A Quick Guide To Canine Body Language

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely we will ever be able to understand what our dogs are really thinking. However there are a few things you can look out for to help you understand how your dog is feeling. As most dog owners are aware, dogs are very expressive animals, and non-verbal forms of communication, such as body language, are a key way in which dogs communicate. Here’s a quick guide to canine body language to give you a better insight into canine communication.


Whilst most people generally assume that a wagging tail is a sign of a happy dog, dogs can wag their tails for a number of different reasons. According to a recent study there is a strong link between the movement of a dog’s tail and their mood, for example a predominantly right tail wag can indicate happiness, whilst a left tail wag can indicate fear.

The Eyes

A dog’s eyes can also be particularly expressive. For example if your dogs eyes appear larger than normal it could be the case that they are feeling threatened; this is also characteristic of aggressive dogs. On the other hand if your dog is in pain or not feeling their best their eyes may appear squinted.


Despite the wide variety of shapes and sizes of dogs ears, there are some general rules that apply with regards to how dogs communicate with their ears. For example an alert dog will typically raise their ears on their head in the direction of whatever has perked their interest. If your dogs ears appear completely flattened, then they are more than likely indicating that they are feeling scared or submissive.


Dogs commonly tilt their heads to one side in what most of us view as an adorable gesture. Scientists and dog behaviourists have provided a number of different suggestions as to what it might mean, and whilst a consensus has yet to be reached is likely that the movement indicates that your dog is trying to hear you better, whilst simultaneously letting you know that they are paying attention to you.


A relaxed and contented dog may position their mouth closed or slightly open. At the other extreme, a dog that is feeling aggressive will likely bare their teeth as a warning signal.


You can use a dog’s posture to interpret their intentions. For example if your dog is feeling scared they may have a hunched over appearance and hold their head and tail low. On the other hand an aggressive dog will display tense muscles and attempt to make themselves appear larger.

Here at Dog School we are dog behaviour experts, and if you are looking for dog training in Surrey we can offer you a great range of dog training services. For more information please do not hesitate to contact us and a member of our friendly team will be happy to help you with your enquiries.