Your Dog Is Speaking To You!

Narrated from: Curious Dog Facts

Reading body language

People often think “I wish my dog could talk…”

Well, your dog can talk! It just uses a different language!

Dogs are often referred to as “mute beasts”. That is not a correct term. Dogs communicate between themselves, and they try to communicate with you too. It is hard to understand a dog, but it is also hard for the dog to understand you!

Barking is just an element of your dog’s language. In the movies, sometimes barking is translated into human speech – but that would be impossible. Dogs are descendants of wolves, and wolves basically do not bark except on rare occasions. The most important element in their communication is body language.

So, if you want to understand your dog (or the dog that confronts you in a dark alley), you have to learn to read its body language!

You could read how your dog feels by observing its eyes, ears, tail, mouth, hair and its overall posture as well.


The eyes of a dog can change shape – much like your pupils sometimes indicate if you are nervous or excited. The normal shape of your dog’s eyes should be round or almond. If a dog feels threatened or frightened, the eyes should look larger. Larger eyes could also indicate aggression or just curiosity. If your dog’s eyes look narrower, this could also indicate aggression, but in other situations it is a sign of submission.
You may have heard that dogs consider direct eye contact a threat, but a lot of dogs actually learn to like looking into human eyes. On the other hand, if an unknown dog stares intently at you – it’s a threat. You should consider backing away.
If the dog averts its gaze, it is not being sulky or sullen – it is just showing submission. In other cases this could mean that the dog is scared of you – especially if it has been hurt by people in the past!


Dogs can move their ears in different directions. If a dog pulls his ears back only slightly this would mean that it is friendly. Ears flattened to the head can indicate fear or submission, but it could also be a sign of aggression.

If a dog is excited or alert, it will raise its ears up and forward, and direct them to whatever has caught its attention. If a dog shows signs of aggressiveness, and its ears are not flattened to the head, but erect, this can indicate that the dog is not afraid of its opponent.


You should differentiate between a snarl and a smile. An aggressive dog will expose its teeth, but mainly the front ones. Some dogs will smile though, pulling back the corners of their mouths.

There is also the “submissive grin” – some dogs do that if they are feeling extremely submissive. They bare their teeth but avert their gaze, yelp, whine or take a submissive pose.

If a dog has his mouth closed, it is usually frightened or submissive. If it yawns exaggeratedly, it is probably tense or irritated and wants to remind everyone it has teeth.

If the mouth is slightly opened – this probably means your dog is happy. Dogs also have their mouths wide open when they are panting – this makes it easier to breath.


The tail is an important part of the body that all dogs use to express their emotions!
It is important to note that different breeds of dogs have different kinds of tails. Some breeds have tails curled up and over their backs; others, as in the greyhound, have tails that tuck slightly between their rear legs. If a dog holds its tail in a natural position, this means it is relaxed. If a dog wags its tail, this means that it is happy; the strength of the motion correlating to the extent of the dog’s happiness.
However, a dog that is nervous or submissive will hold its tail lower, or even tug it between its hind legs. A dog that is alert or aggressive will hold its tail higher. It may still wag it, but this would indicate aggression. When the dog is aggressive and wags its tail, the tail will seem stiffer – kind of like a flag!

Dog hair

This is not the most important element of dog communication. However a dog that sheds more than usual is probably stressed by something. A dog will also raise the hair along its spine if it is highly agitated.

Overall posture

Dogs often tend to try to look larger or smaller than they are – much like a cat raising the hair on its back!

A dog that is calm will look normal or relaxed. A frightened or submissive dog will try to look smaller – it will lower its body or even cower to the ground! An aggressive or agitated dog will try to look larger – it will stand upright, even on tiptoe, head and neck held high. Dogs do the same if they are aroused, or just alert. An aggressive dog will lean forward more than an alert one, though.

to top of the page
Previous Next

Other articles that might interest you::