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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