Body Language of Dogs

Updated: 9/20/23

While dogs do use sounds to communicate, many of the messages they send are non-verbal. Observing your dog’s body language, especially their facial expressions and body postures, can help you understand when your dog may be nervous about what’s going on around him, or if your dog is upset and might snap at another dog or a person. It’s important to consider the context of the situation, but here are some common body postures and what they may mean.

Canine Body Language. Happy or Calm Posture. A calm or happy dog may have their ears and their mouth slightly open. The dog’s body will be in a relaxed position, such as sitting or lying down. You may also see the following behaviors: play bow, expose belly, and lie down. Nervous or Fearful Posture. A nervous or fearful dog may turn their head away, tuck their tail between their legs, flatten back their ears, and crouch. You may also see the following behaviors: shake off, yawn, and pacing. Upset or Aggressive Posture. An upset or aggressive dog may show their teeth, growl, and bark. The dog may narrow their eyes and hold their body very still. You may also see the following behaviors: bark, lunge, and bite.

Dog body language