Dog Communication-Body Language

Have you ever wished that your dog could speak and tell you exactly what he wants? Or could explain to you why he is barking, tell you when he is hungry or sick, let you know if he is happy or sad?

But he can’t speak, so you must try to interpret your pet’s vocal sounds and body language in order to understand his wants or needs.

Dogs communicate vocally, on some level. They can make sounds that vary in types and volume from whimpers to barking or growling in order to roughly communicate with humans.

The Sounds:

  • The whimper – anxiety (I’m upset)
  • The whine – frustration (can be inadvertently reinforced as an attention-getting behavior)
  • The growl – get back!
  • The howl – I can’t find you and I am worried
  • The bark – greeting barks (excitement/happiness), alarm barks, barking for attention and as a threat .

Because verbal communication with your dog is so limited, interpreting body language is very important. While dogs are experts at sending and receiving body language signals, humans are not so adept. The signs dogs use to communicate with each other are fairly standard and include certain facial expressions, body postures and movements.

The Expression

  • Direct eye contact – looking for attention or threatening (depending on the situation)
  • Averted eyes – submission/deference
  • Looking at an object – to direct the human’s attention to an object

The Head/Neck Posture

  • Up – paying attention or challenging another
  • turning away – deference or avoidance
  • Head held low – submission

The Body Posture

  • Tense muscles –fight or flight response
  • Relaxed body– relaxed attitude
  • Head held low but rear end elevated, tail wagging – Friendliness and the desire to have fun

The Tail

  1. When the tail is up it means the dog is actively interested and confident and attentive;
  2. If the tail is tucked, a dog is signaling submission;
  3. The horizontal or straight down tail is neutral mood or indifference;
  4. The wagging tail reflects the dog’s energy level or level of excitement.


  • Movement toward a person is designed to get their attention.
  • Movement away from a person is a defensive move to increase distance.

Although it takes time and work, dogs and people can successfully communicate with each other. If you learn more about your dog’s abilities to communicate with you, you can build a happier and more fulfilling relationship with your pet. The more you can understand what your dog is trying to tell you, the better dog owner you will be!

Speak Your Mind