16 Dog Body Languages You Need To Know

Dogs communicate with us, but we often don’t understand what they’re trying to say.

But as a dog owner, you want to be able to better understand your dog and what they’re trying to tell you.

In this article, we show you the 16 most common dog body languages you need to know so that you can better understand your furry friend.

Tail Wagging To The Left 

white brown dog tail with green grass in background

One important body language signal for dog owners to pay attention to is when a dog’s tail wags to the left side.

When a dog’s tail wags to the left, it typically means that the pup feels stressed or insecure in the situation they are in and feel as if they need to protect itself from potential danger.

It’s important for owners to pay extra attention and understand their pet’s emotions when this type of tail wagging occurs so that steps can be taken to help keep them feeling safe and secure in any given scenario.

Lifting One Paw Off The Ground Slightly As If Ready To Pounce Or Attack 

You should be aware of is when a dog lifts one paw off the ground as if ready to pounce or attack.

This can come across as a sign of threatening behavior, and it could be an indication of fear, anger, or anxiousness in the dog.

To assess the situation further, it’s important for owners to pay attention to any other accompanying body language.

Other indicators include standing on all four paws, ears pricked up level with the head, and eyes wide open.

If a dog combines this stiff posture with rapid tail wagging, then it is likely feeling defensive or protective.

This possibly due to some external stimulus like another animal entering its space.

Taking note of this behavior can help owners ensure a safe environment for both themselves and their canine companions.


dog laying on the couch while yawing strong

It’s important for dog owners to be able to recognize when their canine companion is yawning

They may not realize the significance!

A dog’s yawn can often indicate that he is feeling frustrated, stressed, or experiencing an uncomfortable situation.

It can also mean that your pup is tired and needs a nap!

When you notice your doggie pal yawning, it’s best to take a moment and assess the environment.

Have you put too much pressure on him?

Is there something external causing fear or anxiety?

Once you adjust the environment accordingly, he should stop displaying this body language.

Turning Away From Another Dog 

When interacting with other dogs, body language is important for both the pet and its owner.

One key indicator of a dog’s state of mind is when they turn away from another dog.

This movement is usually a sign that the dog isn’t comfortable in the interaction, so owners should be on alert to end the interaction as soon as possible.

It’s also important to recognize when their own dog might be exhibiting this behavior towards another.

It can be easy to miss!

If your pet is displaying signs of turning away from another dog, give them some distance from the other animal and do not attempt further socialization until both pets are comfortable and seem relaxed. 

Curling Up Into A Ball 

little white brown dog sleeps on a big pillow

Another body language a dog owner needs to be aware of is when a dog curls up into a tight ball.

This can mean that the pup is feeling scared or stressed.

It can also indicate insecurity due to an uncomfortable environment.

In such cases, the owners should provide reassurance for the animal by speaking in low and calming tones.

Additionally, if other animals are around, it might help to keep them out of direct view by bringing them into another room or behind an obstruction.

Offering pet treats and giving physical affection are two more ways owners can help soothe their canine companions when they display this behavior. 

Doggie Grin Or “Smiling” Mouth Position 

Doggie grins, also known as the “smiling” mouth position, are a subtle sign of contentment and joy in dogs.

This body language can be spotted by observing the corners of the pup’s mouth.

Stretched horizontally in an up-and-down swipe on either side of their muzzle indicates happiness and relaxation.

Doggie grins convey that the dog is feeling relaxed and comfortable around people or objects.

They’re often followed by tail-wags, which express a sense of delight and contentment in the canine.

Recognizing this form of body language is important for pet owners, as it helps build a better relationship with their dogs as they can understand them better and bring out positive behavior in them.

Wagging Tail High And Stiffly 

Dogs may use wagging tails as a way to communicate with humans. 

When a dog’s tail wags high, and stiffly, it can indicate that the pup is feeling anxious or unsure.

Dogs can also use this body language to express dominance over their owners.

Dog owners must pay attention to these signs and adapt their behavior accordingly.

Training sessions should be halted if your puppy begins this kind of tail wagging, as this can often lead to aggressive behaviors that could otherwise have been avoided.

With a bit of care and knowledge, pet owners will soon recognize when their four-legged friend is sending out signals and can adjust their reaction accordingly.

