Although they cannot talk, dogs communicate with humans in many ways.
Some love to bark, some “talk” or “sing,” and others howl – but the most important way dogs speak with their owners is through their body language.
For anyone that comes in contact with dogs, it is important that they understand how to read canine body language. It is especially important to teach children what to look for when interacting with a dog. Let’s take a look at some of the ways dogs use their bodies to communicate with us.
A dog with eyes that are of normal size is probably pretty relaxed. If they are squinting or their eyes look smaller than normal, it could indicate a variety of things: nervousness, submissiveness, pain, or stress. Larger than normal eyes are a sign that the dog may be aggressive or threatened.
Dogs rarely make direct eye contact upon meeting one another, as this is a sign of a threat to each other. If a dog is intently staring at you, it is wise to recognize this as a possible act of aggression, and you should avoid eye contact with the animal.
If the eyes are darting around, or if are able to see the whites of the dog’s eyes – like a crescent moon shape -this means the dog is nervous or uncomfortable.
Content dogs hold their ears in a normal, relaxed position. When they have heard something that grabs their attention, the ears will move upwards and towards the interesting noise. Forward-facing ears could indicate aggression. If the ears are pulled back, this shows that the pup is in a playful mood. If they are held flat to the head, the dog is probably feeling scared or nervous.
A happy dog will have relaxed, possibly closed lips, but could have a slightly open mouth or be panting. If the dog has a closed mouth, and is licking the lips or flicking out the tongue, this indicates nervousness and could be an early warning of fear or aggressive behavior. Some dogs yawn when nervous as well.
If the dog pulls back the lips to expose the teeth and wrinkles the nose, this is a warning not to come any closer. Some dogs can give a happy snarl, or a submissive grin, which looks similar, but is usually accompanied by other submissive behavior such as exposing the belly or crouching down.
Happy dogs usually hold their tail in a natural position or it can be curled up over their back. A very happy dog will wag his tail slightly, or wave it violently from side-to-side. A wagging tail is not always an indication that a dog is pleased with his surroundings. If the tail is held high and mostly erect, with a barely visible wag, this might be a sign that he is alerted to something or threatened.