Are you wondering how to speak dog language? Is it even possible to speak “dog”?
The answer is a big YES! It can be pretty easy, but to speak “dog”, you need to understand body language. Dog’s speak with their body, tail, ears, eyes, and mouth. Think about dog language as a form of sign language. A dog’s bark can tell us a lot too, but not all dogs will use their voice, and today we are focusing on body language.
Do you know if your dog is happy, sad, scared, or being aggressive? Most people know when a dog’s tail is tucked between his legs, he’s scared. But do you know a wagging tail doesn’t always mean the dog is happy or friendly? And believe it or not when your dog yawns, it doesn’t mean he’s ready for a nap.
As a foster family for dogs, we have been blessed with so many different dog personalities. We’ve had dogs from every end of the spectrum, from dominant to scared dogs. This experience has helped us understand our dog’s body language even better. The more you watch different dogs, the quicker you will be able to pick up on the small details of the dog’s body language.
Learning how to read your dog’s body signals is a great way to truly connect with your dog. It will help you understand what he is feeling and thinking, and your dog will be so thankful that you actually understand what he’s telling you!
Each part of your dog’s body provides a signal to you, and yes sometimes they are hard to read. Dogs come in different shapes, sizes and builds, ears and tails vary greatly. It’s also important to note that some dogs will show only one or two of these signs, and some will exhibit all signs. Observe your dog in many different situations and before you know it, you will understand what your dog is saying!
The below dog body language chart is meant only to be a guideline for learning How To Speak Dog Language. When reading your dogs body language, it is critical to look at the entire picture. Some signals by themselves may be misleading if not looking at his full body and considering the situation. Remember each dog and situation is unique!
“Calming signals” are signals that dogs give to humans and other dogs to announce stress and to avoid conflict. They include things like turning away, walking in a curve, shaking it off, yawning, and lip licking. This can happen when your dog is put in a new or uncomfortable situation, whether that be entering a new environment, meeting a new dog, or feeling trapped in a situation. Your dog is telling you he needs a break from the current situation, so give it to him.
Most calming signals happen very quickly, and you may not even notice them unless you are looking for it. Here are five calming signals to watch for in your dog:
Body: Relaxed posture
Tail: Relaxed, wide sweeping or circular wag
Eyes: Relaxed, small pupils at the center
Mouth: Relaxed, mouth closed or opened slightly
Body: Play bow, front legs on the ground with butt up
Tail: Up and wagging
Eyes: Pupils dilated
Mouth: Open or closed
Body: Standing tall posture, hackles up
Ears: Perked up, forward and high on the head
Eyes: Wide open
Mouth: Closed and quite
Body: Stiff posture, hackles may be raised, mounting
Tail: High and stiff or wagging
Ears: Perked up, high on the head
Eyes: Wide open
Mouth: Closed or possible growling
Body: Stiff posture, hackles may be raised
Tail: High and stiff wagging
Ears: Held up and back
Eyes: Wide, whites of eyes visible (whale eye)
Mouth: Growling, lips curled, teeth visible
Body: Trembling or cowering
Tail: Tucked or low and slowly wagging
Ears: Tilted back or flattened
Eyes: Avoidance, whites of eyes may be visible
Mouth: Yawning, licking lips
Debi McKee is a dog mom, volunteer foster dog home, and lifetime dog lover. Debi’s mission is to guide you through every step of your dog journey, from adopting the perfect dog for you and your family, to training your dog and keeping your dog happy and healthy. Sign up for our free resource library of must-have resources, containing valuable downloads to help you in your dog journey.