How to Read Dog Expressions and Body Language

Has your dog ever given you a sideways glance or stared at you for an uncomfortable amount of time, leaving you wondering what the heck they’re thinking?

Since most dogs do not speak English, it can be helpful to be able to read their facial expression so you know how your dog is feeling.

That’s why we have dedicated this post to explaining dog body language as well as the many dog facial expressions, and the meanings behind them.

Fearful

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When dogs are afraid or intimidated, they will have their ears lying flat against their head. They will also have their gaze averted and may have their teeth exposed.

Their body will be in a low, crouched or submissive position with its tail bent down between its legs.

Happy

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A happy dog is pretty easy to spot, but we’ll talk about it anyway. A happy dog will usually have its ears perked up, its eyes wide open, and its mouth open with its teeth covered.

Its body will be positioned with the front end lowered and the back end sticking up. And of course, its tail will be wagging vigorously.

Angry/Aggressive

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If you have put yourself between a dog and its food, you may be introduced to this look. An angry dog will have its eyes wide open and staring, with its ears forward and its lips drawn back to expose its teeth.

Its body will be stiff and standing straight up facing towards the object of its anger. Its tail will stick straight out behind it and its hair may stand on end.

Friendly

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A friendly dog looks much the same as a happy dog but with a little more variation. Its ears will be perked up and its mouth will appear to be smiling whether it is wide open or closed. Its eyes will be wide open and looking intently.

A dog’s friendly body language will have its tail up and possibly wagging with its body in standard dog posture.

Hunting Mode

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If your dog has its head held forward with its body low to the ground, it may be responding to its predatory instincts. This will be accompanied by ears facing in a particular direction (in order to better hear its prey) as well as lots of sniffing.

Dominant

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A dominant dog will have its ears straight up and its eyes fixed on the object of its domination. Its mouth may be closed or somewhat open.

It will be standing up straight with its head tall and its tail sticking up.

If your dog behaves this way to you, it might think it is in charge, which may lead to undesirable behavior on the dog’s part.

Submissive

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A submissive dog will have its ears flat and relaxed. Its eyes may be squinting or showing whites. It may also be grinning. Behavior commonly associated with this is nuzzling and licking.

Its body will be low to the ground and often on its back, raising a front paw and exposing its belly.

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