While we know that each pet is unique, we also know that there are certain things that dogs do to let their humans know how they are feeling. Do you know what you are looking for? And is the “common wisdom” correct? Does a wagging tail always indicate happiness? Does panting always mean a dog is hot? How well can you decipher your dog’s body language and his attempts to communicate with you?

Here are a few ways that dogs feel and how they communicate those feelings to the people who care about them:

Calm and neutral
Relaxed body posture; no tension
Relaxed tail, possibly wagging
Possibly panting happily
A calm, neutral dog is typically ready for you to greet and pet him.

Dominant
Standing up tall and leaning forward
Tail held high
A dominant dog is showing another dog that he’s in charge.

Aggressive
Stiff posture
Tail moves back and forth, like a flag
Might show teeth and/or growl
Don’t run away from an aggressive dog. Stand tall and still and look away.

Anxious or Nervous
Ears are back
Tail is low, but the end might be wagging slightly
Posture is leaned back or turned to the side
Might be panting
A dog showing signs of anxiety is nervous about his surroundings and you should avoid petting him if you don’t know him.

Scared
Flattened ears
Tucked tail
Crouching lower to the ground
A scared dog should not be approached, because he might bite if he feels the need to defend himself.

Playful
Might “bow down” with tail in the air and wagging and front legs and chest on the ground
Might be panting or barking
This dog is ready for you to chase him or throw the ball for him.

We know that each animal communicates a little differently from the next, so we encourage you to pay attention to your dog this week and see if you can figure out what he might be trying to tell you! If you have any questions or concerns, let’s get them answered at your next appointment!