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15 Ways To Read Your Dog’s Body Language (2023 How-To)

How To Read Dogs Body Language

“Actions speak louder than words.”

That quote applies not just to you and me.

But also to your pooch.

You see, Fido’s gestures could mean many things. 

Since you can’t speak like a dog… 

You’ll understand them through their body language instead.

And that’s why I’m here to guide you.

Keep reading to learn:

  • 3 cool facts about Fido’s behavior. 
  • Awesome answers behind a dog’s unusual behavior.
  • 15 amazing ways to read your dog’s body language (#7 and #9 are surprising.)
  • And a lot more…

How to read dogs body language?

To read a dog’s body language, you have to pay attention to certain factors. Thus, you must observe their eyes, ears, tail, mouth, breathing, and posture. Moreover, your dog’s body language changes based on how they feel. This shows whether a canine’s happy, alert, fearful, sad, or aggressive.

15 ways to read your dog’s body language

#1: Whale eyes or side-eyeing

Do you find it cute or funny when Fido gives you the side eye? 

Well, I get how you feel. That kind of gesture can make you smile.

However, some fur parents think:

Dogs judge you when they give you the side eye. Or your pooch is guilty of something.

But let me correct these ideas.

You see, that look of shame isn’t a guilty face for dogs.

Instead, here’s what researchers say about it: 

Fidos don’t feel guilt. But they might give you side-eye glances out of fear 

This means your pup’s only afraid of scolding. Not because they’re guilty of what they’ve done. 

In fact, they might not even know what they did wrong. 

Cause even if these Fidos could be smart, they’re still innocent at heart.

Aside from this…

Experts at the AKC add other signs of fear and stress in dogs. And those are:

  • Licking.
  • Yawning.
  • Shivering.
  • Flattened ears.
  • A hunched back.
  • Hiding their tail between their legs.

Now, you’ll know whether Fido’s afraid or not.

Find out more: 17 Crystal Clear Signs Your Dog Doesn’t Like You

#2: Perked up ears

Keep an eye on Fido’s ears. From there, you’ll notice how they move a lot. 

That said, when your dog’s ears are perked up like usual…

It’s a sign that they’re relaxed. Or they might feel confident. This means that they feel safe at the moment. 

But if their ears seem stiffer and pointier than normal…

That could indicate that they’re on alert. And Fido’s trying to listen better. 

Fun fact: Science shares that dogs have a hearing range of 67 to 45,000 Hz. That stands for Hertz, the unit used for measuring sounds.

So, with their sensitive ears… 

Your furry friend reacts fast to any noise. That’s why you’ll see their ears moving around. 

“But what if my dog has floppy ears?” 

I’m glad you asked. In this case, Fidos with droopy ears might not have perked up ears. 

Though, they’d still have a powerful sense of hearing. 

You might also like: 5 Surprising Reasons Why Dog Ears Are So Soft (Guide)

#3: Tucked tails 

When Fido’s tail isn’t wagging… 

It might ring the alarm bells in some fur parents. 

In this case, look at where your dog’s tail is. Is it tucked between your pup’s legs? 

Well, that’s usually a sign of stress or fear.

And it’s common in rescue dogs who are afraid of everything

Some Fidos would also tuck their tails when they’re sick. 

So if your furry pal’s acting weird, try contacting the vet.

Check out also: 7 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Is Acting Scared + Tips

#4: Smiling

Smiling Dog Body Language

There are many adorable pics of smiling dogs out there. 

But wait, can they really smile? 

Apparently, experts claim: 

Dogs don’t actually smile. Instead, it’s more of a way to show obedience. 

“Look at me. I’m just a friendly pooch.” 

That’s something they’d say if they could talk to humans. 

Though, don’t feel down just yet. 

Dogs can learn what smiling means in human culture. 

It’s the same way they figure out how kissing works for people.

How so? 

This news report reveals: 

Fidos mirror their fur parent’s feelings. That’s how great dogs are at reading human emotions.

So, just keep smiling at your pooch, and they might understand what it means.

#5: Showing teeth 

Now that I told you about smiling… 

Let me say that it’s also easy to misunderstand Fido’s grins. 

By this, I mean your pooch could be feeling uneasy. And they’ll let anyone know by showing their teeth. 

But that’s not the same as smiling. This time, they’re snarling. 

Now, that’s a warning that says: 

“Back off. I can bite.” 

Moreover, it’s best not to annoy them further. After all, dogs can be stronger than humans. 

So, you should avoid doing things like: 

  • Cornering the dog.
  • Catching Fido off guard.
  • Causing sudden noises. 
  • Touching them persistently.

These actions can trigger a scared pup to bite you. 

That said, this fierce behavior is common in some Fidos. 

Specifically, I’m referring to dogs who are more prone to aggression:

  • Pregnant.
  • Territorial.
  • Greedy with food.
  • Lacking in training.
  • Not spayed or neutered. 
  • Guarding their resources.

Continue reading: 25 Best Ways To Calm An Aggressive Dog (#1 Works Instantly)

#6: Hair standing up 

It’s common for other animals to have their hair stand up. And it’s mostly due to aggression. 

But did you know that dogs can do it too? 