Hackles Raised (Hair On The Back Of Neck Standing Up) 

brown dog fur from near

Hackles raised is one of the clearest indicators of a dog’s emotional state.

When canine hackles are raised, it usually means that the dog is fearful or agitated – he or she may even be bracing for a potential fight. 

Therefore, when your pup’s fur stands up on the back of its neck, take action and assess the situation right away.

Try to identify what caused your pup distress.

It could be another person or animal nearby, loud noises, etc. and then work to remove yourself and your dog from that source of stress. 

Reacting quickly to this warning sign is essential in keeping your pooch safe and preventing them from escalating their fear into aggression.

Sniffing Another Dog’s Butt 

This type of sniffing, which could appear very strange to the casual observer, is quite normal since dogs have evolved to communicate via scent, which is a way for them to greet other animals.

It’s important to understand that a dog sniffing another’s backside is not necessarily aggressive.

Rather, it’s an attempt to become acquainted.

If you notice your pet engaging in this behavior, It’s a good idea to observe the situation and intervene if necessary.

Licking Another Dog’s Face 

white and brown dog sniffing on each others face

Although some dog owners may find it endearing when their pets lick the face of another dog, it is actually a sign that one is being submissive. 

Being able to recognize when this body language is taking place is a must-know for all dog owners.

Important to keep an eye on this behavior while dogs interact with each other, as it could be indicative of a conflict brewing.

Suppose other signs of submission and diversion appear alongside the licking, such as crying or cowering away.

In that case, owners should separate their pets immediately to avoid any potential unpleasantness or harm.

Ears Back

One that every pet owner should be aware of is when a dog’s ears are pulled back.

This is an indicator of fear or stress, and if you notice this sign, give your pup some space and try not to make sudden movements in order to not further agitate them.

Instead, try speaking softly with a calming voice.

This can help soothe their fear.

Additionally, some recipes (dog shampoo, treats, etc.) are formulated with relaxing ingredients such as chamomile and lavender, which can also help reduce stress.

When dealing with anxious dogs, assessing the situation calmly and attempting to address their worries will go a long way.

Tail Between Legs

This usually means that they are uncertain in a particular situation, scared, or anxious about something.

Being able to identify these moments is important for you to help your dog feel secure and safe.

Keep an eye out for this type of body language – it can provide invaluable insight into what your pup is feeling!

Play Bow

black and brown dog playing together in grass

This behavior is when a dog puts their front legs down on the ground, and their backs remain low, tail wagging in excitement.

It’s an invitation for play, and it is an adorable gesture that any owner will recognize right away.

When a pup sees a playmate, they often put forth this greeting in order to signal to them that they would like to interact and have some fun! 

Taking this opportunity to reward your pet with a bit of exercise or engaging toys are great ways to show appreciation for their enthusiasm and foster a loving relationship between you and your pup. 

Understanding this behavior, as well as others, helps ensure that your furry friends can reach their full potential and have happy lives together.

Rolling On The Back

brown white cute dog laying on his back

A common body language that dogs use to communicate is rolling onto their backs and displaying their bellies.

This gesture can seem quite strange to dog owners but is actually the equivalent of a handshake for people.

If you saw your pup basking in the grass on his back, chances are he’s feeling content and confident.

It is also used as a way for them to ask for things such as belly rubs or other forms of attention.


One key sign that owners must pay attention to is sneezing.

Sneezing can be a reaction to irritation in the nose or throat area, but it has also been known to be used as a way of expressing excitement or joy.

When you notice your pup sneezing, take note if they are displaying signs of happiness like wagging their tail or spinning in circles.

If this is the case, then it is likely that your pup is exhibiting an expression of happiness rather than an unavoidable reflex reaction. 

Keep a lookout for this unique body language when interacting with your furry friend so you can better understand their behavior and show them some love!

Before You Go…

Knowing dog’s body languages is very important as a dog owner.

And what about dogs sleeping positions?

They also show a lot about a dogs personality.

Read the article “10 Dog Sleeping Positions” to discover what dog sleeping positions mean about personality, health and character.

Dimitra Kokologianni, DVM
Dimitra holds a Masters’s degree in public health and a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. She is a versatile professional with over 7 years of experience. Her passion for animal welfare and preventive medicine makes her an excellent resource for our readers.