[Infographic] How to Understand Dog Body Language

As a dog owner, you should have unconditional love for your dog. You should do all within your capabilities to make sure that your pooch feels as comfortable as possible living with you. Understanding your dog is very vital in having a positive relationship with your pooch.

Dogs can’t speak verbally and therefore if you can understand dog body language then count yourself so lucky. This will enable you to relate well to your dog. This article is going to expound on the 23 dog body languages that you should know about.

How to understand dog body language

If you really want to be good in reading your dog’s body language, then you must be very keen and observe his behavior. Let us now explore some of the common dog languages that you should be aware of as a dedicated dog owner.

[Infographic] How to Understand Dog Body Language

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#1. Active influence

Understand Dog Body LanguageSuch a dog will be very active and demands a lot of attention. If your dog keeps jumping up, barking and at the same time mouthing and nipping, then you should know that your dog is very active.

An active dog will always appear to be restless most of the times; he might even knock you over or scratch you with his paws. He will keep running up and down while trying to get your attention as much as possible.

You should be very happy if your dog is active and try to interpret the message your pooch is trying to pass unto you. An active dog will always have its tail raised as it tries to wag it from left and right. While this active behavior may be confused with aggression, your dog may not be intending to be aggressive in any way.

An active dog will assume the ready to chase or pounce posture; its ears will be facing forward while at the same time wagging its tail. If your dog portrays signs of having an active influence, he needs to be trained both actively and passively.

#2. Passive influence 

Understand Dog Body Language

This dog will engage with you more passively. He will seek your attention by staring at you in such a way as to ask you to pet him.

Apart from that, your dog can also nudge or lick you as a way of attracting your attention. Such a dog will try as much as possible to convince you to play with him by dropping various things at your feet.

It is very vital that you understand what your dog is trying to tell you whenever he portrays any body language. It is not good to let your pooch down when he shows these friendly gestures.

If you are free, spare some time and play with your dog. This will end up helping in several ways as you strengthen the bonds between you and the dog.

This body language should not call for alarm, and therefore you should not be worried if your dog portrays this body language. It only needs passive training so that your dog can know your possible responses to his requests.

He should know when you are free to play with him or when you are occupied to play with him.

#3. Assertive – Aggressive 

Assertive - Overly confident Understand Dog Body LanguageAn aggressive dog will always have his tail raised, bark a lot, has its nose wrinkled, teeth and gum visible and his hackles raised among other symptoms. An aggressive dog is a very confident animal and is somehow sure that he will dominate in case you challenge him.

They normally express their social dominance as well as issuing a threat to anyone trying to come their way that if challenged, they might act aggressively.

They normally express their social dominance as well as issuing a threat to anyone trying to come their way that if challenged, they might act aggressively.

It is not advisable to run away from an aggressive dog. Doing so might result in very ugly results. It is advisable to stand still and stop looking at the dog directly. You can use your peripheral vision to observe the movements of the dog. If you make any sudden movements or raise your hands, then hell will descend on you. The dog might feel challenged and bite you.

Such a dog needs to be trained carefully so as to make him non-aggressive. This is because no one would like to have an aggressive dog which can turn against its owner and bite him anytime.

#4. Assertive – Overly confident 

Assertive - Overly confident-Understand Dog Body LanguageAll dog owners would wish to have very confident dogs. But how will you know that your dog is confident if you cannot understand dog body language? Well, a confident dog will have its tail very high, its tongue out and its ears upright. A confident dog will never be worried about what is happening in the surroundings.

Well, a confident dog will have its tail very high, its tongue out and its ears upright. A confident dog will never be worried about what is happening in the surroundings.

He will never be threatened with what is happening close to him. Such a dog can use both the active and passive influence to get what he wants. As the dog owner, you should encourage your dog to be always confident by offering him a treat if possible.

