I didn’t get caught up in that sudden rain shower from Bolt.

Anyways, this shows that some dogs might do the same as my furry friend. 

#9: Sneeze to vote

Humans sneeze without warning. That’s because no one can usually control it.

But interestingly… 

Your pooch can sneeze when they want to. And they have a reason for doing it. 

According to science, wild dogs decide what to do by sneezing. So if Fidos could talk, their meeting might sound like this:

“I think we should start hunting right now. If you agree, just sneeze.” 

With this, your pooch might do the same as their wild cousins.

But aside from that… 

AKC claims that dogs might sneeze for other reasons too, such as:

  • Health issues.
  • Due to allergies.
  • Wanting attention.
  • Reverse sneezing.
  • It’s common for their breed.
  • Out of excitement when playing.
  • They have a great sense of smell.

Warning: If your pooch is sneezing nonstop, call the vet ASAP. That might be a sign of an allergy or a health issue. And only an expert can help you with that.

#10: Excessive licking 

Dogs love licking. And fur parents think it’s their pup’s way of kissing them

But if your pooch starts licking unusual items or surfaces… 

Research says it could be a sign of gut problems, like:

Warning: These issues have a variety of symptoms. So if Fido keeps licking items, contact a professional for help. 

But aside from this… 

Vets say that dogs could have other reasons to lick nonstop. To name a few, it could be due to:

  • Anxiety.
  • Allergies.
  • Boredom.
  • Parasites.
  • Skin irritation.

Continue reading: Why Does My Dog Lick The Floor? 7 Questions + 7 Tips 

#11: Showing their teeth 

Remember when I talked about smiling dogs in fact #1? 

This time, I’ll bring it up again. However, it has another meaning. 

You see, some people think a dog might be smiling. But in reality, it could be a sign of warning. 

How so? 

Experts state that showing teeth is Fido’s way of saying: 

“Stay away. I can bite you.” 

And that’s why a smiling pooch isn’t always a calm pup. 

But if you want to ensure that Fido’s warning you off… 

You can also look out for other signs of aggression, like: 

  • Shaking.
  • Snarling.
  • Growling.
  • Freezing.
  • Charging at you.
  • Excessive barking.

Warning: A dog’s bite is far stronger than a human’s. So it’s best to leave a fierce pooch until they calm down.

Read more: 25 Best Ways To Calm An Aggressive Dog (#1 Works Instantly)

#12: Panting 

Science says that dogs pant to keep their bodies cool. After all, they can’t sweat as humans do. 

So if the weather’s too hot… 

You might notice them panting more than usual. In that case, you should try giving your furry friend more water. 

Or bathing them sounds like a good idea too. 

But cooling down isn’t the only reason why some dogs start panting.

As per AKC, Fidos might pant more due to issues like:

  • Pain.
  • Allergies.
  • Heart problems.

Now, what if your pup’s generally healthy?

Well, other vets say that dogs also pant due to stress or excitement.

Check out also: Why Does My Dog Suddenly Pant? 19 Dangers + 5 Tips

#13: Shedding and dull coat 

Some humans lose hair due to stress. 

And that can happen to dogs too. Not to mention, their coat color might change as well. 

How does it happen, you ask?

Well, science says that stress creates cortisol. It’s a hormone that supports your dog’s: 

  • Weight.
  • Skin conditions.
  • Tissue structure.

But when there’s too much cortisol in Fido…

It could weaken their immune system. And that’s how your dog might start losing their fur. 

Moreover, cortisol could also lead to sudden weight gain in your pooch.

After all, some pups are stress eaters, Dr. Pierce states. 

That’s why your furry pal might end up eating more than usual. Especially when they feel anxious.

Suggested read: 9 Home Remedies That You Can Give Your Dog For Shedding

#14: Digging or chewing 

It’s common for many dogs to dig or chew things up. 

But what’s the reason behind that? 

Well, based on specialists:

Many Fidos are prone to unwanted habits. Some examples are digging or chewing. 

And pups might do this when they feel: 

Now, if you’re having trouble with this behavior…

Check out this helpful video:

Learn more: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Suddenly Being Destructive + Tips 

#15: Play bow 

Have you seen your pooch bow at you? Or at any other animal? 

Well, there’s a cute reason for that. 

When your dog bows, science says they’re inviting you to play.

And from the same study that I just mentioned…

The experts found 10.97% of Fidos doing the play bow.

Plus, dogs won’t do it when the other pooch isn’t looking. That means these pups wait for their playmate to accept their invitation. 

So when the other dog bows back, they start chasing each other for fun.