How to read your dog’s body language: advice from Dogs Trust

HOW TO READ YOUR DOGS BODY LANGUAGE image

Whether you’re a new puppy owner or a lifelong dog guardian, at one point or another, you will have wondered what your pooch is thinking. We’ve got just the thing to help — a guide to reading your dog’s body language from Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity.

Reading dog body language

Your dog’s body language can tell you a lot about their emotions and how they’re feeling. You know your dog best, and you can know them even better if you spend time getting to know their body language and how they communicate. 

It’s particularly important to learn how to spot the signs of anxiety so you can help your four-legged friend feel happy, relaxed, and ready to take on the world. Keep reading for our advice on spotting when your dog’s worried.

Looking out for signs of fear or anxiety 

Not all dogs will show signs of fear or anxiety in the same way, and some may show similar signs in other emotional states, so it can be hard to tell! You always need to consider your dog’s whole body and the context of the situation. Being able to recognise when your dog might be feeling worried or frightened will help you respond appropriately, and keep you, your dog, and others safe. Here are some of the key signs to look out for.

Signs of fear or anxiety to look out for:

  • Leaning, looking or moving away 
  • Lip-licking (unrelated to expectation of food) 
  • Yawning (unrelated to tiredness), 
  • Ears back, 
  • Paw lifted
  • Blinking, narrowing of the eyes
  • Wide eyes with the whites showing 
  • Lowered body posture
  • Tail tuckedApproaching with low, wagging tail and ears back 
  • Appeasement grin: teeth exposed in ‘smile’ shape, ears back, eyes squinted / shut tightly

 

Signs that your dog needs space immediately: 

  • Crouched and growling with ears back and tail under
  • Tense, leaning forward, tail outwards/up, staring, snarling, growling
  • Rolling onto side or back, tail tucked, ears back, tense, one or both back legs raised

Being able to recognise when your dog might be feeling worried or frightened will help you respond appropriately, and keep you, your dog, and others safe.

More advice

Body language is just one of the things to be aware of when trying to understand your dog. Take a look at the Dogs Trust website for loads more behaviour advice, and visit the Dogs Trust Village at DogFest to find out more about understanding and caring for your dog. If you’re looking for tailored expert advice and practical training, you can book a course with Dog School.

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