The Basics Of Canine Body Language

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Learning how to interpret body language in dogs can be useful in many situations. A good example of this is deciding whether or not you should approach a stray or lost dog. Is the dog friendly? Is he fearful? Seven types of canine body language are especially important to know:


Dogs that are open to socialization and approachable have a hanging or relaxed tail, erect ears, neutral stance, and their mouth is slightly ajar. They also appear content and comfortable with their surroundings.


Signs that a dog is attentive include an erect, moving tail leveled with the back, ears tilted forward, closed mouth, and slight inclination of the body toward the front. Canines in an alert state of mind are usually trying to decipher a noise or approaching person and deciding whether there is any danger involved.


Dogs that display signs of dominance aggression should be dealt with cautiously or be completely avoided if possible. Signs that indicate an aggressive dog are an erect and puffy tail, raised back hair, ears pointed slightly to the side, wrinkled face, leaning forward, and showing teeth.

Frightened & Aggressive

Dogs can also become aggressive when they feel threatened or scared. The main difference between dominance aggression and fearful aggression is that a fearful dog tucks his tail, holds his ears flat on his head, and stands in a much lower body position. Nevertheless, they’re just as dangerous as dogs with dominance aggression.


Dogs that are fearful often times appear to be worried, as they stand in a low body position, hold their ears flat on their head, keep their tail down, and lick the person or animal causing the fear. Dogs in this position are being passive and not interested in fighting.


Similar to fearful dogs, canines who are submissive are also trying to relay the message that they accept the challenger as dominant and that they do not want to fight. Signs of submission in dogs include lying down on their back, tucked tail, flat ears, head turned to the side, and urination


Dogs that are in a playful mood will let you know by “bowing.” This position involves raised tail and lower back, erect ears, pupil dilation, open mouth, and bent front legs. Some dogs will also bark or nudge at your hands to get you to play.