A dog’s body language is a universal language that is the same all over the world; a dog in England can be easily understood by a dog in Australia. They have developed their own way of communicating that is completely unique to them. Some dogs will only use a few signals, while others may have a varied repertoire and use many different signals to communicate with us. Noticing these signals is the key to understanding your dog.


Meeting other dogs

Research has shown that a dog’s most important sense is their sense of smell. Dogs live in a world built up of smells which is where they get all of their important information from. Like us, dogs have their own unique smells that act as their ‘chemical signature’ and contain all sorts of information about them; their health and what mood they’re in etc. This is why a lot of dogs will sniff each other’s rear ends when they first meet as they can learn a lot about each other in a short space of time.

Dogs have three main areas that act as ‘information hotspots’ on their bodies; the paws, ears and rear end. You can learn a lot about how your dog is feeling by observing their posture.

Dogs who are feeling quite confident could adopt a stance with their tail arched high and ears pricked up so other dogs are easily able to pick up the chemical signature and learn about that dog.

Dogs who are very nervous or frightened could adopt a lowered, crouch-like posture with their tail tucked tightly under them and ears pressed back, which hides a lot of their chemical signature from other dogs.

Happy Signals

Signals you may notice when your dog is feeling happy include:

  • Floppy ears
  • Relaxed mouth and body
  • Soft and loose tail wag
  • Smooth brow


Calming signals

Calming signals are used by dogs to diffuse situations and ultimately avoid conflict. They can be observed when dogs interact with other animals and people and are used to keep tension low and interactions pleasant. You may sometimes see dogs using them when they are really involved in playing with their toys.

These signals are the most important form of body language a dog has and if you spend time watching dogs together you will notice that they use them almost constantly to communicate with each other and with us.

Signals you may notice when your dog is feeling a little uncomfortable include:

  • Licking lips or nose (when there is no food around)
  • Shaking off (when not wet)
  • Stiff or tucked tail
  • Turning head away
  • Whale eye (showing the whites of the eyes)
  • Yawning (when not tired)

This list is not exhaustive and all dogs will behave slightly differently but if you notice your dog showing any of these signs, then take it as a polite request to give your dog some space as they are trying to tell you they are a little uncomfortable.


Trainer’s Tip:

If you are unsure what your dog is trying to tell you, stop what you are doing and wait for your dog to respond. A good rule of thumb is to wait and see if they approach you; if they do, it’s most likely to be an invitation to carry on what you were doing. If they don’t approach you or actually move away, then it’s best to leave them alone for a little while.

If you have any questions or would like any advice our Centre Trainers are on hand to help you and your pooch with all of your training needs.