The Body Language of Dogs

Reading the universal language of canine body postures is essential to the safe handling of dogs. By observing a dog’s eyes, body, mouth and tail,
we can predict a great deal about behavior. This is especially important when a dog may bite.

Remember, be one step ahead of the dog.

Relaxed

  • Ears: Neutral, relaxed
  • Eyes: Soft
  • Body: May be reclining
  • Mouth: May be open or closed
  • Tail: relaxed
  • Behavior: Normal panting, restful


Dominant

  • Ears: Up, erect and pointing forward
  • Eyes: Makes direct eye contact
  • Body: Aloof, stiff, chest out, confident
  • Mouth: Corner may be forward, teeth bared
  • Nose: May be wrinkled
  • Tail: Up, tip may wag slightly
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: May growl, may lift leg and mark


Dominant & Fearful

  • Ears: Back or flat against head
  • Eyes: Wide open with whites showing, pupils may be dilated
  • Body: Chest may be out
  • Mouth: Corner may be back, teeth bared
  • Nose: May be wrinkled
  • Tail: May be up, may be lowered or tucked when approached
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: May growl, may show panic or urinate


Passive Fear-Biter

  • Ears: Back or flat against head
  • Eyes: Avoids direct eye contact, whites showing
  • Body: Slinking posture
  • Mouth: Can change from tightly shut (passive) to teeth bared (active)
  • Nose: May be wrinkled
  • Tail: Tucked between legs
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: May growl, may snap, may show panic or urinate


Active Fear-Biter

  • Same as Passive Fear-Biter
  • Mouth: Can change from tightly shut (passive) to teeth bared (active)


Territorial Aggressor

  • Ears: Back or flat against head, or forward
  • Eyes: Makes direct eye contact
  • Body: Stiff, hovers over object
  • Mouth: Corner may be forward, teeth bared
  • Nose: May be wrinkled
  • Tail: Up, tip may wag slightly
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: May growl or deep bark when approached


Submissive

  • Ears: Back or flat against the head
  • Eyes: Avoids direct eye contact
  • Body: Lowered, groveling or rolling, exposing genitals
  • Mouth: Corner pulled back, submissive grin
  • Tail: Tucked between legs or flat against abdomen
  • Behavior: Licks lips or nose, may urinate


Playful

  • Ears: Up or down
  • Eyes: May make direct eye contact
  • Body: Prancing, paws may be forward, playful
  • Mouth: May be open or closed
  • Tail: Up and wagging
  • Behavior: May growl or bark to solicit play, may mouth


Alert

  • Ears: Up or forward
  • Eyes: Makes direct eye contact
  • Body: Leans forward, stands tall
  • Mouth: Closed but relaxed
  • Tail: Up or neutral
  • Hackles: May be up or down
  • Behavior: Attentive, focused, poised


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