How fluent are you in dog-speak?
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Dogs can’t speak our verbal language, but they give us tons of information using body language. Everything a dog thinks and feels is spelled out clearly in how it holds its body, tail, ears, eyes and even the corners of its mouth. However, we humans have varying skill levels in understanding what our dogs are saying. So, how fluent are you in dog-speak? Take the quiz to find out!
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With head held up, ears perked sharply forward, and teeth bared in a lip curl, this dog is showing a clear warning to back off. But the real signal for how serious this dog is about the threat is the direct and hard eye contact. This dog means business!
- A bluff: A lip curl to show teeth, but without real intent to do harm
- An aggressive and serious warning to back off
- A playful snarl that just looks tough
- A grimace of fear and nervousness
Those relaxed ears, soft face, and closed eyes all signal a dog that is barking but without real seriousness behind it. Rather than being upset or excited, this beagle seems to be barking because, well, that's what beagles do best!
- This beagle means business!
- He's intense but without fear or aggression.
- He has something to say, but it's mostly just chatter.
This dog is clearly saying, "I'm really, really interested in what's going on over there." The signs include ears pointed sharply forward, eyes focused straight ahead, a closed and tense mouth, and importantly, leaning forward with her body while ignoring leash pressure.
- Overly excited
- Actively alert
This Rhodesian ridgeback is just hanging out at the beach, but something has caught her attention. Her ears are perked and head is raised, indicating a level of alertness, but her eyes are soft and her body is relaxed. While showing us she's interested, she doesn't demonstrate any tension about whatever she sees.
- Alert but relaxed
- Extremely alert
- Relaxed and disinterested
- Alert and a little nervous
This dog is showing signs of nervousness about whatever has his attention. The tense body, wide-open and focused eyes, a tail held somewhat high in stimulation, ears held slightly down and back with tension, and the commissures (corners of the mouth) pulled forward and ready to bark, all add up to a dog that is on guard but still assessing the situation.
- Curious but a little unsure
- Excited and wanting to say hello
- Nervous and alert, on guard
- Excited and happy
This dog is on guard, but the body language clarifies that the aggressive appearance is based in fear. The dog is displaying a submissive posture overall, with the back arched, head held low and ears back. The whole body is leaning away from the threat, showing that a fast retreat is a distinct possibility. However, the bared teeth and hard eyes make it clear that a bite is an equal possibility.
- Overly excited and ready for serious play
- Aggression based in fear; ready to run or attack
- Aggression based in dominance, showing everyone else who is boss
- Territorial and ready to attack
This dog's body language shows an interesting combination of submissive cues, including the ears laid back and the lowered head and crouched position, as well as play cues such as an overall relaxed body and mouth, and soft eyes with eye contact. It is energetic and could be running up in play to grab a toy or give a playful nip. Either way, there is no serious threat, nor is there fear signaled by this dog's body language.
- Fearful aggression
- A play bow
- Enthusiastic but submissive play
- Fearful submission
This little Chihuahua is expressing his fearfulness through tightly tucking his tail under, leaning his body back, folding his ears back and down, and keeping his mouth closed and tense. However the eyes are soft and making contact with someone in a rather pleading way, instead of looking down and away in avoidance. Everything about his posture says, "See, I won't hurt you, so please don't hurt me."
- Fearful submissiveness
- A little bit shy but still very trusting
- Paralyzing fear
It is this border collie puppy's first time on a leash, and she's telling us she doesn't like what's happening. Fear is apparent in her arched back, tucked tail, closed mouth and head held low. She's also expressing how much she is unwilling to interact because she is avoiding eye contact with the leash holder and straining against the leash pressure. Everything about her body language says, "I don't like this; it's weird and scary, so I'm not going to do this."
- Frustratedly fighting with the leash handler
- Submissively pleading with the leash handler
- Stubbornly ignoring the leash handler
- Fearfully balking at the leash handler
This puppy's body language tells us he is curious and non-fearful about the camera. The perked ears and sniffing of the lens show his piqued interest while the soft eyes, overall relaxed facial muscles, and forward-leaning body show his high level of comfort with exploring the camera more.
