Everything You Need to Know About a Dog’s Body Language

Madelene Hissom · Jan 4, 2022 · All

Author: Keren Dinkin

Owning a dog can be an incredibly rewarding experience. They are adorable, loyal creatures that make life more fun and enjoyable.

The challenge is, there is no manual or training course for owners to know what every dog’s bark or whine means. Unfortunately, speaking dog is not something that can be learned in school.

This is why learning how to decipher your dog’s body language is essential. It will help you understand its behavior, needs, and wants. When you understand your dog, you can become an even better pet parent. Being able to read your dog’s body language can strengthen your bond. After all, communication is vital in all kinds of relationships.

Common Dog Languages and What It Means

The first thing you must understand is that dogs communicate with their entire bodies. So you have to look into every physical indicator, such as their eye shape and their tail height, so you can recognize what your dog means to tell you. The body language of a dog comes as a complete package.

Here are some ways you can interpret your dog’s behavior:

Tail Wagging

Everyone assumes that when a dog is wagging its tail, it means it’s excited and happy. When you combine a wagging tail with a relaxed and happy face, and you indeed have a pleased dog.

When you arrive home or when you give your dog delicious treats like beef jerky or bully rings, you’re sure to experience enthusiastic tail wagging from your beloved pet.

In contrast, a stiff, wagging tail can be an indication that your dog is stressed. The tight swishing of its tail, along with a tense body and narrowed eyes, likely means that your dog is agitated about something and may soon turn aggressive.

Running Erratically

The “zoomies” are seen as natural behavior in dogs. When they feel stressed or bored, running erratically is their way of blowing off pent-up energy.

Many owners assume that this is an exciting and joyful period for dogs. But it can also mean that your dog is attempting to get your attention because it urgently needs to go outside or it badly wants to play.

A walk around the neighborhood may just be the thing to do to help your dog be more comfortable.

Raised Hackles

When your dog's hair is all fluffed up to its tail, then it means your dog is aroused. They often mean that your dog is upset or disturbed, but raised hackles can also indicate that your dog is excessively excited about something.

Raised hackles can be likened to goosebumps for humans, an involuntary reaction to cold or fear.

Tail Down and Tucked

When your dog suddenly cowers with its tail between its legs and its body slightly lowered, then your dog is probably extremely afraid or worried.

This indicates that your dog is being submissive to another person or animal to prevent a confrontation or avoid unwanted challenges.

Play Bow

This type of movement is very easy to read, without any room for misinterpretation.

When your dog lowers its chest to the ground with its rump up in the air, it is telling you that it's time for some play and mischief. You will notice that dogs bow a lot when they run into other dogs in the park.

Raised Paws

Commonly seen in pointing breeds, a raised paw is your dog telling you that there is prey in the direction it is pointing at.

It may also be indicative of confusion. Dogs also raise their paws if they are not feeling confident about the situation. It means they are unsure of what to do when they are facing something unfamiliar.


One action that is often misinterpreted in dogs is lip-licking. It is often associated with savoring a delicious meal, or wanting to lick or kiss their owners. Yes, they can do this after a satisfying treat or as a sign of affection, but dogs also lick their lips when they feel anxious or uncomfortable.


For people, yawing is a sign of tiredness and sleepiness. But for dogs, yawning can indicate stress.

According to dog trainer and author Turid Rugaas, dogs yawn to calm down when facing tense circumstances. 

Dogs can catch yawns too, so don't be surprised if, upon seeing you yawning, your dog yawns back. It’s best to interpret its yawn depending on the situation.

Speak and Read Dog Today

You may not get an A+ on this language course, but it pays to know the basics of your dog’s body language. Understanding these common actions and behaviors will help you improve your relationship and overall quality of life.