Because behavior can be interpreted differently by different people, it is important to view it objectively and pay attention to what the dog’s face and entire body are doing. Interpretations can vary depending on the context. And, just as humans can be excited and nervous at the same time, dogs can show conflicting signals too.
When we have a better understanding of how dogs communicate, we’re more compassionate and patient. If we can look at their behaviors and body language and determine that the dog is likely anxious, afraid, or frustrated, for example, we can do something to help them feel better.
It’s usually a sign that your dog is feeling the need to communicate that
A yawn may indicate anticipation or stress. It’s also a way of saying,
“I’ve had enough and my patience is running out”.
sniff the environment. It’s a way to buy a little time while gathering some info.
A dog may use this as a way to diffuse a situation that could be tense.
a paw lift is generally seen when the dog feels conflicted,
anxious, or is anticipating something. “Loading. Please wait.”
Usually, “shake offs” happen after any taxing situation.
Think of it as a full-body reset for the dog.
just as humans do. Dogs also stretch as a way to moderate excited energy.
Or it just may occur after sleeping or staying in one place for an extended period.
It could also be a sign of a medical concern.
Context and frequency are important clues.
mildly stressed or confused. Look for other signs of stress.
something or someone. May appear with lip-licking and yawning.
feeling anxious or afraid. The more fearful the dog is,
the farther back the ears may move.
Weight shifted to the rear and cowering are also signs of discomfort.
The dog in this photo also has a tucked tail.
Dogs that are anxious often have ridged tension lines across the brow.
This definitely depends on the breed and the context.
If the dog’s body is tense and the mouth is closed, they are likely
asking for space. Give it to them.
fearful, startled, stimulated or excited in some way. If you see your dog’s
hackles go up, determine the cause and make a plan for getting space.
may be indicating sudden stress. This typically means the dog
needs to concentrate on a change in the environment.
Because their sense of smell is so powerful, their noses are their way to
answer any questions they may have about the world around them
that the dog is no threat but is at least mildly uncomfortable.
Give the dog space so they do not feel the need to move to defensive responses.
and confused about what’s expected of them.
Assess the situation and give that dog some help.
You typically see the muscles bunched up in the corners of the mouth,
a “spatulate” tongue and other indications of tension.
is constantly on the move may be stressed. Since this can a be
a sign of physical discomfort or pain, it’s an important one to watch.
needs space and time to work things out. It’s best to give them that,
without touching them or gently lead them to a “safer” area.
lets you know not to come any closer.
“Continue doing what you are doing and there will be consequences.”
are experiencing a high level of unease. Approaching the food
bowl this dog is guarding would definitely escalate the situation.
sweating enough for you to notice wet paw prints,
it’s likely a sign of extreme stress. This dog needs help.
If your dog is showing any of the above signs of discomfort, thank them for the information and immediately help to get some distance from the scary or stressful thing. And in the long term, get in touch with us or another fear-free trainer who can help your dog learn to feel safe.