Learn to Read Dog Body Language Like a Dog Whisperer

Dog Body Language

No Touch, No Talk, No Eye Contact.
~Cesar Millan, "The Dog Whisperer"

Canines communicate primarily through dog body language.

Dog Body LanguageIf you've ever watched The Dog Whisperer, you have heard that phrase when a new person enters into the dog pack. I imagine it is to keep you from doing the following:

Sometimes you panic and find yourself emitting remarks so profoundly inane that you would be embarrassed to say them to your dog. Your dog would look at you and think to itself, 'I may lick myself in public, but I'd never say anything as stupid as that.'
~Dave Barry

How Do You Recognize Dog Body Language?

A tail can tell you a lot about how a dog is feeling. The position of the tail, as well as its movement, can tell you what is going on in the mind of your dog.

Facial expressions and body stature are also something you should pay attention to. Learn to recognize signs of dog body language.

Good Signs:

  • Tail wagging fast & wide -
    "It's SO good to see you!"
    This is an excited and happy dog.

  • Holding tail erect -
    "Yeah, I'm all that."
    Exudes confidence and control.

  • Tail lowered -
    "Just chillin'"
    A relaxed dog will keep her tail down. But, it will not be between her legs.

  • Corners of the mouth pulled back to show teeth (not as in a snarl)
    "I'm no threat to you."
    This is considered a smile.

  • Dog Body Language PetLying with one paw tucked under -
    "Feel free to pet me."
    A happy and relaxed dog.

  • Cock of the head or ear twitch -
    "What's going on?"
    Usually shows interest, but may sometimes mean fear.

  • Ears forward -
    "Something new or exciting is approaching."
    Tying to figure out where a sound is coming from.
  • Dog Body Language SubmissiveRolling belly-up while exposing her neck and/or genitals -
    "You're the boss!"
    This is a sign of submissiveness.

  • Bowing down on front paws with rear end in the air and tail wagging - "C'mon, let's play!"
    Trying to entice you (or another dog) to play. She may also paw the air or ground and bark.

Unsure Signs:

  • Tail wagging slowly -
    "Are you a friend or foe?"
    Don't expect a big kiss until she feels comfortable with you.

  • Holding tail horizontally, but loosely -
    "I need to find out more about you."
    Not yet ready to welcome you, but will not challenge you.

  • Tail tucked between the legs -
    "I give up."
    Most likely afraid.

  • Head is down and ears are back -
    "I am scared" or "I'm not looking for any trouble."
    Frightened or submissive.

Red Flags:

Dog Body Language Red FlagDog Body Language Achtung

  • One paw raised -
    "Don't bother me."
    Not happy and not in a mood to be petted.

  • Holding tail horizontally, but stiffly and wagging fast -
    "I mean business!"
    Agitated and most likely aggressive.

  • Raised upper lip and teeth bared -
    "I'm warning you."
    A snarl is an unmistakable threat.

  • Whites of eyes showing in a "half moon" -
    "Leave me alone!"
    Does not want to be bothered.

  • Freezes or suddenly becomes stiff -
    "I may bite you."
    Do not touch this dog.

  • Fur along the back and neck bristle -
    "I may need to attack in self-defense."
    Frightened or submissive. May be shy or timid, but will attack if cornered.

Tails Tell a Tale

A recent study confirms signs of dog body language. A dog will wag her tail predominantly to the right when she is feeling positive or happy thoughts about something or someone. And the reverse is also true. When a dog perceives something potentially negative, her tail will wag more towards the left.

This fascinating study, "Asymmetric tail-wagging responses by dogs to different emotive stimuli," appeared in the March 20, 2007 issue of Current Biology.

Apparently the muscles on the right side of the tail are much more apt to reflect good emotions, while the left side is more prone to showing bad ones.

As the Dog Whisperer says...

"Be The Pack Leader"

The pack instinct will make you a great observer. You will pay closer attention to everybody and everything around you.

Though you may not realize it, your dog watches and listens to you... All the time. She learns your patterns of behavior.

Sometimes, you may think that she can read your mind. But, her ability to predict your next move is a result of very good observation skills.

Know What Your Dog is Thinking - Recognize Dog Body Language

Thank You, Quizzical German ShepherdLearn to "Speak Dog." It will help protect those that you love.

Recognizing dog body language may not turn you into a dog whisperer, but it will strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.

A dog is a reflection of his master.
~Captain Max von Stephanitz (Founder of the German Shepherd Breed