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Understanding Your Dog: Body Languages of Dogs and Their Behaviours

In comparison with cats, dogs’ emotions are very obvious to notice. Unlike us humans with complicated emotions, dogs only experience simple emotions like happy, sad, angry, frustrated, and fear. They show emotions through their body language and different behaviours, we as a pet parent need to understand what they are trying to tell us through their actions. 

To understand dogs, you would need to pay attention to their body posture and facial expression, especially on the tail, ears, and mouth.


When they are…

01 Relaxed/neutral state

  • Relax and comfortable
  • When lying down they are all soft but still are ready to perk up and be interested in what you are doing
  • Eyes moving slowly, scanning surrounding from where their comfort resting spot
  • Ears are relaxed and floppy
  • Forehead are smooth without any tension
  • Mouth will be slightly open or closed 
  • Lips muscles are relaxed

This is the most comfortable state of a dog, they are completely relaxed and comfortable with the surroundings. 

02 Happy

  • Relaxed posture and forehead
  • Mouth open and tongue poke out, pant evenly and gently
  • Waggy tail
  • Floppy ears

When dogs are happy, they wag their tail vigorously until sometimes their whole bag leg is shaking. This is the time when they would very much want to interact with you, you can play the toys they like with them and pet them on their favourite spot.

03 Focused

  • Eyes open bright, unblinking or does not blink that much
  • Ears are pricked and held forward
  • Mouth open with tongue still 
  • Head held high or towards the thing that they are focusing on
  • Whole body angled towards the focus object, quivering in anticipation, ready for action

04 Anxious or worried

  • Avoiding eye contact, but sometimes they will stare with wide open eye
  • Ears held slightly back 
  • Tension on the forehead
  • Mouth usually closed
  • Licks their lips and yawn nervously
  • Tail will be lowered

Anxious dogs sometimes wag their tail also, it is different from the happy tail wagging, the anxious tail wagging will be more cautious and unsure. It could be hard to recognise sometimes when you did not really pay attention to it.

05 Frustrated and angry

  • Stiff and upright body
  • Unblinking eyes
  • Flattened ears
  • Erected fur
  • Mouth open, lips will be tense and drawn back
  • Making low growling voices
  • Baring their teeth making the nose wrinkled
  • When they are ready to attack, they will put their weight towards the front leg

You do not want to approach an angry dog, they might bite whether or not you are the target that they are angry at. Do not stare or shout at them and make any sudden and fast movement, give them space and time until they calm down.

06 Fear

  • Eyes wide open darting back and forth
  • Sideways glance at the object that they are fear of
  • Ears flatten against head
  • Lips will be tense
  • They might lick their lips and yawn
  • Low growling voice

Different dogs have different reactions to fear, some might be cowering themselves to make themselves look small, some might roll on their back, and some might just stand still until their fear is gone.

07 Relieved

  • Tension on their body is release
  • Head lower
  • Eyes soften
  • Some will stretch and shake themselves 
  • Some also will hop around 

A relieved state normally comes after the anger, fear, and frustrated state. They will try to do things like hopping around to calm themselves down.

Knowing your dogs’ emotional state is important for you and also for them. You need to know if they are asking for your help when they are afraid or worried about something. Knowing your dogs’ emotions helps both of you bond better in the early stage when both of you just met. As a parent to your dogs, it is your responsibility to make sure they have a healthy and happy mental health and notice things are wrong when they show some behaviours that are different from normal.