When Fido’s back hair (hackles) stands up, it translates to 2 things:

  • Fido feels scared.
  • Your dog’s being aggressive.

That’s why you might encounter this most in rescue dogs. 

When they feel cornered… 

Their hair rises up. And it’s often paired together with: 

  • Flattened ears.
  • Wrinkled noses.
  • A hunched back.
  • Slightly curled lips.
  • Tail tucked between their legs.

Note: If you meet this kind of pooch, it’s best to call for rescuers. This is to avoid accidental dog bites.

#7: Tail wagging 

Did you know that dogs wag their tails for many reasons?

It’s not always about a happy pooch. 

Fido could wag their tails too when they’re:

  • Fearful.
  • Aroused.
  • Alert or anxious.

So when you meet a new furry friend… 

They might wag their tails at you. And you’d think: 

“Aww. Your dog is so nice.” 

But in reality, they could be on alert instead. 

Though, this isn’t to strike fear in fur parents as well. 

To give you more insights… 

A study shares something interesting. 

Apparently, dogs wag their tail more to the left for a reason. And it’s when they feel unhappy or threatened. 

Moreover, Fidos would wag their tail to the right when they’re joyful.

So if you’re in doubt, try to observe the direction of their wagging. 

#8: Hunched back

As I mentioned in #6… 

A hunched back means a dog’s afraid. 

But why do Fidos do this? 

The reason is they want to look as small as possible. Even humans could relate to this. 

When someone feels intimidated… 

They usually want to escape the situation, right? 

The same thing applies to your furry friends. That said, this act could be paired with hiding. 

And your pooch will do their best to find some safe place. 

So you might find them hiding in the bathroom. Or anywhere that feels comfortable for Fido.

#9: Play bow 

Fun fact: It’s not just royalties who bow. Fidos do it too. And their wild cousins as well. 

Play bow is when a dog presses their chest on the floor. All while their behind is raised up. 

Plus, it’s often paired with a happy smile too.

When dogs do this, it means they’re inviting you to play. 

“Hey, do you wanna chase each other?” 

That’s something your pup would want to say. 

And if they’re playing with other doggos…

Your pooch would wait for the other one to bow back. 

Now, scientists say this isn’t a coincidence. It seems that Fidos are clearly communicating with each other through the play bow. 

And if you haven’t seen this interaction before… 

Check out this adorable video:

#10: Arched back

You’ve read about the hunched back in point #8. 

So let me tell you more about their rears body language… 

You see, an arched back could be a sign of many things, like: 

  • Just stretching.
  • They’re in pain. 
  • Spinal problems.
  • Stomach issues.
  • It’s a breed standard.

Now, some of these aren’t too concerning… 

But if you suspect that your pooch is in pain, take them to the vet.

Read next: 7 Reasons Why Dogs Arch Their Backs + What To Do About It 

#11: Exposing their belly 

When Fidos roll around to show their belly

It could mean 2 things: 

  • They’re submissive.
  • Your dog’s happy and wants some belly rubs. 

Now, let’s talk about the first one. 

When a pooch feels threatened… 

They’d show you they’re not an enemy. And most Fidos do this by showing their bellies. 

After all, that area’s one of their most sensitive spots. 

Not to mention…

Doing this in the wild could cost them their life. Especially when an enemy strikes at their tummy. 

It’s Fido’s way of saying: 

“I surrender. Please don’t attack me.” 

And you might catch this when they meet a new dog.

But most of the time… 

Many fur babies would roll over to ask for a belly rub. This is typically paired with:

  • A smiling face.
  • Happy tail wags.

Now that you know the 2 possible meanings… 

It’s easy to tell them apart. 

#12: Tail held up high 

Instead of wagging their tails…

Some Fidos might keep their tails up high. Almost like they’re frozen stiff. 

This translates to a few things. But it mostly means your pooch is on alert. 

Like a warning signal that says: “Stop. I sensed something unusual.” And then they’ll sniff the air cautiously. 

Now, there’s usually nothing alarming about this. Fido’s just doing their guard duty. 

Note: This doesn’t apply to dogs with naturally short tails or docked ones.

#13: Staring

There are many reasons why a dog would stare at you.

To give you a few examples, it’s because they’re:

  • Hungry.
  • Curious.
  • Nervous.
  • Asking for attention.

And these are just the common reasons. 

That aside… 

You should also pay attention to their eyes. A relaxed gaze means it’s nothing serious. 

But if Fido’s eyes look piercing…

They might be on alert for something.  

Reading tip: My Dog Stares At Me (9 Burning Questions Answered + Tips)

#14: Yawning 

Fun fact: A study says that Fido can catch your yawns.

But vets say they don’t do it for the same reason as humans. 

While you yawn out of sleepiness or boredom… 

Fidos typically do it out of stress.

And by yawning, they can calm their nerves.

Suggested read: Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Pet Him? 9 Surprising Reasons

#15: Lip licking

Most fur parents think dogs lick their lips out of hunger. 

And while that’s true for some Fidos… 

In some cases, it’s not. 

You see, dogs lip their licks out of anxiety too. 

For example: 

Some humans with anxiety might pick on their lips. And they tend to lick on the wounds. 

Now, that’s a habit your pooch could have too.