While it is important for your dog to be confident, there should be a distinct line between being confident and aggressive. There is a higher possibility that your dog could be overconfident to the point that he might become assertive or aggressive which is something that you would not like.

It is therefore very important to train your dog to maintain his confidence within some given boundaries so that he doesn’t become overconfident. It is worth noting that such a dog is usually approachable and therefore you should not be worried or fear such a dog.

#5. Alert/ Self-assured

Understand Dog Body LanguageThis is another dog body language that every down owner should be in a position to understand. This body language is normally portrayed when your dog notices something that attracts his attention.

The dog will be trying to figure out and assess the situation that is going on. After doing his analysis, he will then decide on how to sort out the situation.

To know that your dog is alert, you must be on the lookout for the following signs. The dog will have his ears facing forward while switching them at the same time; his mouth will be closed, the eyes will be wide open with a horizontal tail which does not bristle.

If you own a pooch that is always alert, you should count yourself lucky because that is a sign of having a very smart dog. Such a dog would be an excellent problem solver which can reason quite quickly to get himself out of a tricky situation. As a dog owner, you should see to it that you train your dog to use his skills in a better manner.

#6. Relaxed – middle of the pack

Understand Dog Body LanguageYour dog should always be relaxed. This is one of the easiest dog body languages to read. Even those dog owners with less experience in understanding dog body language should be in a good position to understand this body language.

A relaxed dog will have a very relaxed posture. His body will appear to wag somehow; his tail will be down and relaxed.

He may also have his mouth open with his tongue slightly exposed. Such a dog will always be interested in pleasing the owner and is also very easy going.

As a dog owner, it is vital to know that while it is safe to pet such a relaxed dog, always make sure that he is not asleep. This is because if he is asleep then your act of petting him my wake him up and he might wake up while already aggressive and bite you. A relaxed dog is safely approachable by both the owner and even visitors.

After understanding your dog’s body language to pass the message that he is relaxed, it is therefore important to train him so that he does not become prone to over-exuberance.

#7. Fearful – Aggressive

Understand Dog Body LanguageMost dogs will be fearful and aggressive when directly facing the person threatening them. The dog may show signs of fear and will try to get himself out of the situation by becoming aggressive.

A good dog owner should be able to understand this body language so as not to misjudge the dog. There are special ways of handling such dogs, but the most important thing is to understand him in the first place.

First of all, a fearless dog will appear dull and always stressed up. Such a dog will always be on the edge. If your dog growls, barks and lunges at almost everything at the slightest movements around him then be sure that your dog is fearful.

Such a dog will lower his body, have his hackles raised, tuck his tail and have his ears back while his eyes are dilated. A dog showing these signs can be aggressive as a way of defending himself and can bite you at any moment. It is important to know that such a dog may attack and bite if pressed to the wall.

Such a dog needs to be assured of its safety by the owner. He should be safe when in your presence. Such a dog should constantly be trained to make sure that he always feels secure when in your presence.

#8. Fearful – nervous

Understand Dog Body LanguageIf you understand dog body language, then you should know that dogs which are fearful need not only be aggressive but can also be nervous. A nervous dog will always be uncomfortable and might not know what is going on around him.

If your dog is fearful and nervous, he will be sleeping most of the time with one eye open. The dog will also seem to be anxious and worried most of the time. Such a dog will always have his ears back, tail low while leaning back most of the time.

If your dog barks a lot most of the time because of sudden minor movements or noise, then this is also a sign that your dog is nervous. Such a dog will retreat under the sofa or table most of the time as well. It is, therefore, your duty as the dog owner to make sure that your dog does not become nervous.

Your pooch is always a special member of your family and should therefore always feel very safe at home. This is why such a dog needs to be carefully trained to prevent him from being aggressive or even fearful.

#9. Shy – Submissive – Timid

Understand Dog Body LanguageShyness is not only a human beings’ issue, but even dogs can also be shy at times. If your dog is shy, then you don’t need to be worried so much. But this doesn’t mean you should not be worried at all.

