How to read your dog’s body language

How to read your dog's body language
How to read your dog’s body language

Dogs express a lot of their emotions by their body language yet many dog owners don’t have a clue what the different postures and actions of their dogs mean. This post will give you some examples of how dogs express themselves using their body language and also how this can make things easier for you.

Learning to read your dog’s body language can go a long way to better understand your dog, its behavior and what mood it is in. It will make you understand the situation when your dog is interacting with other dogs and that way you will know if your dog is just playing or if there is need to step in.

Dogs can of course “read” each other as this is natural for them but you can also easily learn this “language”.

Like with most things, reading your dog’s body language is EASY when you know how. In fact in order for you to smoothly raise and train your dog, knowing how your dog is functioning is necessary and knowing your dog’s body language is a part of this knowledge. So let us take a look at this “secret language” and how it is “spoken and read”

Below you will find a few examples of things dogs do and what it means.

Dog standing on three legs, lifting one paw in the air. This is a submissive behavior. A dog doing this is saying: I am submissive and not threatening. The other dog/dogs may react to this in a number of different ways but usually this posture means that there is not going to be any trouble.

The dog raises the hair of its back. This is often considered an aggressive and offensive behavior but it is not always the case. A dog raising its Hackles (back hair) is usually exited and full of energy and this could be due to other things than aggression. He/she might simply be very exited and happy to play with other dogs. In this case you should just keep an eye on your dog and see how things develop.

Running back to play with a “bully”. A dog who is seemingly being pushed around and dominated but is constantly running back to the other dog is simply happy to play. If this dog was unhappy with the situation it is unlikely that it would return to the other dog.

Dog placing its head over the back of the neck of another dog. A dog who is heavily placing its head over the back of the neck of another dog wants to assert dominance over the other dog. What happens then depends on the reaction of the other dog. Some dogs will not let themselves be dominated and will certainly let the other dog know that they are not happy with the situation.

Spinning 360 degrees. A dog spinning around and around is almost certainly happy and wants to play. It is often trying to stimulate other dogs to play. A dog who is spinning around is by doing so turning its back towards the other dog and thus showing that it is relaxed and feeling safe because you never turn your back against something threatening.

Here you have a video displaying the body language of playing dogs

Online Dog Trainer ReviewThese were just a few examples of how dog’s express themselves using their body language. There are a lot more to learn when it comes to body language. Dogs display their fear, confidence and aggression through their posture and through the way they act. Some things might be quite obvious while others more difficult to learn. Learning to read your dog’s body language will certainly make living with your dog easier and a lot more fun as well.

The video above was made by Doggy Dan (if you click on the banner to the left you can read my full review of his program)

You can learn a lot more about Dog’s body language and behavior at his website: THE Online Dog Trainer. It is a video based dog training site where you learn dog training by watching videos. There are more than 250 videos available and you can learn just about everything you need to know about your dog’s body language, how it functions and what you need to do to properly train it. There is also support available by chat, e-mail or the member forum should you need any assistance. You can sign up for a free 4-part video dog training course HERE

You can try the Online Dog Trainer for three days for a fee of One dollar and if decide to continue the subscription it costs 37 dollars per month. You stop the subscription any time you want and you also have a 60-day money back guarantee which means that if you are not happy with the program you can ask for a full refund and you will get your money back. If you want to learn more, HERE IS MY FULL REVIEW OF THIS PROGRAM. If you want to get right into it, Click on the Link Below.


for a free 4-part video dog training course

Comments 8

  • I’m sure there is a lot of stuff to learn from dog behaviour. I’ve been keeping dogs for quite some time now, for years actually and I only know the simple stuff about dog behavior like when they be wagging their tail to show excitement. Learnt quite a few useful stuff here and hope to get to know a few more meanings of dog body language. Do all dogs use the same.body language or it may depend?

    • Sometimes dogs do have their own way of reacting to what is happening around them so dogs body language might differ but most of the time it is the same. You can see if a dog is nervous, aggressive or happy by observing it and it rarely differs much from dog to dog.

  • Thank you for writing this. I have two dogs and the only body language from one of them that I know it’s when she hides her tail between her legs, which I’m pretty sure it’s because she’s either scared or she did something that she knew it was bad. Also, she lowers her head when she’s mad, meaning that no one should touch her. It’s so interesting to me all of these other body languages. I had knowledge of the putting their heads on other dogs one and the running in circles, but not about the one law in the air one. Thank you! 

    • You are welcome, by learning your dog’s body language you can really understand it much better and thus take the right cause of action in different situations. This will make everyday life with your dog easier and it will also improve your dog training.

  • I just love this article.  I have had dogs for most of my life but just went through a period of 15 years without.  Last year I got a Great Pyranese/Burmese Mtn Dog/Australian Shepherd mix.  I must say that he has been more of a challenge to train than any other dog I’ve had.  I have, however, been being persistent and consistent and its finally starting to pay off.  I must say that he is a VERY high energy dog but fortunately I’m on a farm so he has plenty of room to run.  He is VERY expressive with his body language and I’ve seen many of the actions you describe in him.

    • Thank you. It is great to hear from someone who has as much experience with dogs as you have. Being persistent and consistent really is important when training a dog and as you seem to have discovered, dogs are individuals and some of them are more difficult to train than others. Being able to understand your dog by reading his body language really does help.

      I wish you the best luck, all the best,


  • Thank you for the awesome post!  My wife studies animal science in college, and I learned a lot of this from her.  I’m glad you pointed out that the hair standing up does not necessarily mean aggression.  I hear this a lot, but many times it actually means the dog is excited!  I actually believed it was purely a sign of aggression until my wife told me otherwise.

    • I understand that this could be confusing. Hair standing up  is a sign of aggression but not always, sometimes it simply means that the dog is exited. By closley observing your dog you can learn things like this and it can be really interesting.

      All the best,


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