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10 Dog Body Language Interpretations
DogsBehavior

10 Dog Body Language Interpretations

Critter Culture Staff

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Even though dogs can’t speak to us in human languages, they are constantly communicating! Dogs “speak” in a variety of ways—most notably through body language. Sometimes, their human companions misread these signals, leading to miscommunication.

The position of your dog’s tail, ears, and eyes, and even the full-body movements they make when playing, can all help give you a clue into how they’re really feeling.

1

Play bowing

Young adorable Irish Terrier dog bowing down Eudyptula / Getty Images

Play bows are one of the most common and easiest dog body language movements to translate. A play bow is your dog signaling to you (or another dog or human) that they’re ready for action! You’ll spot key characteristics, such as a loose, wiggly body, their bottom up in the air, a wagging tail, and other invitations to play, such as excited barking.

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2

Yawning

dog yawning Przemysław Iciak / Getty Images

While yawning can indicate tiredness in people, it has a second meaning for dogs. When your dog is stressed, they’ll perform various body actions to help reduce that stress. A yawn helps your dog calm down and can also signal they’re not feeling very comfortable in the situation. Taking some time to move them to a quieter space can help.

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3

Slow tail wagging

Dogs Paws on Seat Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

We may think of tail wagging as a sign that our dogs are having fun—but that isn’t always the case. A slow, hesitant tail wag can actually let you know that your dog is feeling unsure of the situation. They may be meeting a new dog for the first time, watching a noisy child, or standing in a busy part of the park. A slow tail wag doesn’t mean you have to take action, but it is a sign to pay attention to what’s going on.

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4

Shaking after an activity

A cocker spaniel dog shaking off water Busybee-CR / Getty Images

A full-body shake is one of the body movements your dog uses to let off some steam and stress! If you notice your dog has a good shake after a meet-and-greet or play session, it’s a good sign. This is a great way for your dog to let off some energy in a safe, productive manner, and it shows that your dog is also good at alleviating stress.

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5

Lip licking

Close-up of dog sticking out tongue against blue Sandra Del Rio / 500px / Getty Images

If you spot your dog licking their lips, you may think they’ve just tasted something delicious. But in dogs, lip licking can indicate fear or uncertainty about a situation. A nervous dog will often lick their lips as a way to show they’re not a threat and also that they’re ready to run away if things get scary.

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6

Squinting

Closeup of boston terrier dog squinting eyes ablokhin / Getty Images

The sun may not be in your dog’s eyes if you catch them squinting. A squint, or “soft eye,” is actually a good sign! It shows that your dog is feeling comfortable and content in the situation. In addition, you may notice a relaxed body posture, such as being flopped on the floor. And an even happier dog may even have their tongue out as well!

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7

Pacing

Dogs walking near woman working from home at laptop Caia Image / Getty Images

Just like people, dogs pace when they’re feeling anxious or uncomfortable. An agitated dog that isn’t having fun in a situation may pace back and forth to try and relieve stress and excess energy. Nervous or anxious dogs can also pace to self-soothe. If you see your dog pacing, try to bring them to a different room, spend some time together, or distract them with a fun chew toy.

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8

Heavy panting

dog panting on grass Ivan Pantic / Getty Images

Panting is one way your dog cools off on a hot and sunny day. But excessive panting without a slight "smile" can be a sign that something is wrong. A dog that is constantly panting may be expressing that they’re very uncomfortable. You may also notice pacing, a stiff body, or avoidance of whatever is causing them stress. If your dog is panting a lot, try taking them to a calmer, quieter location.

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9

Whale eyeing

A sad pug lies on the couch and looks away. Care for pugs, their coat, folds, ears and eyes. Zarina Lukash / Getty Images

A whale eye is when your dog shows part of the white of their eyes when looking at something, similar to a “side eye.” This is generally a sign that your dog isn’t comfortable with what is going on and is keeping a close watch on what to do in the event of sudden changes. If you notice your dog eyeing something or someone down, it’s a good idea to step in and help them relax.

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10

Stretching

Cute dog stretching in cozy living room Pekic / Getty Images

Stretches are great for many reasons! When your dog stretches, they’re not only relieving stress, but they’re showing how comfortable they’re feeling. A happy, relaxed dog will stretch out happily after a good play session or if they’re ready to just snuggle up at your side. If you notice your dog stretching, you can be assured that they’re doing OK.

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