Vernon Hills Animal Hospital

1260 South Butterfield
Mundelein, IL 60060

(847)367-4070

vhah.com

Canine body language

Dogs communicate using body postures, facial expressions, and vocalizations. These cues are often misunderstood by humans. Decoding a dog's body language can not only help you or others avoid being bitten, it can help you understand your dog and therefore reduce his anxiety, facilitate training, and strengthen the family's bond with the dog.  

This is a useful chart from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.  If you're not sure what your or someone else's dog is trying to say, refer to this chart.  Learn to listen with your eyes!

BODY PART

POSITION

WHAT IT CAN MEAN

EYES

Unwavering

Challenge, threat

 

Fixed stare

Confident

 

Casual gaze

Calm

 

Averted gaze

Deferenced

 

Pupils dilated

Fear

 

Wide-eyed(whites of eyes are visible)

Fear

 

Quick, darting eyes

Fear

EARS

Relaxed, neutral position

Calm

 

Forward, pricked

Alert, attentive, or aggressive

 

Ears pinned back

Fear, defensive

MOUTH

Panting

Hot, anxious, or excited

 

Lip licking, tongue flicking

Anxious

 

Yawn

Tired or anxious

 

Snarl (lip curled, showing teeth)

Aggressive

 

Growl

Aggressive or playful

 

Bark

Excited, playful, aggressive, or anxious

TAIL

Up, still

Alert

 

Up with fast wag

Excited

 

Neutral, relaxed position

Calm

 

Down, tucked

Fear, anxious, or submissive

 

Stiff-wagging, or still and high

Agitated, excited, perhaps unfriendly

BODY

Soft, relaxed

Calm

 

Tense, stiff, or hackles up

Alert or aggressive

 

Rolling over

Submissive