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When Dogs Speak: Body Language – Part Two

When Dogs Speak: Body Language – Part Two


word image 767 1 body language

Our canines primarily communicate through centuries-old body language and then through vocalizations.

In order to have a strong bond and effective communication with your dog,

it’s essential to understand their body language.

Dogs are always communicating through their bodies so it’s important for owners to properly understand, interpret and respond to their signals.

In our last post, we reviewed the top 6 body language signs your dog wants you to know (click here for the first post: add the link here). In this post, we going to look the 5 common groups of K9 communication and how to recognize each one.

Dog Communication Signals: Common Groups

Depending on the specific situation, a dog could respond with more than one of these 5 groups below. For example, a K9 could first respond with excitement to a situation and then decide it’s really a threat and begin using aggressive or fearful (or both) responses.

  1. Fearful Communication

A fearful dog will usually react with their entire body. They may exhibit a combination of signals or move from one response to another as the intensity increases. These responses include:

  • word image 767 2 body language Lip licking (but not hungry)
  • Yawning (but not tired)
  • Cowering or lowering the body
  • Lowering or tucking the tail
  • Ears are pulled back against the head
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shutting down/ avoidance
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Eyes wide open (whale eye)
  • Fearful communication could progress into aggressive communication

Fearful Body Language in Dogs Poster Illustrated by Lili Chin

word image 767 3 body language2. Arousal Communication

Arousal or high excitement communication manifests in two ways:

  1. A favorable response (a person, another dog, favorite toy or situation) is exhibited with a soft and relaxed body, eyes, mouth and wagging tail and possibly a play-bow to initiate play.
  2. An unfavorable response is exhibited through fear signals (see #1 above) including trembling or shaking or a low/tucked tail. These responses can also be paired with aggressive signals (#4 below) and/or anxious signals (#3 below).

Other aroused/highly excited behaviors include:

  • Jumping/Mounting
  • Mouthing (soft or hard)
  • Biting the leash or clothing
  • Fur standing up
  • Ears are forward/at attention
  • Body is forward and erect
  • Tail is up but wagging stiffly
  • Eyes are open wide and very focused
  • Barking and/or lunging

Aroused/Excited Body Language in Dogs Poster Illustrated by Lili Chin

word image 767 4 body language3. Anxious Communication

Anxious dogs are reacting to the level of stress they are feeling. An anxious dog often displays fearful communication responses (see #1 above). In addition to the fearful responses, other signals may include:

  • Excessive panting (but not hot)
  • Heavy drooling
  • Pacing
  • Barking
  • Lack of focus
  • Spinning or circling or jumping against the walls/cage door
  • Arousal/high excitement responses (see #2 above)

Anxious Body Language in Dogs Poster Illustrated by Lili Chin

4. Aggressive Communication

Like other forms of canine communication, aggressive communication is completely natural and normal and often displayed in response to a perceived threat:

  • A person
  • Another dog
  • An inanimate object
  • Or the situation

word image 767 5 body language Aggressive communication is used first as a warning that the dog intends to protect itself, its pack, its territory or possessions. If disregarded, a dog may escalate to snapping, growling or a potential bite. Aggressive communication may also be paired with fearful communication signals (see #1 above) and may escalate into aggressive communication with the following:

  • Stiffening/freezing of the body
  • Eyes wide open (whale eye)
  • Tense mouth
  • Curled lips
  • Wrinkled nose
  • Showing of teeth
  • Barking & growling
  • Air snapping

Aggressive Body Language in Dogs Poster Illustrated by Lili Chin

  1. Relaxed Communication

word image 767 6 body language A relaxed dog communicates through happy and well-balanced responses like a relaxed and open mouth that almost seems like they are smiling; a relaxed, loose and friendly body posture, soft eyes and a wagging tail that may even go in a circular motion! Relaxed K9s will also lie down in the “frog-leg” position (with the legs stretched out behind him).

This happy and relaxed state is what all dog owners should strive for in their dogs.

Relaxed Body Language in Dogs Poster Illustrated by Lili Chin

Enhance your relationship with your dog with better communication

with our help!

Just email or call us at 480-382-0144.

East Valley K9 Services has got all your dog training and dog boarding needs covered in the Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe and East Valley areas of Arizona!

Additional Reading:

Lili Chin: Doggie Language

Dog Communication and Body Language

AKC: How to Read Dog Body Language

Victoria Stilwell: Canine Body Language

Image Credits (Shown in Order of Appearance):

Image by Ella_87 from Pixabay

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Image by Fran from Pixabay

Photo by Immortal Shots from Pexels

Photo by Julissa Helmuth from Pexels

Image by Daniel Albany from Pixabay

Image by East Valley K9 Services


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