- Fearfully alert
- Curious but nervous
- Curious and without fear
- Playful and engaged
This puppy is telling us she feels a blend of fearful submission but is also curious and possibly willing to interact. By leaning her body away from the camera, tucking her tail and holding her mouth closed, she's expressing nervousness. One paw raised and her head held slightly low and a little bit turned away indicate her desire to show submission. But her direct eye contact with soft eyes, somewhat perked ears, and relaxed mouth all show an interest. In all, this cautious puppy could have a great experience with the photographer if approached gently.
- Terrified of the photographer
- Submissive to the photographer
- Curious but nervous about the photographer
- Fearful and potentially aggressive
This boxer is showing signs of fear avoidance. Holding his ears up and back, holding his mouth closed, and leaning away slightly from the pressure of a pointing finger all indicate a level of fear. Dogs often turn their heads away from a threat to avoid conflict, and this boxer is doing so while also maintaining alert eye contact just in case the threat becomes more imminent.
- Guilty about something and knows it
- Curious but a little nervous
- Fearful and on the defensive
- Fearful avoidance of the human
Dogs often lick their lips and nose when feeling unsure or submissive. That combined with the raised paw and the crouched, leaned-back body show a level of uncertainty and nervousness. However the slightly raised tail and soft eye contact show an interest in engaging.
- Unsure but interested, with a desire to please
- Excited and hungry
- Anxious and afraid
- Happy and wanting to be pet
This little puppy is showing all the tell-tale signs of submission: lying on his back in inguinal presentation, tucking his tail under, raising his front paws, and showing a "submissive grin" with the commissures of his mouth pulled back. However, this roll-over is an act often done when engaging in play with a tougher opponent. The fact that he is still making some eye contact with his playmate shows there is not any genuine fear in the submissive gestures.
- Extreme fearful submission
- Playful submission
- Play engagement signals
- A request to be left alone
These two dogs are getting ready for an energetic play session. Both dogs are giving non-aggressive play signals. One dog is giving a play bow, which is a clear invitation to wrestle or give chase. Notice that while the golden retreiver is holding his head and tail high in excitement, he is also leaning his body back in a non-threatening way. The energy level between these two is very high, but they are both being social and having fun.
- Dominant and submissive play signals
- Nervous and alert warning signals
- Energetic but respectful play signals
- Fearful and possibly aggressive warning signals
Yawns don't always indicate sleepiness. Yawning is also a way that dogs (and other animals) release stress and nerves in tense situations. If your dog seems excited but is also yawning — perhaps when new people knock on the door and she yawns after barking — that's her way of letting go of some of that adrenaline pumping through her body.
- Yawns always mean a dog is sleepy.
- Yawns can mean a dog is mocking you.
- Yawns can mean a dog is sad or depressed.
- Yawns can help release stress and nerves.
It may come as a surprise, but most dogs hate being hugged. We think we're showing love but in dog language, it is considered rude and dominant. Looking at the body language of this dog — leaning away from the hugger, holding her ears up and back with tension, mouth closed and eyes open and focused forward — it's clear that she's tolerating it, but definitely not enjoying it. So be aware of the signals a dog is sending the next time you go in for a hug, and remember that you're putting your face next to the toothy mouth of a dog that may not take kindly to your gesture of dominance.
- Relishing the cuddles
- Relaxed and content
- Displeased and uncomfortable
Not all panting is done because a dog is hot. Sometimes the way a dog pants reveals the level of tension or stress it feels. This dachshund is showing just that, and you can tell by how the ears are held high and back, the commissures are pulled back extra far with tension and the entire face is taut. Also, the tongue is not enlarged and it is held higher up in the mouth than it would be if the dog were simply hot. This dog's pant is telling us there is stress or nervousness invoved in her emotional state.
- Plain old hot
- A little stressed
Unlike the previous dog, this dog's mouth is relaxed and not open quite as far, showing he's pretty relaxed and happy. The tongue is enlarged to help let off more heat, and it is lolling out in a relaxed way. These signs show us this dog is simply hot and trying to cool off. Yes, even in the way they pant, dogs can tell us so much about how they're feeling!
- Hot but happy
- A little stressed
- Very relaxed
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