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As a dog owner you have probably found ways in which you can communicate with your dog. This allows them to understand your expectations, it is often done with the use of sign language or commands.

Have you ever thought about what your dog might be thinking about when you give tell or sign them a command? The mystery is over! A dog’s body language is a way for them to communicate their emotional state and their intentions.

Understanding your dog’s natural body language and their response to your body language and voice will help you develop a more meaningful bond.

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What to Look for in your Dogs Body Language:

The Eyes: The eyes will usually brighten and open wider when they see a creature or a human that they like or consider to be friendly. When a dog is afraid their pupils will naturally dilate, and you will see the whites of their eyes.

The Ears: The ears are one of the easiest ways to see how your dog is feeling. When a dog’s ears are raised, they are relaxed or they are listening. If they put their ears back, they are signaling submission, and this often means that they are frightened or anxious.

If you yell at your dog and their ears go back, you can see how they react to that yell. You can see the intimidation or nervousness they feel by the shape of their ears.

The Tail: It has been scientifically proven that the way a dog wags their tail indicates how they feel. If the dog is wagging their tail more to the right sign it is a sign of positivity and positive feelings. If the dog is wagging their tail to the left it indicates negative feelings. If a dog puts their tail between their legs it can indicate submission and fear.

The Face: Dogs have amazing facial expressions and they can wrinkle their forehead to show confusion or determination depending on the situation.

The Mouth: A dog’s mouth is a huge part of their expression, and it is absolutely fabulous when your dog smiles! If your dog wants to tell you that they want to play they may show you by pulling their lips back into a smile.

This type of communication only happens with humans because they do not communicate in that way with other dogs.

Signs of Dominant or Aggressive Body Language:

Dogs show dominance for a variety of reasons and they will show natural aggression if they feel threatened or challenged. Knowing how your dog expresses their dominance or aggression will help you diffuse a situation!

  • The tail is raised, and their fur may be bristled outwards (standing out/up)
  • Hackles Raised (This is the fur on the dogs back)
  • Nose wrinkled and the lips curl inward, often show teeth
  • The corner of the mouth is in a c shape and it is facing forward
  • Stiff legged stance with the body leaning forward
  • The tail is stiff, but it might vibrate or quiver
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Cathy D. Evans
Life-long fan of all dogs including Finnegan pictured here. He's a Chinook about a year old with the most wonderful personality. Please enjoy this dog website and its content. “Dogs don’t rationalize. They don’t hold anything against a person. They don’t see the outside of a human but the inside of a human.” —Cesar Millan (dog trainer)

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