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    Canine Body Language

    If you need more information on body language and understanding your pet, check out our resources below.

    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
    Eyes Fixed Stare Confident
    Eyes Casual Gaze Calm
    Eyes Averted Gaze Deferenced
    Eyes Pupils Dilated Fear
    Eyes Wide-Eyed (whites of eyes are visible) Fear
    Eyes Quick, Darting Eyes Fear
    Ears Relaxed, Neutral Position

    Calm

    Ears Forward, Pricked

    Alert, Attentive, or Aggressive

    Ears Ears Pinned Back

    Fear, Defensive

    Mouth Panting

    Hot, Anxious, or Excited

    Mouth

    Lip Licking, Tongue Flicking

    Anxious

    Mouth Yawn

    Tired or Anxious

    Mouth

    Snarl (lip curled, showing teeth)

    Aggressive
    Mouth

    Growl

    Aggressive or Playful

    Mouth Bark

    Excited, Playful, Aggressive, or Anxious

    Tail

    Up, Still

    Alert

    Tail

    Up With Fast Wag

    Excited

    Tail

    Neutral, Relaxed Position

    Calm

    Tail

    Down, Tucked

    Fear, Anxious, or Submissive

    Tail

    Stiff-Wagging or Still and High

    Agitated, Excited, Perhaps Unfriendly

    Body

    Soft, Relaxed

    Calm

    Body

    Tense, Stiff, or Hackles Up

    Alert or Aggressive

    Body

    Rolling Over

    Submissive