Interpret Your Dog's Body Language

anxious dog body language

All relationships are based on communication, and the best relationships flourish through clear, direct communication that fosters understanding, cooperation and collaboration. Your dog, no matter what breed or mix of breeds, communicates mostly through his body language and facial expressions, and understanding how to interpret what he’s conveying to you is a powerful key to building and maintaining a beautiful lifelong relationship. Your dog strives to understand you; he watches you closely in order to decipher your feelings and responses. Yet some of his behaviours can easily be misinterpreted, especially when he’s doing his best to tell you that he feels uncomfortable or anxious.

Dog Facial Expressions

Your dog’s facial expressions tell you a lot about how he is feeling. When he’s happy his facial muscles will be relaxed, his eyes bright, his mouth loosely open, and often his tongue will be lolling. When he feels tense you’ll notice that his mouth is closed and his jaw tight, and his face shape will be drawn in due to muscle tension. His eyebrows may furrow when he feels sad or worried, in much the same way as ours do – with the inner area of the brows drawn upwards and closer together.

If your dog is uncomfortable he may display what is called “whale eye”, in which he looks sideways out of the corner of his eye so that the sclera, the white of the eye is visible. You’ll also see evidence of the sclera if he is angry, when his eyes widen as he glares at the object of his displeasure.

Dog Body Language

Observe what your dog’s silent signals are telling you to discover how he’s feeling.

What Does A Relaxed Dog Look Like?

Your dog will have soft eyes and no signs of tension in the face, ears and body. His movements will be fluid, and his tail will be fairly low. His mouth will be loose and open, and he may display a “doggy grin” with his tongue hanging out.

Confidence in Dogs

A confident dog is comfortable in his body. He holds himself upright yet relaxed, with his head up and a bright-eyed, alert expression. His tail may be raised slightly, and his ears may be pricked up if something has gained his interest, or relaxed and floppy if he’s just hanging out in your company or the company of other dogs.