About Dog Health

Canine Communication; A Key to Dog Body Language

August 7, 2022

Dogs' body language and vocal sounds are often misunderstood by people.  Consequently, training, social interaction, and daily management can be challenging.  Listed below are some dog behaviors and their meanings.

Hair standing up: frightened, threatened; a fight or flight response.

Turns away from you, looking stiff, rolling on his side: “I feel overwhelmed; please leave.” Dogs may be aggressive if approached. This position doesn’t indicate submission.

Turning head away from a person or another animal: avoiding conflict; fearful, or anxious. You are not being ignored by the dog. Your request may be unclear to him, or he may not be able to comply with it. It is also a way for dogs to avoid conflict with other dogs.

Dog wrinkles his nose when playing and pulls back his lips baring his teeth: this is his warning sign that he is about to bite or snap.

Retracting lips vertically, only showing his incisors and canines: seen as a submissive grin, this sign indicates social anxiety but does not imply aggression.

The dog licks a person or another dog: Not a kiss, but a greeting. If the dog repeatedly licks a person, he may be anxious.

Lip Licking: a sign of anxiety.

Dog wags tail: Dog is interested in interacting with you; it can be friendly or aggressive. It is not a good indicator of the type of interaction to come.

Growling: The dog is trying to make you move away or stop approaching. The dog is warning you that he may become aggressive.

Barking: The act of barking is used as an alarm; to warn a dog or person; to get their attention; to express excitement; to express distress at being left alone.

Whining: a sign of nervousness or anxiety. It may indicate that he is enthusiastic about doing something he enjoys.

Yawning: suggests anxiety or stress, unless it is actually ready for sleep or just waking up.

Dog snapping: Trying to stop the interaction. In some cases, dogs will snap at the tug toy to gain a grip on it-this isn't a dangerous behavior, but you could get bitten by mistake if you don't watch out.

Biting: A way of stopping an interaction or causing a person or dog to leave. Although they can bite without a conscious intent to hurt, for example, when they play tug or when they play rough with other dogs or people. If he feels uncomfortable with the person he is playing with or doesn’t like the rough play, he could be indicating he wants it to stop.

Tail tucked between his legs: he may become aggressive if frightened.

Sitting or laying down in front of someone, turning their back to them: the dog might be keeping them under surveillance. Should they move or interact with the dog, it may become aggressive.

Following Someone familiar: is worried about the person leaving; is afraid of another person or dog; or is fearful of something frightening, such as a thunderstorm.

Running around wildly or in circles with tail tucked: this is usually a playful behavior.

Bows down to the ground, tail wagging: an invitation to play.

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