A shy dog will always turn his body sideways when greeting other dogs or other people. If your pooch is shy, then he will show shyness in almost every aspect.

If you get a visitor and he tries to pet your dog, then the dog will somehow shy away. These are some of the signs of shyness in dogs. It is therefore very important to understand this dog boy language to stop you from misinterpreting your dog. A shy dog will always be lonely as well and will like keeping to himself.

If your dog is shy, then there is something to be happy about. Such a dog will always want to make you happy by always pleasing you as the owner. The process of training such a dog is also very easy and therefore he will always obey your responses to his advances.

#10. Submissive

Understand Dog Body LanguageThere are those dogs that will always be entirely submissive. Submissive dogs are prone to becoming anxious and nervous when approached. They may also be frightened at times. Such dogs will always run towards you while wagging their tails and then lie on their backs.

They will expose their underbelly as a sign of acknowledging your dominance over them. Other signs that a submissive dog would show include partly closing his eyes, tucking its tail as well as turning his head as a way of avoiding direct eye contact with you.

A submissive dog will never exhibit any aggressive behavior, and this is something that every dog owner should know. This is because your dog is accepting his lower status while at the same time telling you that he is trying to avoid any physical confrontations.

As the dog owner, it is very critical to make your dog feel loved the moment he becomes submissive. You should pet him and play with him. If possible, this is the right time to give your dog a treat. Submissive dogs are always friendly and can be approached by both the owner and even strangers.

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Understand Dog Body LanguageThe same way human beings feel safe when they are sure of everything happing around them is alright is the same way dogs are. There are somebody signs that a dog will exhibit to show that he is alert.

We must accept the fact that most dogs are always aware of what is happening around them. This is because most dogs normally feel insecure and the only way to make them feel secure is by being alert. The dog will, therefore, need to check his surrounding to make sure that he is aware of what is going on.

When your dog has its ears forward with its mouth closed, then this body language might mean that he is very alert and trying to check things out. The dog may also be leaning forward as a way of showing his alertness.

Sometimes the dog may show these signs as a way of showing his interest in what is going on around him. In other words, the dog might be telling you that he is enjoying seeing whatever activity is going on.

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#12. Playful

Understand Dog Body LanguageThere is a saying which claims that “all work without play makes Jack a dull boy.” Well, this saying does not only apply to humans alone but dogs too. Your dog would want to play with you. But because he cannot communicate this to you verbally, how will you know what your dog wants?

If you are an individual who finds it hard to understand dog body language, then this will be an uphill task, but one who understands dogs will know what his dog is telling him. You must be able to understand your dog’s body language and know that he wants to play with you.

He will do some basic activities as a way of inviting you to play with him. Your dog will bark with excitement and do some playful attacks as well as retreats. He will try as much as possible to convince you that the attacks are meant to invite you to play and not as a way of threatening or challenging you.

Such dogs will socialize well with their owners but may not want to be touched by strangers. If any stranger tries touching them, then they may run wildly and bounce away. It is very important to play with your dog to keep him healthy and physically fit.

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Calming signals

There are certain signals that your dog may exhibit which show that the dog is calm and everything is alright and under control. A good dog owner should be able to understand and interpret the message being passed on by these signals. Some of the calming signals include:

Understand Dog Body Language | With 23 Body Symptoms

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Wrapping up

It is very necessary to be able to understand dog body language. That is how they communicate with us. Our relationship with our dogs will be very successful if we can understand them and do exactly as they want us to.

That is why this article has outlined some of the 23 dog body languages that every dog owner should be aware of.  This has been done as one of the initiatives taken to make sure that our dogs enjoy living with us.

After mastering the dog body languages discussed in this article, you can share this comprehensive article with your friends who own dogs. If you have any question, let me know in the comment section below.

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Last Updated on 13/09/2023 by Karen Snow